Once, when I was a teacher, I experienced valuable life lesson on how to avoid conflict, as I had a student test my resolve. The student, I’ll call “Laura,” had been tardy to class often and I had been following my standard protocol. However, on this day Laura took it to a new level. Never before had a student continued to be tardy after I had followed all the steps created to deter their late arrival, including a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, detention, and finally, office referral. Laura had already reached the referral stage and was still continuing to show up late, including on this particular day.
At first, I thought about simply writing her another referral and letting the office handle it. However, I had always preferred to handle classroom discipline myself and this was no exception. So after checking off all the appropriate boxes that indicated the steps taken leading up to the detention, I handed the form to Laura and mentioned that she was being assigned lunch detention for the recent tardiness.
At the end of the period I noticed that Laura had left the form on the desk with a note attached. The note mentioned several things on the list that she felt I hadn’t done, like give her a verbal warning and have a conference with her. Given that it had already reached the level of a referral, I knew she was simply playing a paper trail game with me. She seemed to assume that her note might put off the detention and perhaps hoped it would be eliminated altogether.
Feel the Feelings to Avoid Conflict
A strong feeling of agitation arose in my chest, and it occurred to me this detention must now become a referral. After becoming aware of the feeling, I recognized it was produced by the thought of Laura “playing games” with me. I kept attention on the feeling of agitation and it began to dissipate.
As I drove out of the parking lot that afternoon, the thought came to mind that I needed to contemplate what to do with Laura, as I didn’t see where a referral would help her. I realized I didn’t actually have to think about it at all. In fact, it might be better not to think about it until the next day; that way the answer would simply come to me. In contrast, if I were to use present moment thinking to figure out what to do in the future, the mind would not have the available space to allow the answer to come.
This is how the Universe works with regards to detachment. One must never force solutions on problems. I decided it would be best to simply let go of the situation and allow whatever resolutions come naturally and spontaneously. I suddenly felt lighter as if a weight had been removed from my body.
It occurred to me that love is to choose the highest good for another person. Would I be doing that if I simply wrote Laura another referral? Certainly not! On that thought, I decided that whatever answer came must be directed toward the highest good for us both. If the solution does not seem to be directed toward the highest good for all those concerned, they must be coming from the psychological self rather than the authentic self.
Life Will Provide Us With Insight
As I approached my neighborhood I came to a four-way stop. There was an elderly woman on my left who waved me to go through, so I waved back and proceeded on my way. As I crossed through the intersection, I made eye contact with the driver who was at the stop sign directly in front of me. Although the driver could have proceeded along with me, he hadn’t moved. As I passed by the other driver, we made steady eye contact for a sustained period of time. The other driver looked as though he were in a state of shock. He just sat there with his mouth gaping, staring at me in disbelief. It was as if he was saying, “How could you go before that little old lady?”
I stared back at the man and was unsure whether the unspoken question came from the other driver or myself. Irrespective of who was asking the mental question, the answer came to me immediately. I was graciously receiving the old woman’s gift of courtesy.
I considered the importance of thankfully receiving gifts bestowed by others. If the receiver were not to accept the gift offered by another with gratitude, would he not be robbing the giver of the gift of giving? How could another individual feel good about giving a gift if the receiver acted as though it is not wanted? As this thought came to mind I immediately recognized I did the right thing and no negative feelings arose.
ThenI thought about how the inner experience might have been different had I focused on the potential thoughts of the male driver, the one who seemed to question my integrity, at least according to the mind’s interpretation of the look on the man’s face. Had I turned attention to my perception of what the other driver was thinking, I no doubt would have had destructive emotions arise. After all, the mind wanted to tell me that the other driver thought I was wrong. According to the story the mind was prepared to create, I was being rude and selfish by going before the older woman. However, when my attention returned to the reality of the situation, that the woman had waved me on, and my decision was based on her actions, I felt vindicated.
The Answer Will Present Itself
How often do we create internal suffering in ourselves by attempting to get in the head of another individual and “understand” what they are thinking? Is that not what I was doing with Laura when evaluating how to handle the situation of her continuing to show up late? Indeed, the mind was creating a story that she was “playing a game” with me. Was that true? Or might she actually have believed that Jarred had not done the things checked off on the form? The point is we really have no way of knowing.
It is bad enough to get lost in our own thoughts, given the faulty nature of the psychological self. Far worse is it to get lost in the thoughts of others, because we have no way of investigating what they really think. Sure, they could tell us what they are thinking. But would they be telling us the entire story? Moreover, would they even know what they were really thinking?
Next, I thought about the parallel between the situation at the intersection and the experience with Laura. During both events, I had the opportunity to choose the direction of my attention. The class situation had the option of giving Laura the benefit of the doubt, or assume she was “playing games” with me. Similarly, the event at the intersection offered the option of focusing on the courtesy of the woman, or the perceived pious indignation of the other driver. Both situations offered a constructive perspective heading in the direction of love, and a destructive perspective heading toward pain and suffering.
All of life offers these options. The package might be different but the gift is the same. This is another example of the universal law of duality. It seems to be a mechanism of free will. We always have the option of turning toward positive, uplifting thoughts, or toward negative, downward spiraling thoughts. Being granted this option is the gift of free will. That day, as I pulled into my driveway, I set the intention to utilize this gift to the best of my ability. I intended to keep attention directed toward positive, upward spiraling thoughts from then on. Therefore, I decided to come from the place of love and dropped the idea of turning the detention into a referral. I ended up having a constructive conversation with Laura, and the issue was resolved.