Some stories stick with you. For me, there is a great Star Trek TNG called Darmok. In this episode Picard is captured, then trapped on a planet with an alien captain who speaks a metaphorical language incompatible with the universal translator. They must learn to communicate with each other before a deadly planetary beast overwhelms them.
Picard realizes that the Tamarians communicate by citing examples and metaphors derived from mythology and folklore, but without knowing the context with which to ground these metaphors, the chance for successful communication is slim.
This weekend, I went on a retreat focusing on tools for eliminating our beliefs as a lens through which we view reality. It is the lens of our beliefs that keeps us separate from each other and from experiencing reality as it is.
I have leaned on Byron Katie’s The Work for a few years now. I was pretty sure I knew how to use it. And then I did this workshop.
For a full day, I tore apart my stories. First, the easy ones – the ones I have incorporated into my day to day views of life. Then we hit a cherished belief. I believe in responsibility. I believe in responsibility as a foundational spiritual value. I had to challenge it. I held tightly and could not find space to let go of this value, even though it was causing me suffering when I believed it.
My facilitator said “OK here’s what arises for me. I suffer when I believe my own thoughts. If we are responsible, we have control. If we have control, wouldn’t we chose to always be present and kind and loving? Are we really responsible?”
My ego broke open. Suddenly I saw how this belief kept me unhappy with myself, able to judge others, and apart from experiencing reality as it is. I can say control is an illusion but it became so apparent to me in that moment how beliefs completely create our experience. It is just like speaking in metaphors in the Star Trek episode.
And like that episode, we communicate best with others who share our metaphors and stories. We feel connected when a friend agrees and supports our story. We feel betrayed when someone we love moves into a different story than the one we shared.
I am not done processing the window into reality that opened when I saw that we do not control anything. We are not responsible. Things happen and we experience them. We move in directions based on what we value. Circumstances may make a certain experience more likely.
I can hardly wait to open the window into reality a bit wider.