Think of your average person. There they are minding their own business when a man in a dark suit pushes past them provoking a response of “Hey buddy! What’s your story?” The dark suited man angrily mumbles something incomprehensible and then disappears into the crowd.
We might not think of the average person as being particularly wise, but in that moment they are giving voice to a profound insight that it seems our sullen friend in the dark suit is unable to hear. Shame really, he needs to. We all do.
So let me be that average person for you – and you don’t even have to be rude and push past me!
What is your story?
What is the story you are telling yourself over and over again that is creating trouble or worry in your life? Whether the story is about you, or about someone else and the way you relate to them, what story are you telling yourself that is making you angry? Or sad? Or frustrated or disappointed?
Can you hear it clearly? Good.
What ever the story is, stop it. Stop telling yourself that story and the feeling will change. Stop telling yourself that story and the reality of your life will change.
Now I am not saying don’t feel anything. Our feelings are there to give us important information about what is going on in the environment around us. We need to feel joy, surprise, anger, despair, disgust and shame. What we don’t need is to keep telling ourselves the stories that keep re-triggering those feelings so that they become sustained, negative moods in our life.
And that is the wisdom in the person who yells “Hey Buddy! What’s your story?” at us as we push past them. They are reminding us that we live in our stories.
We are like the younger monk in one of my favourite teaching stories…
A young monk is traveling with an old monk when they come to a fast running river where they meet an old woman who asks for help to cross. The young monk immediately informs her they are unable to help her as they have taken a vow to never again touch a woman. The old monk however simply smiles and lifts the woman onto his shoulders and carries her across the river and deposits her safely on the other side. The woman thanks the old monk and head off towards her destination.
The two monks continue their journey for many hours in silence until the younger monk cannot take it any longer and goes into a lengthy tirade, angrily accusing the older monk of breaking his vow and questioning his commitment. The old monk listens carefully and nods as the young monk berates him. When he has finished the old monk waits for a second before turning to his younger companion saying “I put the old woman down back there beside the river, why do you insist on continuing to carry her around?”
Listen to the average person and take the advice of the old monk. Put down your story about how things should be. Stop carrying all that unnecessary weight around with you and you will be delighted with how much lighter life will feel.
This post was first published here on December 29, 2016 under the title "hey buddy! What's your story?"