This is a quote by Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani from 55 AD. We don’t see the world as it is, or our circumstances as they are – we see life through the prism of our conditioning and our mindset. There are people in India and Africa who are so filled with gratitude and satisfaction about life even though they have very little.
I am very aware that in the west we are very hard on ourselves and repeat statements like “well, it really is a first world problem” about our frustrations and discomfort but everything really is relative. Our minds can create huge amounts of discomfort even though we do have a roof over our head and running water and much more besides. However we do seem to have cultivated a culture of dissatisfaction with our lives and it has just become a way of being.
We cannot make our discomfort go away but simply saying what we are experiencing is invalid. We need to bring awareness to our stressful thoughts and learn to address them is a way that is more productive. I truly do believe that the thoughts we keep in the forefront of our mind becomes the way we experience life, so we need to learn to identify our thought patterns and challenge them. Thoughts will present themselves to us and that doesn’t mean they have to be true.
We experience life through the prism of our beliefs and thought patterns (many of which are just created by our conditioning). When I work with clients they are often surprised by some of the beliefs they’ve picked up along the way. Of course a belief is just a thought that you keep thinking and you can learn to change your thoughts over time. We have several thousand thoughts a day and most of them are repetitive and unhelpful.
Many of my clients are pretty hard on themselves and some are really quite critical of themselves (this is mostly learnt behaviour that can be unlearnt). If they spoke to their friends the way they speak to themselves they wouldn’t have any friends. When we practice more kindness to our selves we start to see others and the world in a different light. The world becomes a gentler easier place when we nurture our compassion towards ourselves and others – isn’t there a book called “I’m okay, you’re okay.” Sounds good to me.