- The Three Schools of Life
"Thank you so much”… “You made me so happy”… “Don’t mention it”… “It was a pleasure”… are all phrases we use to express our gratitude and acknowledge another’s gratitude. They indicate that we believe someone else has done something that has ‘made’ us happy and that, for a few moments at least, ‘they’ are responsible for our pleasure and our happiness. But are they? Is anyone else ever responsible for our happiness, our peace of mind, our contentment, our joy? And if they were would that not make us responsible for the happiness or misery of others? And if that were true would that not make the world a slightly dangerous if not confusing place?
There are three schools of thought around such questions about who exactly is responsible for what we feel. One school, The School of Projection, says it is almost always the others presence and/or actions that ‘makes us’ feel happy and content or upset and grumpy. In this school we learn one of the BIG beliefs that currently run the world – ‘it’s not me, it’s them.’
The second school of thought, The School of Self Responsibility, says we are entirely 100% responsible for our feelings at any and every moment regardless of others actions or the circumstances. They would go as far as to say that even God cannot control our feelings, even God cannot ‘make us’ feel anything, and that if He or She could then there would not be the suffering that we see in the world today. Assuming of course the presence of a benevolent God!
The third school of thought is The School of Resonance. They take the middle path. They would say that while we cannot ‘make’ anyone perceive or feel anything we can ‘influence’ the feelings of others. They would say that while we are ultimately the creators of all our thoughts and feelings we can be ‘influenced’ by others depending on their energy levels, or what we sometimes call ‘vibrations’.
To which school would you subscribe?
The Meaning of Feeling
Before attempting to understanding the ‘understandings’ of each school it’s probably necessary to clarify the meaning of feeling. We tend to associate feeling only with the physical. Sensual feelings are stimulated through our physical senses. For most people the feeling of happiness is therefore connected to some form of stimulation or excitation through one of our physical senses. The ‘taste’ of a good chocolate cake, the ‘sight’ of our team winning, ‘listening’ to some inspiring music, are all forms of ‘stimulated happiness’. They are fleeting and transient and therefore not real happiness but an ‘excitation’ of the senses. Such sensual feelings come from outside in.
Feelings of the non-physical kind, which we tend not to be so aware of, come from inside out. We can choose to be at peace and feel peaceful, we can choose to be contented and thereby feel one of the deepest forms of happiness, we can choose to be loving towards another and feel the love of our own benevolence as it extends outwards. These feelings are not stimulated but consciously created. But as long as we remain dependent on an outside source i.e. people, events and circumstances to generate our feelings (pleasant or unpleasant), we will not be able to exercise our inner choice.
In the School of Projection we learn to blame others regardless of who they are, or even how far away they might be, for our angers, our fears and our sorrows i.e. our feelings of suffering. The idea that we may be responsible for our state of being, our attitude, our feelings and even our actions, has not yet occurred in our consciousness. Some, in the School of Projection, say that they do take responsibility for their actions but still blame others for what they feel. “You made me feel…” is a frequent phrase they say to others. They may even say things like “I need you to (do this, say that etc)… as they express their neediness and dependency on others for their satisfactions. In the School of Projection that neediness and dependency is perceived to be perfectly valid.
The Early Lessons in Life
We tend to enter the School of Projection early in life when one or both our parents teach us that we are responsible for their feelings. “If you pass your exams, if you come home on time, if you wash the car well….I will be happy (and you will receive love in the form of approval from me). But if you fail, or you are late, or you leave unwashed areas on the car, I will be unhappy (and will withdraw my love for you). And so it was that the vast majority of us learned that we were responsible for our parent’s feelings! A great start to life! That lesson, plus growing up in our highly sensual world where almost everyone demonstrates their dependency on some form of stimulation to be happy, and it was not long before we learned to believe that our happiness, that our ‘feelings’, come from outside in when, in truth, authentic happiness is an ‘inside job’. And so it was that the most frequent disease that would cause us to miss many happy days in the School of Life itself would become known as ‘victimitis’!
It seems only a relative few enter the School of Self Responsibility simply because few are able to pass the entrance exam which isn’t so much an exam but more the implementation of a realization. It’s that moment that many speak of when they say, “I finally got it”, when they saw and fully realised, “It’s not them, it’s me”. Realising that we can be responsible for our feelings at all times is one thing, exercising that responsibility after a lifetime of conditioning to believe and behave in the opposite, is another. Ultimately it requires a shift in our awareness which includes ‘seeing’ that the ‘primary reality’ in life is within our own consciousness i.e. the self. And all that ‘stuff’ out there i.e. other people, state of the world, evolving events, chocolate cakes etc. is the secondary reality. Always a good example of the power that self responsibility can restore to our consciousness is Victor Frankls extreme but real life experience in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Faced with the cruelest of deaths at the hands of some not very nice people he has a moment of enlightenment as he realizes that there is one thing no one can ever take away, regardless of the circumstances (his being a POW camp), and that is our ability to choose how we respond i.e. our perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
Practicing self responsibility can however seem harsh. It can appear to give us permission to say and do anything we want, justified with an arrogance towards others that says, “Well if you don’t like it that’s your problem”. And a few do try this approach to life. There was a whole movement back in 70s and 80s that did just that. What they eventually realised however was that such an uncaring arrogance towards others ‘feelings’, regardless of how enlightened the ‘others’ were, would soon lose them most of their friends. Many also realised that such arrogance is primarily a violence towards one’s self, thereby sabotaging one’s own happiness. Some, within that movement, would come to realise there were deeper levels of enlightenment around the issue of self responsibility still undiscovered, including the spiritual laws that originate and live within the consciousness of each one of us. One such law is the law of love or the invisible ‘connection’ that exists between all beings. Any form of selfishness or ‘uncaringness’ is an attempt to ‘disconnect’ and thereby an attempt to break the law of love. The result is the same as any attempt to break any law at any level; there is always some form of mental or emotional discomfort.
The Presence of Being
If you have ever attended The School of Resonance you will already know that if you walk into any room when you are personally filled with anger, and in that room sits someone in a state of calm tranquility, you will eventually be influenced by their peaceful vibrations, by their energy, and start to calm down as you ‘resonate’ with them. There may be a few moments of increased discomfort as you notice your anger more acutely in the mirror of their peace. But eventually you won’t be able to stop yourself becoming more peaceful in their presence. Your state of being will naturally resonate with their state of being. It could of course happen the other way, in which case both are still at the School of Projection and they have not yet had their first lessons at the School of Self Responsibility!
You can experiment with this and prove its truth almost every day. That’s why those who have attended the School of Resonance neither blame others for what they feel nor do they rail against those who would make the world a more peaceless and violent place. Graduates from the School of Resonance have understood that perhaps the world awaits the ‘presence’ of those who have realized their power to influence the state of others being, both nearby and from afar. As the old saying goes ‘by their actions and their attitude ye shall know them’! Or perhaps that could be more accurately expressed as ‘by their non-reactiveness and the calming influence of their vibrations they shall be known!
If you ever meet such a being be sure to ‘hang out’ with them as much as possible!
If you are such a being then school is over.
Question: To which school would you send your children?
Reflection: Why do we often ‘react’ so easily and project our feelings on to others and the world?
Action: Experiment with the power of resonance at least once a day this coming week
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