When I facilitate a workshop, I like to greet participants with the good news that the workshop is entirely for them. Also, every event of the day leading up to the workshop has been for them too. The idea is to settle into the understanding that each one of us is only ever interacting with reality and our own thoughts about reality. When we're upset with a colleague, when we're flattered by an admirer, it's not personal, it's a projection. Our interactions are made of projections- shining our thoughts onto a world full of canvases.
What happens, how does your body respond, when a friend compliments you? What happens when you are blamed for something? The mind stores a multilayered story for each occasion that is based on beliefs and experiences. Think of these thoughts as programs running in the background on a computer- we don't notice them until the frustration of using a slow computer becomes unbearable. Compliment or blame, my reaction is a variation on the game Hot Potato- I want to foist it out of my lap as fast as possible. The person who compliments me is quickly ushered into the "Delusional and well-meaning" camp in my mind. I say "thank you" to shut that nonsense down. Have you ever been complimented on your clothing and responded with the price of your outfit? What in the heck message are we conveying? This morning, on the way to school, my son spilled his bottle of yogurt drink all over his backpack. At 6 years old his mind is already as aware as mine of how unpleasant making a mistake can feel, and tricks for avoiding it.
It's all about me. And me is a set of beliefs too. Wouldn't that make a far better glittery, puffy paint t-shirt for kids?? Nothing anybody is saying has to do with you, it's all about them. Nothing you hear has anything to do with them, it's all about you. Yay, sounds like a bunch of weirdo automatons wandering around! And it can feel like that until returning to the awareness that we live as cultivators of thoughts, and we can choose peace in each moment. When I am aware enough to choose peace, I have found that asking myself "How am I that?" is incredibly grounding. Where do I identify with what I'm hearing? When the drink spilled in the car this morning, my son's reaction was to yell at me that my crazy driving caused him to spill it. I happened to be ready for an experiment this morning, so instead of yelling back as I might do on a less patient morning I paused long enough to take a deep breath and ask myself, "how am I that?" : I'm so hard on myself that blaming someone else is a relief. I can't make a mistake. As I found my story in what he said to me, I also became more present to him. We pulled over and got cleaned up, all the while talking about making mistakes and learning from them and finding out how reslient we are when stuff like this happens.
It's not personal, and it's all for you.