I remember being told growing up that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I also remember that if you have nothing nice to say you say nothing at all. But all this wonderful advice sure is hard to follow when you want to be right.
Back when Dr. Phil first hit the airwaves our young family was a loyal captive audience. We all loved his shoot-from-the-hip, tell-it-like-it-is advice. My husband took to using several Dr.Phil-isms including the ever popular, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” I talk a lot about the higher-self compared to our basic, biological and primal drives in Being Human, and I devote a whole chapter to ego, but it wasn’t until this week that I realized just how much being happy is being in the higher-self and being right is an ego’s claim.
For example, I’m just about to cross the street and somebody drives through the intersection ignoring the stop sign. Whoa! I am right and he is wrong. I am obeying traffic laws and he is breaking them. Why would I be honey sweet and say nothing? It is the ego that lives in a world of self-protection, a world of competitiveness with a “me against the world” point of view. But if we went to our higher-self for a minute, if we took “me” out of the situation, we might be able to forgive the driver for not being perfect. He is, after all, a human being. Maybe his wife is in labor. Maybe his boss was angry at him for being late all week and his job was on the line. Maybe he was too busy ruminating in his own ego because another driver cut him off two blocks away and he just got distracted with retaliation fantasies.
If we look at people from a more compassionate “we are all one” point of view we can easily brush off something that our ego would get up-in-arms about. The key is to stay in that place of compassion. It was wrong to ignore a stop sign, but if no one was hurt and life went on as normal, I would be staying unhappy if I ruminated all day about being wronged.
This last week, I said something to someone that really offended them. Initially, I had no idea my words were so wounding to that other person. I was being flippant, but my remark really hit a nerve. When the person brought it to my attention, my ego’s first response was, “Relax, you’re reading way more into this than I meant!” And my ego’s second response was, “Let me show you how oversensitive you are being with a bunch of psychobabble.”
After all, my ego was right and they were wrong for having their own feelings… or were they?
How can I decide what someone else should feel? How can I say someone is being sensitive when I haven’t walked in their shoes and I don’t have the same past wounds affecting me? Instead of letting ego have its way, I immediately apologized for unwillingly having offended a friend, because their feelings were hurt by me, and that was all the reason my higher self-needed to say sorry, even if my ego thought I was right.
And what is the cost of having an ego that insists on being right? It’s an ego that can’t say sorry. And an ego that can’t say sorry for hurting a friend’s feelings doesn’t deserve the bounty of that friendship. After all, if someone repeatedly hurts my feelings even after I explain the how and why, healthy boundaries go up. Simple as that. I would expect the same from my friends if I repeatedly hurt them. Part of living in the higher-self is to have compassion for others and, although we too often forget, compassion for ourselves.
The Frame of Reference
A few weeks ago I drove my 73 year-old father with dementia to a medical appointment across town. Because I hadn’t been to that area in a while, I turned on the GPS and punched in our destination. About five minutes into the drive my father exclaimed excitedly: “That thing is telling you where to go! It’s talking to you!” We both giggled and I explained the GPS and the satellites feeding it our location and the maps in the computer’s memory. But it all got me thinking. Sixty years ago, my father would go to work as a busboy at a local hotel restaurant riding a bike on a dirt road. There weren’t even stoplights in the small town. If we would have told that 13 year-old boy that sixty years later a computer the size of the palm of your hand would give you directions to the doctor’s office… well let’s just say that sounds an awful lot like Star Trek.
I personally take our GPS for granted. It’s a tool in my car that I use as needed, just like the wipers. It was a blessing for me to see the GPS through my father’s eyes, with wonder and amazement, even if it was only for that short while.
That is what frame of reference is to me. It is interpretation. It is seeing things through the eyes of someone’s collection of experiences, and through a cultural point of view. For example, if I say to my husband that I am picking him up at work and to meet me out front, he will be looking for and expecting me to drive up in our minivan and not riding on a camel, because in his frame of reference our family drives around in a minivan.
So when humans discuss such things as God and the constructs of religion, we are doing so with the imagination and limitations of the human mind. And because humans have been around for 200 thousand years and there is a wide array of cultures on this planet there is a variety to our frames of reference over time and geography. That is why, I think, we have different religions.
Taking Religion Out of the Box
Something I learned from Wellness Consulting is that there are two types of people when it comes to weight loss: those who want to follow a strict meal plan telling them what to eat at every meal and snack in the day, and those who hate routine and feeling restricted. Same with exercise, there are some people who like to vary their workouts and use the free weight machines and others who want the regimented routine of a class. And to be honest, if you have the discipline to follow through without strict boundaries, there really is no difference in the results. The key is in the consistency.
I view religion and spirituality that way. Spirituality is the underlying goal comparable to weight loss in this example. It is turning towards God and not away from the Universal Love that unites us all. It is striving for love and peace and kindness towards all we meet and for ourselves as well. Some of us can consistently live spiritually without having to follow a prescribed regimen… and some of us can’t… and that is where religion comes in.
Most religions give us rules to live by; what to eat or not to eat, what to wear, when and how to pray. When you take a close examination of the biology and psychology of the human being and how much of our tendencies are ruled by subconscious reactivity and habit, it can become quite clear why human beings need the confines of religion and why we need the checks and balances to hold ourselves to the standard of the more intelligent, creative and inspired animals we are. But just as we evolved to manipulate our environment enough to build cars and GPS devices, I believe we can also evolve to no longer need the firm guidance of religious dogma.
Religions use the frame of reference of the people of the time and place where they are born. There are fundamental truths that cross all religions, as I refer to in my book Being Human, and I feel that those deserve special attention namely “Love one another.” But there are other laws that I find were included just to appease the people of the day… sort of easing them into the change by not making things too different. For example, Christian holidays closely linked to the pagan calendar with Christmas at the winter solstice and Easter at the spring equinox, and the Baha’i faith which was born in Persia in 1844 keeping the obligatory prayer with ablutions and prostrations familiar to the Muslims of that time and place.
It is my personal belief that religions are conceived by humans. I understand that most people believe that the holy texts were written with the hand of God guiding the prophets or scribes, that there was a connection to the divine and that the humans where mere vessels and instruments for the recording of the wisdom and laws of God. But it was written describing the limitless in limiting human language while using a human frame of reference. And when these texts are read and interpreted, they are read and interpreted in a human’s limited frame of reference.
We are all Okay
And so I have reconciled myself to the fact that there are no perfect religions, because humans are imperfect. I have also reconciled myself that we are all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Sometimes, we really need the regimen of a diet when we’ve been tempted for too long and gone way off track. Sometimes we are doing just fine in our own little routines, sticking to our plan and reaping the benefits. As far as I see things, as long as we live with the intention of love every minute of every day, we can overcome our basic human drives and find peace, and it doesn’t matter what box we fit into or if we don’t fit into any box, as long as we are consciously living in kindness we are all okay.
She’s been called everything from a cultural icon to the most influential woman in America, but to me Oprah is God’s grace embodied. I do realize that is a tall order to fill. But let me tell you how Oprah’s influence on me changed my life.
When I was sixteen, I lived in rural Quebec just ten minutes from the United States border. Back in those days we used bunny-ears antennae to pick-up television stations, and since we were closer to the American stations we got all their programming quite clear. My family watched the Oprah Winfrey Show from its infancy.
Without going into intimate details about my childhood in a blog post, let’s just say that it was Oprah’s open and frank discussions on incest that gave my mother the courage to ask me point blank if I was being abused, and gave me the knowledge that I was not alone and could speak up. You see, I had told on him twice before, but it took Oprah shining a light on the taboo subject that allowed all of us to face the truth. My stepfather went to prison, and my life changed in an instant. For that alone I would be eternally grateful to Oprah… but there is more.
A girl cannot grow up the way I did and not have a few “issues”. Even if my life took a completely new direction at sixteen I had a lot of unhealthy “stuff” to unlearn. But the Oprah show was there every step of the way. Oprah introduced me to Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, which was my first of many life-changing, inspirational reads. I grew up with no religion or spirituality, and Marianne’s explanation of God and Love and that we are all united struck a chord so deeply within me that I knew from that day on that the World is a good place, and that I was going to be Okay. Oprah also introduced me to Deepak Chopra and his book Quantum Healing, which molded my nursing and then alternative healing careers. And Oprah introduced me to the fact that I wasn’t alone; she introduced me to the many other people in the world who have suffered equal or greater atrocities than I—she told me their stories, she showed me how they paid it forward and rose above their circumstances. Hands down, Oprah is the one woman who has had the largest impact on my life.
So there was not a second of hesitation for me to buy my ticket to see Oprah in Ottawa on April 10th.
Yes, there has been some criticism about the cost of tickets and Oprah having enough money already, and I can go into a long debate over our societal tendencies to sabotage women in power or highlight Oprah’s philanthropic deeds, but I won’t. I personally would walk across burning coal to sit down to dinner with Oprah, and I paid for the tickets with a smile on my face.
And then I heard about an Oprah in Ottawa pre-event!
Just as I am launching my first book into the world and booking speaking engagements, two little angels @smoonsammy and @LisaLarter show up on my Twitter feed with the opportunity to be a sponsor for Live Your Best Life Day in Ottawa. Another YES! without a moment’s hesitation. After all, Oprah has taught us to encourage and inspire others, she has taught us to be savvy business women with soul, and this event is a perfect reflection of Oprah’s principles.
I look forward to giving my inspirational talk that day—to sharing with Ottawa Oprah fans my prescription to our best life. It will be my homage to the woman who changed my life, and though she may not be there watching, I will know that my talk will be my gift to Oprah.