My teacher told me the story of the monks who were happily meditating when a bunch of savage looking guys with big curved swords ran inside screaming. The monks didn’t move a muscle and the biggest meanest guy stood right in front of one of the monks, held up his sword and screamed in a mean voice, “DO YOU REALIZE I CAN CHOP YOUR HEAD OFF WITHOUT BLINKING AN EYE????????” The monk opened his eyes, looked at him evenly and asked, “Do you realize we can have our heads chopped off without blinking an eye?”
I tell this story to show that nothing has to disturb our peace. When something does disturb our peace we usually think that someone did something to us. To a person that is me. Or that our circumstances say something about this me. But in our deepest essence we are not a person and the more we realize that, the more we will be undisturbed.
When we are not perfectly happy and at peace there is always a part in us triggered. This means that a trauma part in us, that hasn’t been worked through, is stuck in the past and believes something that is not real. For example if we get triggered by somebody shouting at us. This seems a reasonable thing to get triggered about, and our minds will find all sorts of blame and reasons and indignation to be upset. But if we realize what is really happening then we might feel different.
The person who is shouting at us is obviously upset. We get upset too because a part of us that has been shouted at in the past gets triggered. The part that has not been worked through in us about being shouted at, feels the shouting is about them doing something wrong. Or it is a part that has been hurt in the past that feels scared.
If somebody shouts at us and we have no residue trauma in us, we won’t get triggered. We don’t connect it to something about us, but instead see that the shouter is upset. We might say, ‘Hey I don’t want to be shouted at,’ since being shouted at doesn’t feel great. Or we ask “Hey, what’s up, why are you shouting?”
I had someone shouting at me once and I saw his pain and said “Oh sweetie, are you ok?’ and opened my arms. He collapsed in my arms crying.
All this to say that whenever we are not perfectly at peace and happy, we are reminded of something from the past and a part of us takes it personally. This ‘being shouted at’ is an extreme example, but any time we are not feeling ok we are invited to meet what is inside of us.
When we get triggered we usually go automatically with our attention to our mind, but our mind is designed to avoid pain. Our mind wants to change our reality and find a solution, and make it about other people doing something. It wants to blame and accuse, because otherwise we have to feel that part in us that is triggered.
It is not always easy to meet what is triggered inside of us by putting our attention on the discomfort in our body. There are usually a lot of conflicting feelings and emotions, like shame and devastation, and uncomfortable sensations. It needs patience and determination, because the feelings that are still here feel as real as when the trauma happened. And we don’t feel a day older in those places then however old we were when it happened.
But it is such a relief to go inside every time we feel triggered, because we realize that our state of mind is not at all dependent on other people’s behavior, nor on circumstances. The more we get to know those past trauma parts, the more we can take responsibility for them. We stop identifying with those parts and start asking for what we need, we learn to say sorry (and how good that feels!) and we become our own unconditional support.
In the end we realize deeply that what we are is peace and love itself, and we know that that will never change, even if somebody would come with a curved sword and chops our head off..