It’s not about “Me”

It’s not about me
I don’t have to figure anything out
There’s nothing to fix, anyway

My partner recently started serving in a caregiving position and we’ve been talking a lot about how she wants to show up in this role. This morning she said something like, “I want to remember that whatever happens is not about me.”

This got me thinking about my experience in a chaplaincy internship when I was a Master of Divinity student at Naropa University about ten years ago. At the beginning of this work, my supervisor told me that when he went into a room with a patient he would remind himself “it’s not about me.” I received an intense lesson in this principle on my first patient visit, when the man in the hospital bed looked just like my deceased father and was actually dying from the same fatal disease. I was grateful for the opportunity to recognize the impulse of my mind to see this person as my father, to let the impulse be, and to open myself to connecting with the reality of this other person.

Over the course of the next few months, I learned a lot about chaplaincy and about being present for others. By the end of the internship, I had developed my own mantra for preparing myself to visit a patient:

It’s not about me;
I don’t have to figure anything out;
There’s nothing to fix, anyway.

Reflecting more on this, I see a strong connection to the Lojong teachings:

  • “It’s not about me” is a reminder of ego’s powerful tendency to take things personally.
  • “I don’t have to figure anything out” because that’s what the mind wants to do – make meaning out of everything, find the “solution,” and smooth out any kind of uncertainty or doubt.
  • “There’s nothing to fix, anyway” because everything that happens, all that I experience, is inevitably the result of all that has come before it. All of the previous causes and conditions leading up to the present moment can only result in what’s happening right now, so there is no point is trying to “fix” the past. This is karma, cause and effect.

The best I can do in any situation is to be totally present to this now moment, whatever the taste. My thoughts, speech and actions in response to my experience of the present moment form the causes and conditions of my experience in all subsequent moments. This is the time to practice the second difficulty of the Lojong teachings: trying something different.

Thankfully, “I” will never run out of opportunities to practice and learn.

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