written by Mark Nepo
We All Spill Soup
Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and throne. It is much simpler to wear shoes.
– The Hindu Sage Ramana Maharishi
everyone personalizes and projects. personalizing is mistaking what happens in the world as always having to do with you. an extreme example would be when a child doesn’t do her homework and learns the next day that a plane went down in Dallas; she somehow believes that she was responsible. a more common adult version of this, and less extreme, is when your partner comes home sullen and moody, and you immediately believe it is your fault.
projecting is the reverse. it occurs when we place the things that happen in us onto the world around us. often unknowingly, we attribute our fears and frustrations to others. rather than accept my own anger, i see you as angry. a generational example would be that if i am afrainf of dogs, i protect my children from dogs and, without asking how they feel, keep them away from dogs too. a subtler example of this is when someone is crying, and we say there is no need to be upset, because we are uncomfortable with all the emotion. or when we keep asking the other person if they are okay, when it is we who are not.
the truth is that no one can avoid personalizing or projecting. there are only those of us who are aware of it, and those of us who are not; only those of us who own it when it happens, and those of us who don’t. but this difference is crucial. not owning these things can end relationships. owning them can deepen relationships.
humans have spilled soup for eternity, and generations have made excuses, saying, “it was the Earth. the Earth shifted,” and generations have secretly thought, “he meant to do it.”
if you want to save the world, then when you spill the soup, simply say, “i’m sorry i spilled the soup.”
- center yourself, and bring to mind a recent incident in which you have been the spiller of the soup.
- breathe clearly and see with accuracy what you did and how if affected others.
- breathe gently, and own with kindness your humanness.
- if need be, make amends.