“What do you do?” This question is what we often ask to somebody we meet for the first time. Yet, if you think hard about it, this question bears so much weight in how we not only perceive ourselves but others as well. Hosts, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen dig deep into this topic, tackling the fixation we have around the titles and labels we assign ourselves. They talk about the limits we impose through this question in the way we are with others and how we understand them the same way. Defining who we are is not a bad thing. However, it bears to know the ways it affects us and the people around us. Are we building bridges for people or are we building up walls? Explore in this episode.
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Bridges And Walls: What Titles And Labels Do To Us
Whitney, I have a question for you.
Are you doing this because I started one of the episodes asking you a question?
No, that’s not why I’m doing this. It’s a genuine question. It’s not a tit for tat. When you meet someone for the first time, what’s usually the first question they ask you?
What do you do?
Isn’t that interesting? That is such a conditioned knee-jerk reaction to when you meet someone for the first time. I’ve been thinking a lot, not about that conditioning, we ask people that the first time we meet them. More so how fixated, how attached we are to titles in this society, how we identify ourselves and not just how we choose to identify ourselves with. Usually, the answer to that response is for me it’s like, “I’m a chef, author, TV host, podcaster and dog dad.” I give them a million things because there are too many things.
The thing that I’ve been meditating on a lot is how we can become so fixed and so rigid around how we perceive ourselves and the titles that we assign ourselves. That is often, it not only can limit our connection to other people, but it prevents us from understanding people who we perceive are so opposite from how we’ve titled ourselves. I don’t mean things like you’re an author, I’m an accountant. There’s not a lot of friction with that titling, although we can get caught up in, “Since I am this, I ought to behave in a certain way.” That’s another layer of this.
What I’m talking more specifically about and I have so many thoughts on this that I want your perspective on is these diametrically opposed opposites vegan, paleo, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, gay and straight. The list goes on where we seem to be so transfixed with how we identify ourselves based on what we do, what we eat, how we worship and how we feel about the world that it breeds so much divisiveness and so much separation. What I’ve been tripping on is, can I have my beliefs? Can I have what I hold dear to my heart and not be so attached to what I should be doing, how I ought to act, how I ought to show up in the world based on what I call myself?
I feel like it’s such a rigid system that divides a lot of humanity. It’s not to say that we give up our beliefs, we give up what we hold dear in our hearts. I’m not a fan of the word vegan. I’m not a fan of it because it feels like it’s such a loaded word and a divisive thing. It’s more about what people perceive me as when I tell them I am that. To be honest, I had an idea in mind and it was if I were to not assign myself any titles for an entire year, what would my life look like? What would that look like if I were to stop calling myself vegan or stop calling myself a progressive or stop calling myself a spiritual person, an author, a chef or whatever and be titleless? What would life be if we were to do that?
Could you even be titleless? Here’s the thing that I’ve learned a lot is that other people have an idea of what your title is. If you said your title to them multiple times, it’s ingrained in their head until you reframe it for them or you are very conscious with them over and over again about a new title or no title. I noticed this so much as my career has evolved over time. For so long, people wanted to call me a blogger and it used to drive me absolutely crazy because I blogged. Maybe I called myself a blogger for a couple of years, but out of the ten years I’ve been doing my work, I’ve barely ever used that word. A lot of people want to call me a blogger. I know there’s another major example in my head, but it’s so tough. It’s almost like you have to be very careful and mindful about how you explain yourself to somebody, what you write in your bio’s and your about pages and all of these different places.A great majority of human behavior, if not all human behavior, is not only very biological but very cultural. Click To Tweet
If you feel like your career is fluid, then it’s hard to get people to switch their perspectives on you. Even with us developing this brand Wellevatr, it’s a whole new journey of educating people on what we’re doing here. It’s going to probably take us years to help people understand exactly what we do. I also agree with you a lot on, it almost doesn’t even matter though. That’s the thing is I used to get annoyed, but now, I’m like, “Why does it matter what somebody calls me?” Unless I’m being introduced on the stage or in a podcast or something. Usually, in those contexts, I have an opportunity to submit my title and I can be very clear about what it is I’m doing.
Every once in a while though when somebody will interview me, especially with email interviews, I’ll answer questions and then I’ll read the published interview. It will have references to me and my title that I haven’t used in years. I’m again realizing maybe it still lives somewhere. I haven’t updated all of my bio pages or somebody has me locked in this one thing. Regardless, it doesn’t even matter that much. Sometimes we get so tied into how other people perceive us that we forget to realize that it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you’re doing on a regular basis and how you’re affecting people. That’s part of the reason I get nervous, anxious, uncomfortable in environments where somebody is going to keep asking me what I do.
I don’t have a strong word for what I do. I don’t feel like I identify with most words out there. Content creator maybe, but even that doesn’t feel like the best terminology for what I do. I’ve started to shift more into describing what I do and being present when I’m talking to other people. Especially if I can learn something about them first, that’s helpful because it’s almost like I can tailor my response to something that’s going to work well for them. That takes a lot of practice and confidence and it’s something that I’m always working because I had different versions of explaining my identity or what I do to people.
I also find it is most helpful for me to give people a little bit of information and then let them follow up with me if they’re interested because one of two things is going to happen typically. You’ll have somebody who asks what you do, you’ll give them an answer and they’ll move on with the conversation. They won’t ask any follow-up questions or they won’t even be interested and the conversation will end very shortly and that’s fine. The other thing is that sometimes you start to explain what you do or you give a short response and people will ask follow-up questions. They want to know more and they’re very curious. That is my preference. That feels so much more meaningful to me.
To your point too, it’s also nice and refreshing when you can talk about things other than what you do and find what else you have in common or how else you can support each other. The reason that people often ask what you do is not only are they trying to put you into context, but they’re also often trying to see how you could benefit them somehow. That’s a good reminder for me. I try not to ask that question too frequently or at least not until later on in the conversation. I try to make it more, “How can I support them? How can I add value to their lives somehow?” That to me is so much more rewarding than trying to think about what they can do for me.
What I find and when I think to do it is a much more, not an interesting question, but it’s more of an invitation to a deeper reflection instead of, “What do you do? It’s like what are you super passionate about right now? What are you excited about that’s going on in your world?” That to me, when I remember to ask that or the energy feels right to ask that question, I find that the responses are usually deeper, more introspective and more interesting. What I wanted to crack this open into a little bit more though is this question of, I’m playing around with this and I have my own answer, but I want to hear your perspective on when we have something, again, that is a deeply entrenched belief system.
I bring up ethics, religion, our system of eating or whatever we identify ourselves as. It seems like that in our society at large, not everyone, but all you need to do is look at what’s happening on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and how people come into each other on a large sample size to see that people have these belief systems. They also have this deep need to be right. My belief system, my way of eating, my way of living, my God, my religion or my whatever it is that’s it. If you disagree or you choose something opposite, you’re wrong. This seems to have persisted in humanity for thousands of years. It’s this interesting idea of how can we believe what we believe in our hearts.
There are things that are deep for each of us. Every human being has something I believe in their heart that they’re very deeply aligned with, that they truly believe in. Can we do it? Can we be aligned with it without having to castigate, vilify or crucify other people or make them wrong to validate what we believe? An interesting thing to pay attention to in our society right now is, how do we say, “This is what I believe. This is what I feel is right?” Also, I’m totally open to hearing your perspective because I don’t need to be right all the time.
It does come back to this ongoing element of mental training that we discussed so much in Wellevatr. I know that you have read part of it, but I’m curious because we haven’t talked about this, I saw you posting on your social media, Jason, about the book, Selfie. As soon as I saw that I went and got it. I’ve been reading it and it’s such a phenomenal book. I feel like I tend to read it at a more rapid rate than you do, Jason. How far into that book have you gotten?
It’s the first chapter. I have an obsession with books ever since I was a child, as a sidebar. Whitney knows and she teases me all the time. I have a massive queue of books and I’m reading two at the same time. I’m trying to get caught up because of the queue of unread books at my house continues to grow. What are you feeling since you’re deeper into it?
It’s so insightful and it’s relevant to this. When I read, I highlight. I would have basically pulled up all of my highlights and tried to summarize all of them. For me, the way I take in information is sometimes it’s harder for me to articulate it. I’m trying to think the best way that I can articulate it is basically everything that you’re discussing here and a great majority of human behavior, if not all human behavior is not only very biological but very cultural. It goes way back into our history as human beings. What’s fascinating about Selfie is that the author, I believe it’s a man, goes through and studies ancient Greek history and Asian history with Confucius.
He compares the two, which is fascinating and the Western versus Eastern way of living and thinking. He also studies Christianity and Catholicism. He goes to the monastery. He basically is going through all of these different cultures, history and understanding more about why people do what they do. Much of it is about how we relate to each other in groups. He, at times, makes it seem like some of this behavior is not within our control. It’s deeply ingrained in us that we naturally tend to go into these groups and see things as right versus wrong as in, my group versus your group. From our perspective, we’re often trying to find peace and reduce suffering.
It sounds so easy. How nice would it be if we all got along and how nice would it be if we didn’t have war anymore but is that even possible? Is that part of human behavior and the way that we relate to one another, will we always find conflict and be drawn to conflict? There’s almost like a necessity behind it. As I’m reading this book, he’s going deeper and deeper into the meaning and talking about the place of religion. That book is helping me in a way to feel more accepting of this element of human behavior because similar to Jason, I find it very frustrating.
I try not to see things very black and white. There are probably so many ways in which I do see things in black and white and I’m not even aware of it at the moment. It’s almost funny when you start to step back from yourself. The fact that we are annoyed by people who see things as black and white in our own way. That’s us seeing things as black and white. You’re either seeing things in black and white or you’re seeing them in shades of gray. If you step back, that’s again, black and white. It’s amusing that a lot of the things that frustrate us as Whitney and Jason, but also us collectively is, a lot of the times we’re being hypocrites.
We don’t even realize it because we get frustrated by things and the simple fact that we’re frustrated by them, it means that we can relate to them, I suppose. That’s part of the reason I get more drawn into more of the Buddhist or spiritual element of things is it’s more about being accepting. Who cares if somebody sees things as right and wrong, black and white, this versus that. That’s them. If we want to make a difference when it comes to these things, we have to also be more accepting of those types of people and not try to change them. That’s something that I’m learning more as a content creator and as a coach and teacher are that my aim is not to change people because I cannot force somebody to change. I could perhaps inspire them to change or think differently about things.
That’s ultimately the aim, but it’s more expressing my perspective and letting it go. However, people are going to interpret it, that’s something I’ve been trying to learn more and more into. We behave in all of these different ways without even realizing it or maybe we should take the pressure off of ourselves because a lot of it may be human nature or human nurture in ways that we don’t even fully comprehend because we are human. There’s only so much that we can step outside of our own heads because it’s a very complex thing. It’s not like this happened in the past 10 years or 20, 30, 40. This is something that’s been going on for hundreds of years. How much of it can we change?
There was an interesting exercise that I did years ago in the Byron Katie The School for The Work, where one of the exercises was there was a morning meditation walk that we did every single day at the ten-day school. Part of the morning meditation walk was to look at everyday objects that we had titles for and return to the child mind, the childlike state of consciousness before we had labels for things. I’ll give you an example. “Isn’t that a nice oak tree?” Like the mind, you’re taking in more the, “That’s a nice bird. That’s a nice tree. Look at the sidewalk. Look at the car.” The mind isn’t going to stop.
The goal was not to shut off the mind but to reassign it and do a pattern interrupt where we could see this thing as fresh again, the birth of language. Before language existed, we think all the time like why are things called the way they’re called, why have we all agreed upon, “That is a tree,” but there was a time as children where we didn’t have titles for things. We just were present to the is-ness, to the being of things without titling them. The interesting thing about this exercise was to look at a tree. I looked at a tree and instead of going like a tree in my mind, I was calling it something else.You're either seeing things in black and white or you're seeing them in shades of gray. Click To Tweet
After a few days, first of all, it was doing a pattern interrupt where it wasn’t like taking the thing for granted because often, we’re like, “There’s another tree. It’s another bird,” whatever, but to realize that everything we agree on language, society, culture, our money system, all it is, is a system of agreements. At some point, someone created these things from nothing and it caught on and enough people agreed that we accepted as truth. I want to get a level deeper here. We think back to like a child’s mind, a tree is not a tree to a child. A bird is not a bird to a child. Money has no relevance to a child.
If there’s absolute reality and everything is existence and everything is pure being, then we can make it whatever we want to. We can literally make it whatever we want to. I think this is important. Anytime we start to feel like constricted by life or held down by life or whatever. You’re in a job you don’t like, you’re in a relationship you don’t like or you want to make a change. What we do is remember that you have the limitless ability to keep choosing new things because we’re all making it up. All of the systems we have in our society were made up, anyway.
As freeing as that is, part of what this book, Selfie, talks a lot about is the importance of community. You can make things whatever you want them to be. The way that our human lives are set up is very dependent on other people. Unless you are redefining something with a group of people, it’s very challenging. There are all sorts of different examples. You can have the mental practice of redefining something or taking away the charge of it. That’s part of it. In fact, some of the early lessons in A Course In Miracles go into this is very similar to what you’re expressing with Byron Katie is about looking at objects without assigning meaning to them. One of the lessons in A Course In Miracles is this is a meaningless world.
It’s true because we are attaching our own meaning to it. Part of the practice in A Course In Miracles is starting to let go of all these different mental constructs so that we can surrender, we can trust and we can be in this place of co-creating with the universe. There’s a lot of nice relief in that because maybe something that you’re trying to get at here, Jason, is that it can feel challenging as human beings because of all these stories that we place in everything. Sometimes it’s also challenging because we feel like our world is being defined by what other people have defined it as. I don’t want to do this. I want to break out of the roles.
That’s part of where consciousness starts to get exciting is when you can recognize that there is meaning beyond your meaning. The world doesn’t revolve around you as the individual, which again, that’s something that goes back to ancient Greece is about individuality and all of that. That’s more of like the Western mindset versus the Eastern, which was very much about groups and people supporting one another and all of that and mentally how they viewed things. We have to realize that we’re being taught these ways. All these people are basically trying to help us. Ultimately, human beings are not necessarily that selfish. At our core, we were so connected to the group. If a teacher, a parent, a friend or the media has been instilling this meaning to you, it’s not like they’re trying to harm or trying to sabotage us.
It’s that we need to start to think about it in a way of maybe what we’ve been taught is not the meaning that we want to have. Recognizing more of that freedom there that we do in a way has a choice as to how we perceive things, how we interact with things and how we respond to things. That to me is incredibly exciting, powerful and comforting and a lot of ways that if something doesn’t feel right, it’s almost like we can reframe it in our minds. The downside to it is that we can reframe it, but how it basically plays out in our lives is also dependent on how other people are viewing things. That’s part of your point here is that we could give ourselves a whole new title or take away our title. It’s similar to Jason and I ran into somebody you haven’t seen in several years or so. He told you he had a new name. Will you tell them that story?
The first few years of my culinary career after I graduated from culinary school, I had a catering business and was doing a lot of different culinary things around Los Angeles. One of the chefs that I knew at that time was around doing his thing. He was also a raw food chef and prominent in the LA community. I had not seen him for a decade and randomly bumped into him at an herbal shop in Ojai. He had a new name. I referenced him as his original name. He’s like, “That’s not my name anymore.” I was like, “Right on.” The artist formerly known as. You can do what you will.
I was having this conversation. Jason Andrew Wrobel was not supposed to be my name. I don’t know if our audience knows this, but my mom made a game-time decision, changed her mind at the last minute. This whole idea of we make our reality whatever we want. I was almost somebody completely different. Jason Andrew Wrobel was what people know me as. That was a very final decision. My mom was going to name me Raphael Andres Feijoo Ortiz. That was going to be my name because my dad’s last name is Feijoo Ortiz. He’s from Puerto Rico. Andres was his father, my grandfather’s name. They decided that Raphael was cool because he’s an archangel painter. Raphael is a very powerful name. My mom and dad, whatever had a disagreement or however the story goes and she was like, “No, he’s going to be Jason Andrew Wrobel. I can guarantee you this. Had I gone through my life as Raphael Andres Fejo Ortiz, my life probably would have turned out very different in certain ways.
Because words have not only belief we assigned to the meaning of words, but I do believe that there is an energetic imprint to how words sound and how they affect the actual vibration of words. When I say Jason Andrew Wrobel, the feeling in my body and the feeling that the vibration of these words is very different than a Raphael Andres Fejo Ortiz. It’s a very different feeling that it engenders. It’s such an interesting exploration in linguistics and not the meaning we assign. How my life would have turned out having a very Latin name. Who knows how people would have treated me or how I would have assigned meaning to that? I probably would have been in Menudo for all we know.
There is no way of knowing, but it does remind me of this one story. Many years ago, I had a friend at work and she was applying for a new job. She was this white woman named Ayesha. It’s like the Shakespeare quote, “A rose by any other name.” It’s like, “What is a name?” A name is nice, but it doesn’t define who a person is. It’s a name. When you’re saying this about your name being different, I’m like, “I don’t think it would have changed anything for me.” Maybe we have a preconceived notion, but it all depends on the context. A great example of context is when Ayesha was applying for jobs, she’s saying to me that she was having trouble. This is probably 2008 or 2009. It’s in the entertainment industry where things are always shifting around.
We’ve also seen a huge shift in diversity in the past few years. It has changed a lot. Let’s say several years ago, she’s applying for jobs and she keeps saying, “People aren’t giving me an opportunity.” It occurred to her what may have been happening, whether right or wrong, part of her theory is one day she got a job interview and she went in. She was the only white person there. Suddenly it occurred to her that people were making an assumption of her race based on her name, which is Ayesha. I remember that I was talking about this. This is probably before LinkedIn became popular. She was literally sending a paper with her name and her experience written on it. People were basically assuming that she was a different race because of her name. They assumed that she wasn’t white. Whether that was racism happening, it seems that it may have been. It’s fascinating to me because especially since it had never even occurred to me. It was a name.
This is so interesting because this goes into the idea of assuming things about people. That’s an amazing story that highlights this. I’ve had people say, so obviously clue, part of my heritage is Latino. People don’t glean that from Jason Andrew Wrobel. They don’t necessarily glean it by my appearance either. They’re not like, “He’s a Latin dude.” I’ve had people make remarks, I won’t label. “You’re a white guy.” I’m like, “I’m mixed race. Thank you. I’m going to have compassion for your assumption about who I am because how else you could, I look white. It’s like you’re a white-appearing guy. I get it.”
This is part of human nature. We make snap judgments. We look at people or hear their names without even seeing them or we go back to the vegan thing. I’ve had people tell me, “I thought you were going to be a jerk.” I’m like, “Why? Because you’re vegan. I’ve had people say every vegan I’ve met has been a jerk.” I’m like, “Thank you.” It’s an interesting idea that people make perceptions or judgments about you without knowing the whole story. We do it all the time. I’m not judging this, but it’s interesting to note how we have a tendency to do this as human beings. It can be dangerous sometimes and it can be limited to people’s opportunities.
We’ve talked about this so much throughout the show so it’s becoming this ongoing theme. If we’re talking about how we apply meaning to things, there isn’t a limit because it’s this thing where if somebody is going to judge you based on your name, the color of your skin, your experience, your title, whatever else it is, they’re not taking you in as a whole person. They’re not giving you a chance. Why would you even want to be involved with that person? It is limiting. When you say it’s limiting our opportunities, it is literally limiting you. It doesn’t mean that you are having an opportunity taken away from you. It’s saying that if you took this opportunity, you would be limited.
It’s like, “I don’t care.” I’m not going to get caught up in all of these definitions and these titles, whatever else because I’m constantly evolving. I can’t remember where I was reading this. There was some point being made in some book that I was reading and the metaphor is like, “Putting your foot in the river over and over again and expecting it to be the same river every time.” The river is constantly moving, so every time you put your foot back in the water, it’s a different part of the water. It’s never the same because that part that you initially put your foot in has already moved on. It might look the same to you. You might perceive it as being a river, but a river is flowing and constantly changing. That’s similar to how I see us as human beings.
It’s, “Say whatever you want. You can put me in a box.” Sometimes I get in my head about this when I get triggered and think, “I offended this person or I said the wrong thing or I made a mistake or whatever.” I’m basically assuming that other people will not give me another chance or not see me as an evolving human being. I want to be perceived as an evolving human being that makes mistakes and that is changing. I’m never the same person from one moment to the next. If somebody wants to put me in a box and based my entire identity on one thing that I did in the past, then that person is not seeing me as the whole of who I am and who I’m becoming.
I’m going to butcher this quote. It might be Wayne Dyer. I’m pulling it from like the mezzanine in my brain. It was something about, “The secret to happiness or the secret to finding the goodness in life is not by wanting new things, but by seeing old things with new eyes.” When you were saying that years ago, someone gave me a piece of relationship advice, I can’t remember who it was, but it was a couple that was together for a while. They harken to what you said about putting your foot in the river. It was like when they started to feel the spark going away, their whole thing was to make a point to realize that you weren’t coming home like, “There’s my wife again. There’s my hubby again.” It was like this person is not the same person they were yesterday and appreciating them in their fullness, in the presence of who they are now. The reality is, if you’re with people who are dedicated to growth, evolution and change, they’re not going to stay the same. Do you have a container of love, communication and admiration that is strong enough to know that you can also love iterations, the versions and the chameleonic nature of who we are as beings?At the core, we are driven by whatever it'll take to survive as individuals and as a society. Click To Tweet
That reminds me of a song that I heard that I want to read some of the lyrics from. I somehow got into this album and I’ve been listening to it. It’s called expectations and it’s by the band Magic. They have this beautiful song called Appreciate You. I like another one called Expectations, another one is called More of You. I recommend all three. The fourth one I’ve only listened to once. I was taking in the lyrics and it hit me. The song starts off as a man singing, saying that she says, “She loves another. She says she loves another man and she says she wants to see him.” It starts off thinking this woman wants to be with somebody else. She says, “She looks at me with love. I know the one you’re talking about, he’s not coming back because I will never be how you remember me.”
Basically, the song is about how his partner wants to be with another man, but the other man is who her current partner was in the past. It’s a whole song about this guy trying to say you love the old me or you love who I was yesterday or you love me from last year. She’s stuck in this past framework of this man without understanding that he’s constantly evolving. That is an ongoing thing with relationships. When you get in a relationship with somebody, you’re getting together with somebody who’s changing like you’re changing. This is a common thing for couples is that they outgrow each other and people say or some people are committed to being with this person no matter who they become. The end of the song says, “It’s not what you expected, but at least my love for you is still protected. You’re the only one that I have not rejected, but you’ll never be the way you remember me.”
We have this deep desire for security and certainty. If things stay the same, they’re certain. They’re secure. We have control over them. That goes against the very nature of our existence. That goes against here on this planet. Everything has changed. Everything is moving forward. Everything is a decaying, evolving, being reborn over and over. No matter what your eyes tell you to think, “I’m seeing this person every single day. There they are.” Our eyes deceive us.
It’s funny because another issue that relationships have typically is that people get bored. It’s like, “I have to sleep with the same person for the rest of my life or I have to be with the same person.” How wonderful it is if they change. You want them to change. I also think it’s funny because when you’re saying this Jason, about how we crave this stability and the comfort of things staying the same. It’s odd though. If life is always changing if we as human beings are changing, why do we ever get in our heads that they wouldn’t change? Why is it that as human beings we want stability so much?
Maybe the Selfie book will get into this too. I don’t know if they will, but I love this about history and psychology is why do we want the things that we want even if they conflict with the way things are? To me, that becomes more comforting. If I can understand the way things work, I personally feel more comfortable because there’s less pain in it. At this time in my life, I’m trying to break through all of this old mental thinking and all of these meanings. I try to see the world differently mainly. I would like to be in more harmony with the way things work and myself too. I find it painful when I expect something and it doesn’t happen right. I perceive something to be something that it’s not, I find that incredibly painful.
Why would I want to see the world that way? The other thing with the black and white thinking is to me that also is about the conflict. I would rather talk to somebody and have a flowing dialogue where both people respect one another and both people are open-minded. Even though they may not want to change their perspective, they still can respect and hear the other. To me, that’s wonderful. I’m not somebody that wants to get into a debate. I don’t want to sit there and argue my way, especially not to somebody who’s committed to arguing for their way. That is incredibly unpleasant for me personally.
There’s that wonderful quote that it’s attributed to, but you can either be right or you can be happy especially in an intimate relationship. My aim is not to be right here. My aim is not to win. My aim is to understand and be understood. I want to recommend a book on the subject that’s so good. I read it many years ago and my mentor Michael recommended it to me. It’s called The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. It’s a wonderful Zen-based because Alan Watts steeped in many spiritual traditions but very much Zen Buddhism. This idea that true security or at least the fervent desperate security seem to crave as humans are impossible to achieve. We are so against nature in many of our thinking patterns and our habits that the flowing of the river, the changing of the seasons, the leaves falling, the tree falling, the new tree being born.
This psychotic desire and I’m paraphrasing to have things stay the same all the time is we are running against the very nature of existence by doing that. Fear of death, preventing that if things are secure and things are safe and we surround ourselves in giant mansions with huge walls, armored cars and tons of money that somehow death, sadness and suffering won’t find us. There’s a sickness of the human mind that culturally speaking, that people amass enough wealth, power and security. Again, all of these material things that somehow they’re going to be immune to sickness, death and suffering and all these things. It’s a spiritual illness and it’s a mental illness of sorts to think that we can live this way.
That’s a little extreme in saying that again, after reading Selfie, a lot of that behavior is historic. When you go back in time, this is not a new thing. I don’t know if it’s like a spiritual illness. It’s perhaps putting that much meaning on it. If you’re not conscious about it, it’s unconscious behavior and unconscious desire. How can you blame them? Ultimately as human beings, we’re trying to survive. Any living being is trying to survive. That is what we are first and foremost programmed to do. How long can we stick around and perpetuate our species? At the core, we are driven by whatever it will take to survive as individuals and as a society.
The money side of things is a huge part of survival because when we have money, we feel safe because all of our needs can be met. There’s this idea, if we don’t have money, perhaps we’re not safe or we’re unsuccessful and there’s a huge fear. I’m not going to be able to keep myself alive if I don’t have money. That’s at the core of those money fears. How can we judge somebody for wanting to have a huge house, make a ton of money and have a nice car? A lot of that is very culturally programmed into us. Some people unconsciously think that’s going to help them feel happier. I’ve had those thoughts before too. These are very ingrained in us. There are different extreme versions of it.
I don’t think that we can get upset for people or called them spiritually ill. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. It’s that it might not be benefiting them in the way that they think it is. It’s not contributing to some more ethically greater good. A lot of the times it is selfish because you having all of this money, some people might perceive that you’re taking it away from somebody else or you’re using the money to buy a car when instead maybe you can make a donation to help somebody in need or something like that. Those perspectives on wealth can maybe make some sense. Everybody is going through all these different phases and it’s so much about the insecurities they felt as a child sometimes. The deep fears that are ingrained in them and their desires to have something so badly because they believe that’s what it’s going to take for them to survive and for them to feel loved.
The point I was trying to get at is, how can we be more secure aligning ourselves with the true nature of existence? That’s what I’m trying to get out here. It’s that nothing is absolutely certain. Everything is ever-changing and we have no idea what’s going to happen from moment to moment and that can feel scary and feel like a free fall. There are times when I’ll meditate on that, not as a concept, but feel it in my body. There are moments that can be terrifying of we want certainty, we want to think we can predict what’s going to happen in the next moment, but to gently and without judgment, sit in that space of, “We have no idea what’s coming. We can prepare. We can do our best to plan for the future, but ultimately, we have no idea what’s waiting for us.” That’s one of the most challenging things about the existing period is setting foundations for the family, a fortune in the future, making plans for things and ultimately, having to let go to a degree of knowledge we have no idea what’s coming.
I’m riffing off random quotes, but the other one that comes to mind is, “If you want to make God laugh, tell me your plans.” This was not a diatribe against wealth or wealth accumulation. What I’m trying to highlight is when people are doing things like that with a sense that it’s going to protect them from the suffering, the pain and the uncertainty of life, that’s a massive illusion. It’s understanding that life is going to be filled with all kinds of things, with sorrow, with beauty, with joyfulness, with sweet moments and to be present to what is and to appreciate things as they are right now. That’s something we can always practice and get better at doing.
Looking beyond the labels is ultimately the big message here. Noticing how you attach meaning to labels and how you react to people attaching meaning to your label as well. We can’t control how other people perceive us. If somebody wants us to see us as a vegan and put us in a category of being an unpleasant human being or self-righteous or whatever else or whatever they want to put on there, that’s them. That’s their story. That’s why it doesn’t necessarily matter that much in this desire to try to make ourselves feel fully understood. Also at the core of this identity thing is we want so badly for people to see us for who we truly are.
We live in a time where people make a lot of judgments on us based on our names, our titles, our Instagram accounts and how we look and how we dress and all this. That’s so much of human behavior. This is nothing new. It’s like we can try to fight it or we can embrace it and let go and say, “Who cares?” It’s easier said than done because we are, again, as discussed so much in that book Selfie. There’s a lot of our emotions that are wrapped into how other people perceive us. That comes back to the survival side of it. It’s an ongoing experiment.
The one thing we talked about judgment, for me, one of the big practices that I’ve remembered whenever I feel myself in the judgment of myself or another person. You talked about this with the energetic charge on things. That judgment feels like a perception with a potent energetic charge on it, while discernment feels like a perception with no energetic charge on it. You could be like, “I don’t want to date her because she drives a weird car. She drives a Yugo.” There are a lot of judgments. A Yugo is a Yugoslavian car from the ‘80s. I was trying to create something random as hell. I don’t know which we’re excited about because that’d be random as to how and cool.
It’s funny, one person might judge her in a negative light for having that car and another person might say, “That’s awesome.” There’s always going to be somebody that judges us for something and they don’t like it and then somebody else judges us and loves it.
Whenever I feel myself having a reaction or a negative energetic charge around my judgment of someone, I’ve gotten better over the years at pulling myself out of that and observing it. It’s not like, “They’re wearing something or look at them with that thing.” It’s like, “Look at them,” that’s a judgment or, “That’s an interesting red coat.” The energy behind it is very different. We’re always going to separate things based on how we perceive them and assign meaning. Can we reduce the negative charge that comes with judgment and learn to perceive things without putting the negativity around it? That’s a practice we can all continue to do. I still judge the hell out of things. I found myself judging someone and I was like, “You can pull this back to observe it. You don’t have to judge it.” It doesn’t have negativity around this or comparison in that way.At the core of identity is how we want so badly for people to see us for who we truly are. Click To Tweet
Why do you think you stopped yourself?
I caught myself.
Why did you want to stop yourself?
It felt bad in my body. I could feel the negativity in my body as I was going there. First of all, I don’t want to send negative energy toward that person. My body was giving me a signal like, “You don’t need to go there. You could observe this thing and it’s okay. That’s enough.”
It’s like compassion though. It’s probably why it is compassionate for yourself but compassionate for another human being. What you’re describing this negative judgment towards somebody doesn’t feel very compassionate. It’s not looking at them and knowing that they too struggle. They too have all the same feelings that you have. It comes down to this type of meditation that I’m drawn to called loving-kindness meditation. It’s all about wishing yourself peace, happiness and love and all those things. After you finished wishing that for yourself, you start to wish it for other people, including strangers because you recognize that they too want love. They too want peace. They too want happiness.
When we judge somebody, it’s almost saying that part of them isn’t worthy or there’s something wrong with them. It is so important to do what Jason is saying here which is, why do we need to do that? Why can’t we say, “That person made that decision to dress the way they are for whatever reason?” I may see that and make other choices, but that doesn’t mean that my choice is any better than theirs or sometimes there are things about people that they can’t change. They didn’t have a choice, disability or something, for example. We can be so judgmental about that. What if that person had no control over whatever their body is doing or however their body is designed?
It is heartbreaking in a way to think that culturally we have racism, sexism and all of these isms against other human beings that come back to the separation, which again is maybe not something that we’re consciously doing. If we can become very conscious about it, that’s one of the most loving decisions that we can make. It’s one of the most compassionate things that we can do. It also reminds us to be more loving and compassionate to ourselves because as many people know, a lot of the times the flaws that you’ve seen other people are a reflection of the flaws that you see within yourself. For you stopping, Jason, that judgment, it was not a gift for that person, but it was a gift for you.
The big question is the takeaway for this episode is, how can we bring more awareness to our actions, thoughts and beliefs? Are they creating community and connection or are they creating separation and judgment? Having this dialogue with ourselves is important because I personally believe as an optimist and a futurist for life to continue and flourish on this planet, we need to come together. That’s not some flippant political campaign statement, it’s true. It’s like reducing judgment, increasing compassion, being aware of the negativity, anxiety, stress or need for security or the way we judge ourselves or others, becoming aware and choosing something different at the moment. If we can get better at that. That has a massive ripple effect on this planet, don’t discount your power. As you’re reading this with these awareness practices, these mindfulness practices, they do have a massive effect not only on your physiology and your peace of mind. The quality and the depth of how well you can relate and understand other people, it has a huge impact on this entire world when you make that shift within yourself as we all do.
I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on Selfie. On the flip side, if we’ve been behaving this way for most of humanity, is it affecting us that poor layer or do we think it is? If we’ve survived long a species with separation, is a separation that bad? I don’t have the answer. That’s what that book is getting me to think, “Is there a point to separation in a way? Is there some of a benefit that is somehow serving us?” There must be if it’s been going on for this long in humanity. I’m curious to get to the end of this book and see how it all wraps up and what his advice is in the text about how we can apply this to daily living. Maybe we’ll have a little Wellevatr book club and so we can talk about it with everybody else.
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- Byron Katie The School for The Work
- A Course In Miracles
- The Wisdom of Insecurity
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