Wooff asks: Recently, I’ve made some lifestyles changes. You could say, I’m going through a spiritual awakening. I have the years of hardship I’ve gone through to thank. I understand that these life lessons are our teachers. I want to delve into more before I get into the question. With this spiritual awakening, I’ve come to listen to my thoughts and decide on how to use these thoughts. I know everything in this world is up to you. But I’m in college at the moment. I have a diverse group of friends and sometimes I get sucked into their thought processes where we talk about other people or treat other people a certain way. I didn’t really have this problem back in high school when I mostly kept to myself and didn’t have many friends. So, how do I control how I think and behave around people who act and behave a certain way? Because it takes a lot of self control. Another question would be, why is it so hard to find people like you? I would really appreciate finding someone whose going through the same things as I am. I know there are people like me. But sometimes it gets lonely and hard to control myself.
I’ll say it simply, my dear friend: this is hard. It always has been, and always will be.
Most people don’t get the clarity you’re having. Because they had more friends from ages ten to eighteen, they have always adjusted themselves to their peers’ beliefs and attitudes, and by your age are just beginning to question those (often because they’ve left home and discovered new friends whose views are very different). But you’ve been more of a loner and individualist. So now you’re discovering these conflicts and wondering what in the world happened!
Well I’m going to start with the bad news (which I personally think is wonderful, but will be bad for you right now). Which is that, when you say that you know there are people like you, I disagree. Yes, there are people who will share your spiritual or political views, or your moral sense, or sense of humor. But my friend, you are absolutely unique. Hey, we dogs have a lot less variety than you guys do, and I’m the only one of me, right? So you might well need to face a new world where you realize you are, in many ways, going to always be alone (Handsome just yelled to me that, if you aren’t familiar with it, you should take six minutes to close your eyes and listen to one of the most amazing recordings ever made, Bob Dylan’s famous single “Like a Rolling Stone.” It might define exactly the way you’re feeling).
And my answer to your question really relies on your realizing this fact. In many ways we are all one; I love the idea that we’re all part of one gigantic soul. And I certainly believe that life is better the more we realize how connected we all are (clearly – otherwise I’d never have this website!). But it’s also true that we’re each unique and magical and perfect and flawed and… hey look, every dog is really good at knowing who was in their neighborhood that day by sniffing trees, right? So believe me, EVERYONE is unique!
So the trick I’d offer you has two steps. First, you just need to accept that you’re where you are in life, and that this is a time for everyone where this issue is difficult. Forgive yourself, and give yourself some slack to make some mistakes as you learn how to handle it.
But second, I suggest you take up a little meditation ritual. Every morning and every night, just for a couple of minutes, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and concentrate on this paradox – that we’re all one, we’re all alike, and yet we’re all different. Let your brain struggle with that a bit. See the frustration of it, and the wonderful beauty. Think about how there could only be one Beethoven, yet his music has affected everyone. Think about all the millions of soldiers that have given up their identities to serve in war, and how the loss of each of them has been the worst thing that ever happened in someone else’s life (their mother, their lover, their wife, their child). Think about how every person in a traffic jam is annoyed that there are so many other people in the traffic jam!
And the more you focus on this issue, the more it will become just a part of you, to see everyone as individuals and as parts of all of us. And to realize that you always have the choice to conform or to differ, to join or to step away, to commit or to flee. And that the choices you make define who you are.
Though I can say that the choices you’ve made over all this time, to write and talk to me about so many things, mean that I see you as absolutely wonderful. And it would be very hard for anyone, even you, to change that definition in my heart!
All my best,