WHAT DID YOU MAKE IT MEAN?
A question worth asking.
In his book Meditations on Mysteries, David Storer talks about our constant need to attribute meaning to things.
"We can waste years of our lives reacting to, not so much what has happened to us, but what we made it mean when it happened to us".
Do you know what it feels like to be constantly interpreting meaning into the words and actions of the people around you? I do, and it's so tiring! I have been doing this for years, in fact I don't think I even knew you could turn this part of your brain off! But you can! It is very freeing to live a day without feeling emotionally attacked, offended or taken advantage of.
I have been learning over the years that it is actually MY mind that often attaches meaning to words (hello marriage?!) and it is my mind that turns this meaning into a drama in my head that plays itself out in my emotions and ultimately my body.
To live lightly is to understand that our minds often attach meaning to things, events, people and words that were not necessarily intended and thus we can either be consumed by what we have made something to mean or we can take things at face value, not attaching meaning that was not explicitly there and move on in life.
Attaching meaning to something can look like when someone cancels a coffee date you suddenly launch into thinking in your mind "I bet they just don't want to hang out with me, they probably have chosen to see someone else instead, I'm not that important clearly, and what a waste of my time I could be doing other things right now, I put so much effort into planning this and getting ready now what am I going to do with my morning, that person just doesn't understand what it's like for me" and on it can go. And then before we know it we've probably wasted 10 whole minutes on this run away thought train in our mind, we are now feeling tired, grumpy and taken advantage of and in some cases we go back over it in our minds later in the day, call our partners to tell them all about it and then repeat the story to them at dinner time! WOW! How much head space, emotional energy, thought time, actual time, relationship space AND physical health has been drained because of attaching you're own meaning to a simple action?!
The idea of light living is thus when things both small and large, simple or complex happen to us we are able to receive that information, think rationally about it and then choose the healthy thought pattern of taking it as it is. A good practice is to simply say 'what actually happened here'? In this case, a friend cancelled. Ok, it could be for any reason. So, take it for what it is, a cancelled coffee date and move on with your day. Don't lose yourself to thoughts that are emotionally draining.
David goes on in his book to say "we are spared a lot of suffering when we are able to seperate what actually happened from the meaning we have given it. On so many occasions it is out reaction to what happened that creates suffering greater than the pain of what actually happened".
To live lightly is to not take offence, not get defensive, and to not allow words from others to attach themselves to us and ruin our days (in our minds).
To live lightly is to live freely! What a blessing a light and free mind and heart is! And how refreshing when you come across someone else who is light and free too!
So I now ask myself when I catch myself jumping on the run away train in my mind, "what did you make it mean'?