“Don’t take anything personally,” Don Miguel Ruiz advises us in The Four Agreements, a memorable guide to Toltec philosophy. He gives one good reason:
All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in…Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…
It’s hard not to take it personally when other people are surly or otherwise unpleasant. But I need that ability in order to live and work in New York City, which sometimes seems like the international capital of casual crankiness and bad moods. Fortunately, I have been given a gift that makes it somewhat easier: my chronic disease, diabetes.
Don Ruiz is a wise man, but he missed something important about people. They say and do things not only because of the “dreams” –and words, and memories—thrumming in their minds. Their behavior is also prompted by what is happening in their bodies at any given moment. In fact, the dreams, words and memories thrumming in their minds are shaped, at least in part, by their bodies –and not just the “thinking” parts of their brains, but also their glands, organs, lymph nodes, bones, etc.
Even though it’s obvious that our own bodies affect our moods, it is easy to forget that this happens to other people, because we are lost in our dreams. So I try to use my diabetes to help me remember. Low blood sugar, for example, can make me cranky, silly, depressed or irrational—or all four. High blood sugar sometimes makes me lethargic and inattentive. [Read more…] about Chronic Disease, Empathy and Surly Traffic Cops