I became acutely aware of the difference between these two ways of being while on a Buddhist retreat in the year 2000. I was going through a divorce after a long marriage and was finding myself being constantly tested in this arena. Being of Mediterranean descent and having been raised in a way that it was perfectly fine for me to speak my mind, I found it easy to get things out in the open and off my chest verbally. Having several planets in Mars, my communication style has always been absolute and direct. It never seemed necessary to go through formalities when talking to people, such as asking them personal questions before delivering my message or asking my question. I would simply launch right into whatever it was I wanted to say and I felt good when I used as few words as necessary to get my point across.
In some ways, I suppose this was a good thing. I had a reputation for being honest and upfront with people, and yet it didn’t feel good to find out that my brutal honesty was sometimes also hurtful. I felt proud that I could “take it” when people were direct and confrontational with me, but I also noticed a big difference in the way I felt around people who were kinder, softer and more tactful.
E-mail is, I believe, a great way to practice learning these skills. It is better than the telephone because it gives us time to think before we press “send”. And yet e-mail is notorious for being misinterpreted and in addition, it can be in existence for perpetuity as it is the written word.
I have suffered this reality when people have dug up my old e-mails and sent them to me. It is undeniable, and indisputable.
Now that I am a bit older and perhaps wiser having learned so much the hard way, I give myself more time when I feel my emotions stirring in reaction to what another person is saying to me. Is this an attack or an opportunity, I ask. Most of the time, if I wait and breathe for awhile, I find it is a wonderful opportunity. It is as if Spirit is given a human voice, attempting to get through to me so I can wake up to something I am not yet aware of.
What is the deeper message and how is it really about me and not about them vs. me?