From The Under 35 Project: “Smiling at Strangers”

Here’s the latest from The Under 35 Project, by Leslie Gossett, about the power of creating your own story.

Leslie Gossett
10 August 2012
Photo by Matthew Henry

Smiling at Strangers

I have this storyline that plays over and over in my mind. It goes something like “If only he were this way… If only she did this… If you hadn’t…” and it ends with life being perfect and my being securely happy.

Of course the times when I buy into this story are the most difficult times. I feel uneasy, fragile, irritated, trapped, dissatisfied, and very judgmental of myself. This is all too common among others I know as well. We are waiting for someone else to do that something that will make us happy. And it is so easy to be trapped in this thought.

It is then that I feel so utterly alone. It’s so dark in there, and why is no one coming to rescue me? Not just alone—this is lonely. This is the mind of not-having. Just try to have a relationship with someone when you’re in this story: the dialogue consists of “Why didn’t you?” and “You should,” and “You make me,” and the other person starts to think “If you would just stop criticizing me…” and we are never fully present with one another. We can never see the moment for what it is. We create this vast disconnect between the reality of another person and our thoughts. Largely because we have become so disconnected from the reality of ourselves.

We can have this same relationship with our own selves. “If only I had done this… If only I had the strength to do… If I could just stop buying into my storyline, then I could really find peace.” This is equally disconnected, and can make us feel alienated and alone. We feel unworthy of another’s care, because we fail to care for ourselves. We just keep waiting for something. The right moment? The right person? The right action?

The point is stop. Be present. We are already here. Already at peace. Already possess an abundance. Connect. I have to realize this over and over again. These are my stories in my mind, so what in the world do they have to do with anyone else? And further, what do they have to do with my true being?

When I sit with those stories, I can see them for what they are and let them go. I can touch that tender space inside myself that is happiness already. It’s peace. It’s the abundance within that’s always there. It’s the place that needs nothing else and has plenty to give. At first it’s painful to step into that place from the confines of my story.

But that’s okay too. There’s a gentleness there, and a generosity that gives me strength and grace. Here, love abides. For myself and for all those people I thought should be doing something for me.

Enter compassion. Loving-kindness. Sympathetic joy. Here is where alone becomes together. Connected. Even if I am physically alone, I feel this union with all beings, all of us alive with our stories and struggles and thoughts. I feel like I am not alone because I can recognize in others what I recognize in myself. And since I don’t need anyone to do anything or be any way for me, I can fully appreciate how they are and what they are doing now. This appreciation generates love. And walking around with all that love makes you kind- even to yourself- connecting you even more.

For me, letting go of the stories and stepping inside to this space is a flux and flow. Sometimes the stories are so loud and convincing, I fall into them. Other times I see them as little children needing my attention, and I can rock and soothe them until they fall into a peaceful sleep.

The more disconnected I am from my own genuine heart, the more alone I feel. But when I rest fully in the present moment, my sense of togetherness is so immense, I walk around smiling at strangers.

Leslie Gossett

“A student of all things human, I find myself coming to the spaces between,” Leslie Gossett says. “I write, breathe, think, feel, learn, fear, love, lose, eat, practice yoga, meditate, and sleep.” She recently relocated to the Bay Area, and attends school for Holistic Health.