Metaphor time: When we receive Facebook messages from someone outside of our Facebook network, they are automatically compiled into a folder entitled “Other”. This indicates that the message inside this folder may not be relevant to us.
Facebook is attempting to spare us from inconvenient or unwelcomed information. Sometimes, however, messages from wonderful new friends don’t make it to our primary inbox – they get sent to the “Other” folder through this automatic filtering process.
This “Other” process is very similar to how we treat unwelcomed parts of our lives. Uncomfortable responsibilities, difficult people, nagging health issues: these are all essential parts of our lives that certainly won’t disappear on their own, and yet we often find ourselves delaying as long as possible in dealing with them – if they aren’t what we WANT they become “Other” – background noise. The reality is, they are not “Other”. They are necessary, important, and even beautiful parts of how our lives fit together.
1. Find a softer response
If you’ve just found out that your dog’s paw needs surgery, we can make a horrified, disgusted face, or we can breathe into it and simply remember that it is what it is. If we constantly fight reality, we are fighting ourselves. By embracing what is, we are giving ourselves the gift of leaving ‘disgust’ behind. As we are faced with choosing our response to anything, which response would be harder and which would be softer? The softer response always leads to greater well being. The harder response creates that contrast of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ and ‘primary’ vs ‘Other’. In truth, there is no hard line – life is all one big grey area. Breathe into the softness!
2. Try switching folders, change things up!
The primary folder tends to be what we think we ‘want’, and the Other folder tends to be what we think we ‘don’t want’. Have you ever found an unexpected nice surprise in the ‘Other’ folder? Perhaps when looking through your spam folder, littered with unwelcome subject matter, you’ve come across an email from an old friend that’s been marked as Spam. One can also face an ‘Other’ activity, such as changing a tire, and take the delicious opportunity to practice a helpful life skill. Instead of stressing out about our tardiness to a meeting, we can realize we have more time to listen to a favorite song.
3. Expand in both directions
As mentioned earlier, this dichotomy of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is often represented in our categorizing ‘primary’ and ‘other’. If we view these holistically, they are all part of a greater system which is neither good nor bad. In happiness studies with EEG systems connected to the brains of Tibetan Monks, it’s been proven that an increase in one’s overall happiness level comes along with an increase in one’s willingness to feel negative feelings. Yes, it seems counterintuitive – how can being sad lead to happiness?
Here’s the thing: When we are depressed or anxious it’s because we are focusing on something we don’t want – we think we ‘want’ happiness, but really we are just ‘sick of feeling this way’. We are focusing on ‘not wanting’ the negative feelings. So, our wanting to be happy is exactly what makes us miserable. If we reverse our thinking by allowing ourselves to accept that ‘perhaps we’ll just be sad forever’, we are then taking real action to release our resistance to the negativity – and ‘poof’ – we find ourselves operating from neutrality, the ideal state. Happiness is a fun state, and yet is a part of the positive mind, craving more of those positive feelings, which will ultimately lead to more suffering and further oscillation between happiness and sadness. Neutrality is ultimately much more sustainable, as it slows or ends that oscillation and allows us to focus on the present moment more than our cravings and aversions.
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