The universality of my experience

Whatever I experience, I can be certain that it’s shared with innumerable humans. Innumerable humans now, in the past, and in the future will share this experience in a very similar way.

It may also be that innumerable beings of many different species have experienced something very similar, are experiencing it, and will experience it.

We are in it together.

SINGLED OUT VS FELLOWSHIP

If I tell myself this is only happening to me, it’s easy to go into “poor me” and “why me” thoughts. I feel isolated and alone. I feel singled out. I feel especially unlucky. I feel that others have it better than me, and I can find any number of examples. (Based on comparing imaginations of me and them.)

If I remind myself of the universality of my experience, I realize that this experience is shared by a vast number of beings. Perhaps most experience something like that at some point in their life if they are lucky to live long enough. We are in it together.

It gives me a sense of fellowship. It gives me a sense of connection. It removes the feeling of being singled out, whether my personality sees that as good or bad.

Reminding me of this naturally deepens my empathy with myself and others. They are like me. And this empathy especially deepens when this noticing becomes a habit, a part of daily life.

EXPERIENCES MY PERSONALITY LIKES AND DOESN’T LIKE

This applies to the experiences my personality doesn’t like – physical or emotional pain, overwhelm, struggle, confusion, illness, discomfort, and so on.

It also applies to the experiences my personality does like – pleasure, joy, excitement, calm, comfort, contentment, peace, and so on. This too is experienced by innumerable humans and likely innumerable beings of many different species.

This too ties us together. This too is a reminder of our fellowship. This too deepens my empathy when I notice.

WHAT IS AN EXPERIENCE?

It’s important to clarify for ourselves what we mean by “an experience”.

Our initial response may be that we know. And when we look a little closer, we may surprise ourselves.

When I explore this for myself, I find that my experience is whatever is happening in my sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, movement, physical sensations, and an overlay of mental representations making sense of it all. (Sometimes in painful ways.)

It’s especially the combination of physical sensations and mental representations that creates my experience.

And in this context, it’s mainly the physical sensations with most of the conscious stories stripped away.

These are what my personality responds to with likes and dislikes. (And, of course, the likes and dislikes have stories behind them, many not conscious and learned early in life.)

For me, the focus is mainly on my physical sensations and how my system responds to these. How is it to remind myself that this experience – these physical sensations and the way my system responds to them – is universal? Is shared by innumerable humans and beings?

This is the essence of this exploration, and honing in on the physical sensations simplifies and gives a more clear focus.

A SIMPLE EXPLORATION

This can be a simple exploration in daily life.

What happens when I remind myself of the universality of what I am experiencing now?

What happens when this becomes a new habit? When I do it whenever I remember through the day?

What happens if I use difficult experiences as a reminder of this? And enjoyable experiences? And more neutral experiences?

How does my relationship with myself and others shift?

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The universal person

As human beings, we have a certain unique flavor.

And it’s also all universal, in several different ways.

Everything in us comes from somewhere else. The innumerable causes of everything we are and experience go back to the beginning of this universe (if there is any) and stretch out to the widest extent of existence.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the local expression of the universe and how it locally brings itself into consciousness.

The world is our mirror. We can take any story we have about anyone or anything, turn it around to ourselves, and find several specific examples of how it’s true for us in the moment and at times in the past.

To us, the world happens within our sense fields. It happens within and as what we are.

There is even a universality to our unique flavor. Every being has a unique flavor. Every being is a slightly different way for the universe to express, explore, and experience itself.

This is part of the human experience

In one of the stories about the historical Buddha, a man comes to him overcome with grief over having a lost child. The Buddha said, “bring me a grain of rice from a house in the village where nobody has died”. The man couldn’t find such a house, and the realization that we are all in the same boat – we all experience losses and death – helped him. (This is all paraphrased from memory.)

This helps me too. Whenever I experience something I find difficult, it helps to remind myself that this is part of the human experience.

I am not alone in it. Innumerable people have experienced this and still do. Even if I don’t know of anyone, it’s a good bet that this has been an experience for a lot of people (or, at least, can be). We share it. We are together in it. They found their way through it, and so can I.

There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with this experience. This too is part of the human experience. This too is what humans experience.

Of course, everything is also unique and fresh. And it may be that there is an emotional issue or trauma I can explore and find healing for in how I relate to it and perhaps for the issue itself. And yet, here it helps to emphasize the commonality and that there – inherently – is nothing wrong with us or anything we experience.

Any pointer is medicine for a specific condition, and this reminder – this is part of human experience – is medicine for feeling alone in what we are going through or that something is wrong. It helps us to see that I am not alone, and nothing is inherently wrong in this. It helps us align with that reality, and reality is healing.

Photo: Man in China Town, San Fransisco, a few years back