Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

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It Shows Up Personal But It Ain't Personal

Calistoga, California, USA

August 3, 2006

This essay, It Shows Up Personal But It Ain't Personal, is the companion piece to Born Into It: A Way For Family.

It is also the prequel to On Not Taking It Personally: A New Freedom.

We're crazy  for comfort. We feel cheated when we're uncomfortable, or we feel there's something to do which we haven't yet done, the doing of which will eliminate being uncomfortable, because we've got it wired life should  be comfortable. The truth is life is sometimes comfortable and sometimes it isn't. Even when it's uncomfortable the show goes on. Your integrity muscle, for example, is built only when it's uncomfortable.

God didn't promise life will always be comfortable. Interestingly enough, when life is comfortable we ease up. Life goes unexamined  when it's comfortable. What that implies is when life is comfortable, that's when I'm most likely to be on automatic. But when it's uncomfortable, when there's a palpable sense of dis-ease, when there's a sense of I don't like, when it seems as if something's wrong, that's when I'm most likely to question. That's when I'm most likely to reflect. And my first take after reflection is often "something's wrong  with me".

But if the truth be told, the interpretation that something's wrong with me when it's uncomfortable is also on automatic.

I've noticed when it's uncomfortable there's always a sense it's personal. And there's even a predictable conversation that goes along with it which sounds something like this:

"I'm not comfortable  with this. I don't like this. This isn't right. It shouldn't be  this way. Something's wrong. This shouldn't be happening. This shouldn't be happening to me."

The sense it's personal is pervasive. But it's not  personal. It's just what we inherited along with human being. And because there's no immediate recognition of that, we rarely inquire into its impersonal nature because we're convinced it's personal. Actually it's more than that: we're thrown  it's personal.

Since we're more likely to question when life is uncomfortable, what's the distinction in life being uncomfortable which, when distinguished, creates the space to be with the experience of life being uncomfortable  so that what's there is neither uncomfortable nor comfortable but rather ... simply ... life - just the way it is and just the way it isn't?

Consider this: it shows up  personal ... but it ain't personal.

That's not a rule. Neither is it a formula. It's not a discipline either. And, to be sure, if you turn it into a belief  it loses all its power. But as a place to stand and look from it's really powerful. If you try it on for size, you may notice when life isn't comfortable, we

a) assume it's somehow personal, and

b) we try to change it.

You may also notice when life is comfortable we

a) assume it's the way it's supposed to be, and

b) we go along with it.

Yet if you examine each you'll see they're both quite arbitrary and automatic.

It doesn't require a vote on your part. Entertaining the point of view it shows up personal ... but it ain't personal  creates space to be  in, creates clarity to see in. It's to be used - like a lens - to examine human being  and what goeswith  the territory of being human (as Alan Watts may have said). There's a degree of freedom in discovering much of the stuff  in life we take personally isn't personal at all. We simply inherited it by being born.

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