Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business"

Nugget For The Noggin
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, March 3, 2009

The title of this Nugget, “What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business” is also the title of a really great book written by Terry Cole-Whittaker. When you think of it, what you think of me REALLY IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS! I can’t control what you think, be it right or wrong and perception IS reality. And who is to determine what is right thinking or wrong thinking on the part of another person; certainly not me.

Last evening I had an epiphany of sorts. In case you-know-who is reading this, an epiphany means a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, or what I might call an AHA Moment! The epiphany came after reading a free excerpt from a book by Byron Katie entitled Loving What Is and who said nothing free is ever good? If “what you think of me is none of my business” then what if the reverse were also true? “What I think of you is also none of my business!”

Hold the fort! Like most people, certainly not you, I judge people and lately I have been judging people more and more and not very favorably I might add. After reading the excerpt last evening I realized just how much I have been judging people and I think I know why. I’m 64. What does my age have to do with it? Glad you asked.

The older one gets the more evident you are of your own mortality and the more you think back about your life and where you are now and where you have been. What could you have done differently? What should you have done differently? Then you look at other people you know and people you don’t know and you make judgments and you ask questions. I remember watching an NFL Football game where John Madden was announcing the game. The camera zoomed into the stands an focused on an Oakland Raider fan who was dressed up in Oakland Raider type clothing (not necessarily a good thing) with his face painted silver and black, spikes protruding from all parts of his body armor, a Raider type helmet and hair flowing all over the place. Madden asked, “What do you think goes through his mind as he looks in the mirror just before he leaves for the game?”

Is that not what most of us think when we see other people, some more than others? Don’t some people just melt into the background and become non-descript while others stand out from the crowd in either a good way or a bad way? And don’t we judge them accordingly? I’ll be honest, I do. And if you can show me someone who says they don’t, I’ll show you somebody who will lie about something else as well. It is human nature. Most of the time we judge others by comparing them to our own life, beliefs and standards. For example, I cringe every time I see a teenager dressed in baggy pants hanging down beyond where they should be, tee shirt with some obscenity on it and body piercings everywhere you can see and probably in some places you can’t see. Who has not judged people in situations such as this? I’ll tell you, someone who thinks that is normal. Normal for them, not for me and if you are reading this, probably not normal for you as well.

In her book, Loving What Is, Byron Katie explains that reality is what it is. The youngster described above IS reality and he is what he is and nothing that I think will change what is. So I have three choices, I can argue with reality, I can accept reality and be judgmental, or, I can accept it and be non-judgmental. Until reading the excerpt, I usually selected the second choice; accept it AND be judgmental; at least that is what I thought I was doing. In fact I would actually worry about the youngster’s future. I would have thoughts like, who is ever going to hire this person? What kind of future will he have? Does he know what he is doing to his body? Does he even care how he is perceived?

I was actually engaged in the first choice - I was arguing with reality; I was not accepting it, I was fighting it. I wanted to take the youngster by the throat and shake some sense into him. Whose sense? Mine? What gave me the right to think I was right in my thinking? Of course I gave myself that right, the right to be the judge; don’t we all? I was imposing my standards on someone I didn’t even know. I spent time “thinking” about things that truly had no value and was a complete waste of my time; nothing would change because of the way I was thinking.

Then last night as if right on cue and after reading the excerpt, I watched a Chris Botti, concert on the public television channel. I love the way Chris Botti plays the trumpet and his music. During the concert he introduced a young singer who obviously was famous but who I had never heard of or seen before. Chris was dressed in a suit and tie which by itself is unusual for today’s performers. The young singer came on stage with tattered jeans, floppy shirt and hair past his shoulder that looked like it had not been washed in days, maybe even weeks. You can tell by my words, I was forming opinions, I was being judgmental. The sad part is this - nothing I could think about would change the reality of this person’s appearance on my television screen. He was what he was. And then he sang in accompaniment with Chris Botti and the music was wonderful. It was wonderful because instead of getting upset to the point of turning off the program because of the singer’s dress that did not meet my standards, I simply let it be and just listened and more importantly, enjoyed what I heard.

I would highly recommend that you check out Byron Katie’s web site at and download the free 20 page excerpt but more importantly read it. In my case, when the student is ready, the teacher appeared (a Chinese Proverb) and last evening Byron Katie, the teacher, appeared and I was ready. Changing the way you think is not an instant transformation, it requires constant awareness of what you are thinking and then simply telling yourself to “stop it!” Then just let the thought pass. The excerpt reminded me of the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Reinhold Niebuhr

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