Never take things Personally
Why this Story?
I have given up my house and most of my belongings to go on this journey, and I don’t have a place to call home to return to. It feels empty and amazing at the same time. I see it as an opportunity to move forward on every aspect of my life. My lifestyle challenges me every day to receive, learn, grow, play with uncertainties, and make an effort to let go of the things that don’t make me, and others happy.
One of my efforts was to 'Never take things personally’. In writing it may look simple, but actually it is quite a challenge and a powerful spiritual practice that helps to connect or stay connected with your spirit. Enjoy the story, I hope it inspires you to try for at least one today to not take anything personally.
I go where the wind blows me to! My life consists of moving from one home to another, constantly welcoming the unknown. Different houses in a variety of places, living with people with distinctive personalities, and in every new place I find myself in an authentic mix of energies. In the last two and a half years I have taken care of people’s houses and pets eleven times, worked for room and board in seven places, stayed in the homes of seven of my relatives and friends, and lived in eight Airbnb’s and two hotels. In total I have moved about fifty times.
A spiritual practice
The place I’m staying at right now is a cottage in a small village in the middle of the mountains of southern Spain. I’m completely surrounded by nature. The sun is shining and I’m enjoying the beautiful mountain views from the hammock in the garden. However, in the midst of all this beauty I feel restless. The peace and quiet of the surroundings are disrupted by the ongoing buzzing sound of the many flies and wasps and the annoying habit of one of the dogs to show her affection by licking me, and sticking her nose into my crotch. I really have to make an effort to relax. Therefore I close my eyes and focus on my breath to connect with myself. I feel that the flies and wasp party I’m in and the over-affectionate dog are not the real cause of my restlessness, but a burning question that is waiting for an answer. I ask myself: do I really want to continue living the nomadic lifestyle right now? After a month of stuffing this question in a back corner of my mind, I choose to deal with it right now.
It is a fascinating lifestyle to live in different places and take care of people’s houses and pets. How people organize their cutlery, the books they read and the habits of their dogs and cats are all stories on their own. The most intense situations were those living with the people I worked for; I have painted houses, written online texts, cleaned, cooked, taken care of children and I have done some gardening. I enjoyed working without getting paid, but instead living and eating together with my ‘employers’. I experienced a sense of freedom in this and it satisfied my hunger to truly connect with different people, and environments. But to be honest, I feel rather full now….
Looking back at all my experiences in the last two and a half years, I was clueless, you may even say naive about the impact that living in other people’s homes would have on me. I have lived with complete strangers; people with different cultural backgrounds, habits, and values. By becoming a part of their story, I became aware on a deeper level what it means ‘to never take things personally’. In writing it may look simple but actually it is a powerful spiritual practice that helps to connect or stay connected with your spirit. I want to share with you some of the experiences that helped me to practice to never take things personally.
Make me happy…
During my stay with a Christian Iranian man to prepare his holiday home for his guests he told me, on the third morning, that he was not happy as I did not seem to care about him and his feelings. He asked me to leave immediately. While I was sitting on his couch he continued to express his discontent from the chair in front of me, and it started to become clear what he actually meant. He expressed that he would only wake up ‘happy’ if I visited his bedroom during the night… When I confronted him about his indecent intentions, he firmly replied that as a woman, I should know that living with a single man means that ‘making him happy’ is part of the deal.
Within the blink of an eye I found myself in this game of mental manipulation, where this person tried to break my spirit by commenting on all the things I did wrong. What surprised me the most is that he asked several times: ‘How come you have such a positive attitude, and why don’t you get angry with me?’ I did not answer him at the time. In my mind I was busy organizing where to go next. Looking back, I did not take his words personally. My thoughts were: I can’t fulfil his needs; he did not force me to do anything I didn’t want to do, so let’s say our goodbyes and move on. It was a weird and uncomfortable goodbye though and it certainly was not the first time I was eager to leave a place.
In a picturesque white village, living in a beautiful villa with a lovely view, I enjoyed my stay, however I was very happy when the time had come to say goodbye. Drinking bottles and bottles of wine killed the nice, well-travelled, well-educated and well-mannered Englishman I was living with to help him paint his house. I still remember vividly how his face became puffier and puffier and red like a tomato with each bottle. The muscles in his neck losing their strength to keep his head up around every two minutes and how I tried to ignore the words coming out of his mouth just as hard as his breath. This man’s drinking habits made me sad and that disgusted me. When he was drunk, I thought about the many people around the world that have to deal with a loved one who has a drinking habit. The disgust I felt made me aware that I did not feel any compassion. I realized that I took his drinking habit personally because it triggered sadness in me, and I don’t like to feel sad. The disgust I felt was about me feeling sad and uncomfortable, but in the heat of the moment I saw the drunken Englishman as my object of disgust.
I have had more experiences where I took things personally in a certain situation, such as: a mother that works so much that she does not spend enough time with her child, a father under the influence of hard drugs during lunch, children growing up in a dirty and messy house, and not learning how to clean up after themselves. I recognized that I took things personally because of my feelings in ‘that particular moment’. When we see other people and situations as they really are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie, try to manipulate you or are rude to you it is okay. They do this because they themselves are struggling and hurting. In the last two and a half years the beautiful places I have visited and the lovely people I met have helped me to stay connected with my spirit. But all the unpleasant things I encountered helped me to spiritually grow. Living in other people’s houses was an eye-opener on a deeper level that I’m living in a world that will never be perfect; it will never be as I want it to be and not one divine person, a charismatic president, or joining a group of idealists who want to create a better world can change that. In the end, how I perceive a situation is all in my mind. How I respond to an unpleasant situation shows how much I’m connected with my loving and compassionate spirit.
Living in different places and with different people made me more aware of how all of us are struggling in our own way with the imperfections in our world. Some of us turn to wine or drugs for comfort, others to sex, work, food, being left or right, religion, spirituality or blaming others. Some people get stuck in their negative way of thinking, like the depressed vegan Italian traveller I briefly dated. He is tormented by his fears of humanity destroying our planet.
While living in other people’s houses, I have seen hundreds of ways people seek comfort to deal with their pain, which has shown me more than ever the importance of connecting with our loving and compassionate spirit. When we are truly connected we can take actions to make a positive contribution to solving the problems in our personal and professional lives, the lives of others and global problems.
The stillness in the wind
Here I am in a cottage in a small village in the middle of the mountains of southern Spain after two and a half years of wandering around. The sun is shining, I’m surrounded by nature and many flies and wasps are buzzing around, not to annoy me, but because that’s what they do. The affectionate female dog is taking a rest and the wind is still. In this stillness I hear its whisper, ‘I brought you to places you needed to be, but now I keep still. Take a rest, create a new home for yourself, and prepare yourself for new challenges and adventures.’ Within this stillness in the wind I found an answer to a burning question.
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