To understand something is to make sense of it. You may not agree with the situation or the person involved, but you can see more than your own point of view. This kind of understanding comes from a lot of experience. You may have been the person wanting to be understood, or the person who wasn’t understood. You might have found yourself in the middle of a situation you just could not wrap your head around, even if it was of your own making. These are the times understanding (or the lack thereof) is evident to us, because we weren’t understood or don’t understand.
When we see the “bad stuff” that happens in our Life, there could be all kinds of reasons for this. Often it’s the older part of our brains responding in fight or flight response mode. Something has happened, and this is how we should react! In this survival mode, we tend to only see or comprehend what will keep us alive for the next 30 minutes, or even the next 30 seconds. With this “fight or flight” response, we will notice every threat or danger much quicker than new opportunities. Which means we have to actively look for the positive situations.
To adapt something that Gandhi said, if you want to be understood, be more understanding. If you want to understand, be more understanding. It’s not a trick statement. The best way to be more understood by others is to set an example for others by the understanding you offer them. And yes, you do need to go first. You should be willing to understand others who don’t agree with you and may even wish you harm. It also includes the folks that you may wish harm to. That’s part of the example. I didn’t say it was easy. But I will say it’s worth doing. So how do you go about creating an Understanding practice?
First, define what you mean by understanding. There are as many meanings as there are people, I suppose, but several words stood out in the definitions I read; knowledge, experience, and forgiveness. Knowledge combined with Experience, and the actions that result from that combination, is how we build Wisdom. Forgiveness is one of the Wisest things we can do with our lives.
Next, set an Intention for your practice. This “I AM” statement will guide you in the practice. What do you want to get from the practice? More importantly, what do you want to GIVE through your practice? Maybe “I AM more Understanding of other Faiths” or “I AM learning more about (insert a political issue here) so I can better understand those I disagree with”. If you’re not sure you can meet the Intention, state it this way – “I AM WILLING to be more Understanding of other Faiths”. When I am beginning a practice, I find it easier to set an Intention I can make sense of. Being able to fulfill the Intention is important to motivation. But I hasten to add that when I AM looking for real change in My Life, the Intention I set is a challenge to me.
With clear Intention and meaning, now you have a framework for practice. But what actions do you take to manifest that Intention? Here the practice will change according to where you are on your journey. Some, many of whom are admittedly more learned than I, insist that this thing or that thing is the “only way” to manifest an Intention. Personally, repeating My Intentions daily or even whenever I think of them has gone a long way toward manifesting my Intentions.
This repetition can be done as an affirmation or some form of meditation. But repetition alone won’t give you the results you desire. You have to take some kind of action. And here’s where your practice begins to take fruit. When you act in a manner in alignment with your Intention, you are manifesting that Intention into the world. When you act contrary to your Intention, you’ll think to yourself, “Wait! That’s not what I am or what I do.” Words to that affect, anyway. I’ve used much saltier language than that. And the longer you practice your Intention, the quicker you notice behaviors that align with it or disturb you because it’s not who you are anymore. Essentially, you are creating new neural pathways in your brain that help you create your Life.
How long will this take? It’s hard for me to say. There’s the 21 days to change theory, and lots of others. Frankly, I think it’s different for everybody. In the spirit of full disclosure, some things have taken longer for me to manifest than others. My old beliefs and thoughts sometimes have to be released before I can fully accept the new thoughtforms. Other times, but not often, it’s taken very little time. But mostly it’s taken me 30 days or more. And that’s OK. If everything we thought just popped up right in front of us, this world would be even crazier than we think it is. And we probably wouldn’t get what we really wanted anyway. Both our ideas and the thoughts and actions that create them need time to ripen. While you can do something with a green apple, you can do more with a ripe one. Practice is anything you do repeatedly with a clear Intention, so don’t get hung up on numbers.
Just Practice. “Practice, and all is coming.”*
REMEMBER – I AM Practicing to better understand myself and others.
~ Inspired by The Season of Nonviolence and the challenge of writing this piece
And So It Is!
Peace, Grace, and Love,
*K. Pattabhi Jois