I just finished co-facilitating a Less Stress, More Living Workshop. It was so moving to witness the participants experience more freedom of mind and have a deeper connection with their true nature. One of the themes that emerged during the workshop was a concern that if we hold the perspective that everyone is doing the best that they can based on their understanding in the moment that this would condone bad behavior and ultimately encourage it.
This reminded me of a story one of my mentors, Linda Pransky, shared at a workshop. She explained there was a time when she had problems with mice at her home. She decided to get a rescue cat to solve the problem. She told the cat that he was a working cat, and if he did not do his job he would be taken back to the shelter.
The cat, however, did not seem to understand his part of the deal. When she brought him home, not only did he not want to catch any mice, he didn’t even want to go outside for the longest time. Linda, rather than sending the cat back for not performing his duties, fell in love with him and cared for him. It no longer mattered to her that he wasn’t a mouser. She had compassion for his timidity and loved him exactly as he was. Overtime, the cat became more comfortable. He started to go outside, and then one day, much to Linda’s surprise he came home with a mouse.
Linda saw that when she got her cat he was scared. It took time, care, and love to help him acclimatize and settle down. When he stopped being scared, his natural cat nature came to the surface. He became himself and part of his cat nature was to catch mice. When he wasn’t catching mice, he was doing the best he could do at that point in time. When allowed to feel safe and secure, he eventually was able to express his natural self.
When we humans are scared, we also have the tendency to not act in accordance with our true nature. Our behavior can range from small indiscretions such as shutting down or losing our temper to huge acts of violence. Whether large or inconsequential they are all demonstrations of our suffering and not an expression of the truth of who we are.
I have experience working with inmates who have committed violent crimes. I was always struck by how they saw things in the moment they committed their crime. From their point of view, I understood why it made sense to them. I am not condoning what they did, but I can see how there but for the grace of God go I. Given the same circumstances, with the same understanding, I would choose the same behavior.
The premise of the workshop was based on the teachings of Sydney Banks. It explored how it is possible to experience less stress by understanding that the source of stress always comes from believing our insecure thoughts. Stress does not come from outside circumstances. It might look like my stress is coming from how much work I have planned or how full my schedule is, but the truth of the my experience is that I feel my thoughts. If I am believing my fearful, stressed out thoughts it doesn’t matter how much or how little I have to do. I will feel stressed.
In the workshop, we looked at how we don’t have to identify with our insecure thoughts and bring them to life. We can, instead, wake up to the illusory nature of thought. When we see our insecure thoughts as thoughts and not reality, they no longer have any power over us. We, then, naturally return to our innate state of peace, love, and equanimity.
When we have compassion and understanding for ourselves and others, when we are in an insecure state, rather than this promoting bad behavior, it helps us to stabilize and reconnect with the formless essence of our true nature. I experience this essence as loving. The by-product of this is that we no longer need to engage in acts of brutality large or small. Violence does not make sense when we are connected with the loving in our hearts.
Rather than promulgating chaos and bad behavior, accepting ourselves “warts and all” supports us with breaking free from negative, limiting beliefs. Seeing these thoughts as erroneous allows us to let them go more easily.
When we stop fueling our negative thoughts, we naturally stabilize and experience peace of mind. From this state of mind, we express behaviors that are aligned with our true loving nature and the infinite creative potential of who we are.