Comparison is apparently the thief of joy. But knowing that doesn’t mean I’m never going to compare myself to anyone else ever again. Somehow comparison sneaks up on me and before I know it the present moment of happiness has been robbed. And I let it happen.
Many, maybe most, of our thoughts come to our minds when we aren’t looking for them. They just show up. Adyashanti would say that the source of our suffering is that we believe these thoughts. We think that just because they showed up in our minds that they must be true. But thoughts are just thoughts. They are neither true nor false. It is what lands in our hearts that reveals the truth of a thing.
So, when a thought to compare myself to another enters my mind, why do I hang on to it as if it is true?
From birth, our brains are constantly learning how to make sense of our world. They are individuating ourselves from our mothers, from our siblings, from strangers, in an increasingly complex system of narratives designed to keep us safe in a confusing world. It’s a great and important work the brain does for us. But at some point, the ideas we’ve developed about our separateness from everything around us can actually do us harm. Not usually physical harm, which is the domain of the brain, but harm to our connectedness and our belonging, which is the domain of the heart. (Our minds and our hearts are not separate in reality, but to see them as such can be a helpful frame as we begin to see how lopsided we’ve been in favor of physical well-being.)
Allowing our idea of being a separate self to take over our thoughts can lead to great suffering. Our ego, our pride, our false self, our survival mechanism, whatever you want to call it, is enabled by our separateness. And it won’t let go without the gentlest and kindest of coaxing and love.
Sometimes I suffer from jealousy. I can become jealous of the attention people have received, in particular if it relates to something that I have spent time and energy on and have received no recognition for. I’m pretty sure it ties in with the authority issues I’ve had, and as those hooks are released I am left nursing the wounds they created. Comparison to others and jealousy for the attention they’re getting is one of those wounds.
My very first step in healing is to give myself some love. Grace and space. It’s okay that I’m feeling pain. The pain is helpful, as it points to something that needs attending to. Loving and patient attention. I don’t go straight to the pain, the jealousy itself, for there is a groundwork that needs to be laid. A safe foundation on which to perform the healing miracle. I go straight to the spaciousness of this great big loving universe in which I know I infinitely belong. And I just rest there for a bit. As long as I need to for the heaviness of the pain to dissipate, even if ever so slightly, for then I know I am being drawn in the direction of healing.
In the spaciousness of true belonging and love, I find that there is room for me, room for “them”, and I can let go of taking myself so seriously. I can let the present task of healing a deep wound be just what it is without creating drama around it. Because I am safe. I have a sure foundation upon which I cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).
I am not healed yet, though. The pain of jealousy is still there. The pain of seeing myself as separate from the “them” that is receiving the attention is still there. But I am ready now. I know I am loved and recognized by the Greatest of All. My heart has as much to bring to the table as my mind now. We’re ready to council together.
My heart knows things my mind has not learned yet. Patiently, I let the thoughts that come from my mind come and go like the waves upon the shore. I’m grateful to my mind for the work it does. It is not my enemy. My true self has no enemies. I don’t fight against my jealous thoughts, I simply stop needing to believe them. My thoughts are part of my brain’s great work to help me navigate my physical world, and because our souls are much bigger than our physical world, our thoughts are only sometimes helpful. It’s best to let them be the tool that they are, and to let the ones that reiterate my separateness go, because separateness has no usefulness in the realm of healing.
I am still me. I can still physically sense the boundaries between my body and the objects around me. I am still myself, my arising into the world. And also, I am not attached to myself. I am free from needing myself to be an object among other objects. I can see under the separate self to a connected, whole, perfect self that is not just me, but also you, and “them”. Words fail here. And right now, as I let the separateness dissolve into the freedom of connection, I no longer experience the pain of jealousy.
Recognition for the work of another is recognition for all of us. Laying aside my separate self for the moment, I find joy in the work of others. This is not the same as my ego convincing myself that I can take credit for the work another has done, nor is it the same as trying to shame myself into an ideal of “being nice”. This is a deeper knowing of the space that holds us all, and that the good that arises in one place arises in all places. Do we not call this selflessness?
As I sink into the depth of this knowing, I am deeper than the deepest wounds. Here, there is no wound. I rest here. Until I begin to rise back into the day that calls me. As I rise, I do not enter back into the wound. The wound is gone. If I find the wound persists, I settle back down into the depth for a moment. I do not criticize myself for not getting it right the first time. It does not matter how many “times” is takes, because in the depth we do not measure things with time.
When I am healed, my heart and my mind are on the same page about it. And I’m ready for what the day calls me to be and do. Thoughts come and go, and I let them. I am not suffering. I am present to happiness, simplicity, love, and peace.
I won’t always be free from pain. Pain is important because it points to wounds that need healing. But I can be free from suffering. Suffering is taking myself too seriously. Suffering is believing every thought that crashes upon my shores. Suffering is being obsessed with the separate self. Suffering is making pain the point instead of the pointer, instead of the invitation. And I believe it is this call to be free from suffering, even as we experience pain, that Jesus invites us to hearken to when he says, “Come, follow me.”