“When I hear what you are saying, I am being a considerate human.
When I listen to what you are saying, I am being humane.
When I understand what you are saying, I am being a compassionate person.
But when I can hear what you are NOT saying, I am elevated into the realm of the gifted, for I can now be of true service to you!” AK
To honour the spirit in all is one of my first intimate principles for creating a joyful life.
It is based on the understanding that no matter how much an individual may disagree with my beliefs, no matter how vehement we may both be in stressing our point of view, no matter how emotional we may become in asserting our respective views, we cannot allow these differences to stand between us as human beings.
Fundamentally, it has to be believed that there is no such thing as right or wrong. Everything just is. I do not allow someone’s ridicule of my opinion or belief to touch my inner-self even when I am met with very personal and derogatory remarks.
I come across individuals who are so hardened in their way of thinking that they ungraciously rebuff a different point of view without even hearing it fully. I do not engage in debate with such individuals and instead choose to hear what they have to say. This approach has the effect of taming the ego which takes all the anger and negative emotions out of a discussion. But most importantly, it does not make me swerve from the need to honour the spirit in the other person because fundamentally there is no difference or distance between me and them.
Differences of opinion come from a number of causes – deep mistrust, lack of proper knowledge, a basic misunderstanding, misinterpretation, the need to be right or simply to have one’s own way. Each person has the right to have their point of view, a belief system and desire to exist in harmony with everyone around him in all circumstances, even when there is an intense disagreement over a point. Each one of us has a spiritual or psychic space around us, and this space forms a cocoon that shields us from being invaded by the harmful thoughts of others. To enter the spiritual space of a person, one’s mind has to be vibrating in synchrony with that person’s spiritual space and convey a message of recognition of that person’s soul as a sacred entity.
I have learnt that it is possible to strike an accord with anyone in any circumstance providing I recognise that person to have feelings and emotions like me. This is a simple, but sincere, process of expressing this thought silently to myself. When I do this, my body language, the expression in my eyes, my mannerisms, speech and tone send signals to the other person who immediately senses the warmth in me towards him at a deeper level and instantly experiences a transformation in his consciousness.
It was in Zambia one morning that I had an unforgettable experience whilst on a long journey by road. I had been driving for nearly two hours, and I was far from any urban civilisation, so to speak. I found myself driving through a forest when there was a sudden dip in the road that was filled with a patch of low-lying early morning mist. To my utter horror and rather late I saw in front of me a vehicle being slowly towed by an old pickup van. I applied brakes, but still a minor collision was unavoidable. The drivers of the two vehicles in front stepped out making wild, impassioned gestures and ranting on about the damage done to their property by my car. Hearing the commotion, several local dwellers gathered and in no time there was a crowd sympathising with the aggrieved drivers of the cars which my vehicle had collided with. Momentarily I feared the angry crowd would turn on me. It is a trait amongst many African tribes to attack any driver that causes an accident. I had a vision of finding myself walking on the road barefoot, wounded and stripped of all my belongings. Remaining fully composed and unflappable, I stepped out of my car and started to examine the damage done to the vehicles. The crowd was momentarily silent. The owner of the car then started to protest and demanded to know how I was going to compensate him for the dent in the rear of his car; the crowd expressed agreement with his demand. Some of them stared at me with angry facial expressions. I still remained composed and assured him that he would receive justice. I was not interested in the least in defending my case even though both the other vehicles were un-roadworthy, untaxed, without a towing permit and there was no reflective sign at the back of the towed vehicle.
I gently walked up to the driver of the vehicle being towed and placing my hand on his neck enquired if he was in pain, as I feared he might have suffered a whiplash. There was a look of surprise on his face and then sudden calmness overcame him as he shook his head and said he was not hurt. I offered to take him to hospital. He did not see the need for it and stood there for the next gesture from me. I offered to have his car repaired, but somehow he decided he did not want to pursue the matter further. There was calm and the tension in the crowd melted as I shook hands with two drivers. We proceeded on our ways.
I can only surmise that this astonishing outcome came about from my firstly recognising him as an aggrieved and injured human being without any attempt to apportion any blame on him, whilst remaining calm and considerate.
In a similar context I know a story of a woman whose husband said to her, “I have invited our bank manager for dinner tonight. He and I are going to finalise our business loan deal”.
She undertook to put on a fitting dinner. Later that afternoon she drove to the supermarket to buy provisions, but coming back she was held up in the traffic and the preparation was bound to be delayed. As soon as she was out of the busy road, she drove off fast. In trying to reach home in a hurry, she skipped a red traffic light and collided with another vehicle crossing her path at the junction. Coming out of her car and seeing that there were no potential witnesses in sight, she immediately accused the other driver of careless driving in an outpour of angry words. The other driver calmly proposed to call the police and allow them to decide on the matter. After the police had taken statements from both the parties, she drove home in her car which was not so badly damaged, but the other vehicle had to be towed away.
Later that evening, the bank manager arrived in a taxi. She rushed to answer the door. As he introduced himself, she froze in the doorway. She could not believe that he was the very man in the car that she had collided with and angrily accused of careless driving. He noticed how mortified she was at the sight of him, and so pretended not to recognise her.
That way his hostess was able to come out of her predicament. She was able to entertain him and enjoy the rest of the evening. He chose not to hurt her spirit for his own ego’s sake. To him the matter of the loan for her husband’s business was far more important a purpose than his own desire to humiliate her. He honoured the spirit in her and in the process both of them experienced an ineffable sense of relief. A few years later her husband became one of the bank’s most important clients.
In the normal course of daily life I come across all kinds of situations with the people I interact with. They can be colleagues at work, clients, customers, neighbour, and motorists on the road or a total stranger in the street. My greatest joy comes when each person has shown a kind of warm regard for me and willingness to accommodate me and my needs. My self-esteem receives a boost when I am made to feel that I matter and my opinion is important.
Deepest sorrow comes from a conflict or a strong disagreement with others on a point of principle. This state of being is weakening and uninspiring. It can have serious repercussions for my state of physical, psychological and spiritual health. This is when my integrity begins to wane and I become a lesser person disconnected from others.
Integrity is what holds together, not only nations, but the entire cosmos. Integrity is the bedrock of the universe. Without integrity, it would collapse and cease to be. It has been said that the basic characteristics of the universe are extended in all of us. We are of the universe.
Every cell in a human body, whilst performing its unique function, is connected with all the multitude of cells which constitute a human body. There is a connective force that holds them together, which is present in and around all of us. We are all in the same soup. It is apparent that at the highest level we are all one entity endowed with the same qualities and mysterious enabling power. It is this power which makes it possible to tune into the universal mind that is the source of all inspiration and creative imagination. The super intelligent Force has localised its aspects in each one of us to maintain that connectedness.
So at the deepest level we are in that Force and that Force is in us. We are one with it! This very basic understanding is fundamental to a peaceful, blissful and rewarding existence. It enables me to reach out, and when I do that, I trigger a healing force.
I feel I am awake and truly and eternally alive when I honour the spirit in all.
I have written about this and seven other barrier-shattering principles in “Good-bye, Mr Patel”