How were your holidays?
Over the past couple of months, many of us have had occasions to accept or reject, to open or close our hearts, to friends and relatives. According to Ayurveda, opportunities for deep emotional transformation come first and foremost with the ones we love most.
The extent that someone affects you is the extent to which it is your karma.
This is one of my favorite Vedic sayings. It means that if someone bugs you, don’t blame and judge them. Rather, the karma (which means action or opportunity to act) is yours.
So . . . looking back on the holidays, how did it go? Did you find it in your heart to accept the good, bad, and ugly of relatives and friends or did you find yourself slipping into familiar mental states of judgment, resentment, rejection, or passive-aggression?
The Key of Self-Awareness
Refrain from judging yourself for how well you did in accepting others. The key is to simply be aware of how and what you did. This awareness is the catalyst of transformation because if you are not aware of your actions, then how in the world can change them?
Looking back, let’s say you found yourself judging a family member or friend (and no doubt your mind has conjured up a handful of good reasons to judge, avoid, or ignore them), what should you do?
First, ask yourself: how did judging, avoiding, or rejecting this person make me feel? Did it make me feel good or bad, happy or sad, peaceful or mad? Did I let this person’s behavior or personality change me? Did I let them bring out the best or worst in me? Did my loving, kind, accepting self change into a closed-up, irritated, judgmental version of myself?
The science is clear that when we are stressed, angry, or emotionally distraught, we pay a pretty hefty price. Here is the short list.
Health Risks of Negative Emotions
- Oxytocin, the health and longevity hormone, declines1
- Long chromosomal telomeres, linked to longevity, shrink under stress2
- Harmful bacteria in your gut proliferate, affecting mood and behavior3
- Negative epigenetic factors from stress can be passed on for generations4
I have written volumes on the subtle impact of emotional stress on our health. You can find all those articles in my Emotional Health section here.
Mental Ama aka Emotional Armoring
Now that you have become aware of how you may have emotionally reacted to a strained relationship over the holidays, how can you use that awareness for change? First, let’s understand why we are inclined to reject rather than accept some of the people in our lives.
Most of us carry some emotional armor—something we fabricated over many years of being emotionally hurt, let down, disappointed, or traumatized. We communicate with each other’s emotional armor on a regular basis, while the deeper, more delicate, vulnerable, kind, and loving selves hide beneath.
So when you are put off by someone’s personality, you are most likely not reacting to them, but to their emotional armor, called mental ama in Ayurveda. So your reaction is reflective of their protective armor, which is a version of them that is not truly them—it is their armor. Since your response to them is reflective of their armor, it triggers an emotional response in you raising your protective armor. Thus your reaction to them is not from you either: it is based on an armored-up, emotionally-protected version of you.
How do we expect to communicate well or accept each other when we are both interacting based on emotionally-protective armor?
May I add that armor is not always cool, sleek, and easy to accept? It’s often burdened with barbs and blades that grew from years of being emotionally hurt, ignored, and rejected. The emotional armor of some can be hard to accept by others. Protective barbs can hurt and be used aggressively, making it even more difficult to understand and accept that person.
What is True Love?
Awareness is always the first step. Become aware of yourself: how you let someone else’s behavior change you. Become aware of them: who they are underneath their armor, barbs, and blades. Once we understand that we are reacting to a shield of armor created from hurt—which is not them—we can open the door to true understanding, compassion, communication, and acceptance.
Understanding and compassion are sentiments that come from beneath our armor and transcend their armor. Taking action from a place of understanding and compassion will penetrate the barbed armor of others, allowing rare access to a connection with the version of them that is real, vulnerable, kind, gentle, and loving. This kind of communication between a husband, wife, or partner I call true love and is worth striving for every day.
Among friends and family, look first through the window of understanding and compassion. Ask what you can do to love and accept more before you blame others. This allows heart-to-heart connection and acceptance, in the same way you would hope for acceptance from others and from yourself: unconditionally!
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Finally, transformational change comes from simple, yet tangible, karma-breaking action steps that come from a sentiment of understanding, compassion, gratitude, acceptance, and appreciation. It can come in the form of a text: “Hope you’re having a great day! Just thinking about you,” or “Just called to say, ‘I love you,’” or simply, “Thank you for being you, I am so grateful to have you in my life.” These actions are easy, but they cannot be contrived or made up. They must be real, truthful sentiments that come from your heart and require nothing in return.
In other words, these actions are a one-way street—like how the sun gives light, warmth, and life to us and we graciously accept all of it with no feeling of obligation. Karma-breaking actions steps must be sincere and free of expectation! Try to engage in 3–5 karma-breaking actions steps each day.
Having trouble with self-awareness? Try the first two lessons of my Transformational Awareness Technique (TAT) for free here to get started.
The holidays may be over, but it’s never too late to de-armor your heart, clean up your karma, and enjoy the bliss of unconditional acceptance and true love.