There are something like 7.4 billion people on this planet, give or take a few. Some are men, some are women, some are old, some are young, some are privileged with lots of money and toys, some have to get by on almost nothing, but what every single one of these 7.4 billion human beings has in common is a personal story. All of us to some degree have a private movie within which we live, with a repeating storyline: where the names of the characters may change, but the basic plot stays more or less the same.
I must admit, I have met some fairly addicted and compulsive people in my life. I have also been fortunate to be in the presence of some of the clearest, most awake people on the planet as well. Everyone of them, to some degree, has a personal movie they are living, which is distinct from something more universal. H. W. L. Poonja, for example, the retired army officer with whom I lived in India, was incredibly present, awake, spacious, and generous in his consciousness, but he definitely still had a personal way he saw the world.
With this given, that everyone has their own movie they come to live through, I have noticed three basic relationships in the way people live out the movie.
The first we could call “total immersion.” The movie seems absolutely real, and awareness has been completely hypnotized into believing that the story is real. When you get around someone who is fully engaged in the reality dictated by their personal movie, you will find yourself unwillingly sucked into performing a role and becoming an extra in the drama. You may find yourself cast as the villain in their “victim story,” you might find yourself cast as the enlightened guru in their “lost and confused” story, and you may find yourself cast as clumsy and incompetent in their “I am better than you” movie.
Sad to say, this is true of the majority of human beings. We have hypnotized ourselves with the validity of our own personal drama, and we have become hellbent in trying to draw everyone in as well. People even get to be dictators or presidents in this way, and then they draw in entire populations to participate in the completion of their drama. That, of course, is a big budget movie. When you find yourself in the orbit of someone completely immersed in their personal adaptation of reality, it can take some skill to politely but gracefully decline to participate. You run great risk of causing offense, but it is best just to smile, wish them well, and disengage.
The second broad category of relationship to personal drama is that there has now been some kind of recognition that the drama is not real, but this is quickly accompanied by a desperate attempt to try and improve the storyline. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is definitely more intelligent than total immersion, and it can also be relatively successful. For example, if you were born into a “poor me, I am a victim of an alcoholic parent” story, you can, with diligent work and support, dig yourself out of the hole and shift into a “I create my own reality” movie instead. Definitely an improvement. Trying to upgrade the plot of your personal drama can, in fact, completely consume you for the rest of your life.
There is a third, more unusual, relationship to personal drama, which requires finding some kind of effective way to be able to observe the drama, and let it be as it is. This is essentially why people sit for extended periods in what they called “meditation.” It allows you to observe the drama playing out in consciousness without doing anything about it: without acting it out, but also not trying to improve it. Sitting and observing the flickering projector of the movie in this way can be uncomfortable, that is why practice requires discipline and commitment. It is completely antithetical to the addictive drive inherent with the drama itself.
Slowly, as you sit and watch, sit and watch, sit and watch, two interesting things start to happen. One is: in being observed, the frequency that generates drama starts to settle down. With nothing to do, it dissipates.
Secondly, in observing the seeds of drama you slowly rest more into observing and identify less with the content of the story itself. Slowly, you discover that the presence which is observing the drama is not dramatic, and does not engage in the drama at all: it is silent, it is still, it is at peace, it is not restricted by boundaries, and it can easily laugh at things.
Over time, with repeated gentle practice, your life becomes a channel through which that humorous calm benevolence can flow. Instead of participating in the multiple dramas that we stir up in each other, you become a transmitter of calm presence into the world. Your life brings humorous where people are otherwise serious. Your presence becomes a gentle reminder that everything is okay, when those around you are panicking. Your eyes transmit a love that is not mixed up with need and entanglement.
I’m not so sure that it is possible to completely erase your personal soap opera in this lifetime. I have only seen medium success in trying to improve it. But it is by learning to watch it, regularly and patiently, that you become a vehicle of sanity in the world.