66 – The Joy & Pain of Sharing Experiences

Have you ever felt the strong urge to capture the experience you’re having and then to share it with others? We do this with movies, books, restaurants, and of course ideas, opinions, and beliefs. In this episode, I will discuss the joy and pain that often arise when we try to share our experiences and how that joy/pain doesn’t have to take away from the original experience itself.

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Transcription of the podcast episode:

Noah Rasheta:              Welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism Podcast this is episode number 66. I am your host, Noah Rasheta. Today, I’m talking about the joy and pain of sharing experiences. As most of you know, I just recently returned from a two-week trip to Uganda, Africa. I’ve announced that trip before here on the podcast and on the website, and on the Facebook page. It was an incredible trip. It was even better than last year in the sense that there were new experiences and connections that were made that were really meaningful.

I had the opportunity to start the trip out by doing a gorilla trek with Suzy, who is also the coordinator of these trips, and a few other people. It was a really neat experience spending time sitting on the side of a mountain surrounded by gorillas. The family that we were trekking had 19 members in it. Just sitting there quietly, peacefully on the mountain side watching them, taking pictures, seeing them do what they do, that was a really neat experiences. I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the trip.

I’m glad to be back. I feel like the week leading up to the Africa trip, there was a lot of preparation work, and packing, and things that needed to be done. That made it difficult for me to record any podcast episodes. Then, of course, the two weeks that I was gone, I was pretty much out of commission with no internet or very little technology in general. Then, I came home and it took about a week to adapt. Last week was the first full week home. It took several days to adjust to the time zone. But, I finally feel like I’m back. The schedule feels normal, with the exception of daylights saving time throwing a little wrench in there, but things feel pretty much back to normal. I’m excited to get back on track with recording podcasts episode.

Now, another thing that I’ve had going on that’s been taking up a lot of my time is wrapping up the book that I’m writing. I’ll mention more about that in another podcast episode. But with all of that, needless to say, I am several weeks behind on my supposed weekly podcast episodes. I’m glad to be back. I hope you guys enjoy the episode that I prepared for today.

What I wanted to talk about, this concept of the joy and pain of sharing experiences. It’s something that I first thought of while I was in Africa. I’ve thought about this before, but when you’re in a really scenic place like Africa, you know, you’ve got your camera and you’re snapping away all these pictures, and you can’t help but to wonder in some of those moments, “What am I valuing more, the experience I’m having or the capturing of the experience I’m having so that I can relive that later, so I can post it on social media, see what other people think about what I just captured?” This got me thinking about the joy and the pain when we share experiences.

Now, sharing, taking a picture is no big deal, but I’m pretty sure all of you have experienced this where you’re doing something, you see something, and you think one of your first thoughts it’s, “Oh, I need to take a picture of that,” because you want others to experience what you’re experiencing. If you’re like me, you may have even felt in that instance, if you didn’t have your camera with you, for example, that the experience that you’re having is now affected because you’re not going to able to share the experience. I wanted to correlate this a little bit with the concept of the foundations of mindfulness. As some of you may know, I talked about this in past podcast episodes. But in nutshell, the foundations of mindfulness help us to understand that there are layers of experience. There’s what you’re experiencing and then there’s the experience that you’re having around the experience that you’re having. This can be pretty complex, at least in multiple layers.

For example, I see something. Let’s talk about a movie, for example, we go to a movie, and we enjoy watching the movie. That’s one experience. But then, we want others to go watch that movie. You’ll call your siblings or friends, and you’re like, “You’ve got to go watch that movie.” There’s a second experience that we have, that’s the experience of sharing the first experience. You probably know what it feels like for someone to say, “Oh, wow. Yes, I love that movie. Thank you for recommending it.” Now you’re adding on to the joy. You had the first experience that was a pleasant one, and now you have a second experience that’s also pleasant because somebody else enjoyed what you shared with them.

But the flip side can also happen. Someone can say, “Oh, I didn’t like that movie.” What’s interesting is then you’re experiencing pain on the second level, but on the first level was the movie itself, right? The movie experience was pleasant, but now I’m feeling a little upset because my brother didn’t like it and I thought he would’ve loved it. I can believe he didn’t like it. What’s wrong with him, you know? So now, you’re allowing the feeling of second layer of experience to affect the first layer. At least if you’re not careful, you blend all of this into one overall experience.

Through the foundations of mindfulness, what we would want to do ideally is to keep these layers separate and to allow ourselves to enjoy the thing that we’re enjoying and then, sure, if we’re lucky, we get to enjoy the sharing of the experience as well. But if it’s not well received, we don’t have to allow the pain of the second level or the second layer of the experience to affect first.

Now, with a movie, that’s not a big deal, at least I hope it’s not. Maybe for some people it is. I actually do know some people that do make a very big deal about their recommendations, and if you don’t like their recommendations, they’re upset. Things of that nature. But with movies, or with food, restaurant recommendations, it’s not such a big deal. What I want to highlight here that I do think is a big deal is the more touchy subjects, political views, political ideas, religious views, and religious ideas, and religious beliefs, any form of ideological belief, any form of philosophical view or belief, that gets a little more complex.

Now, you’ve probably noticed that when somebody has, let’s say a spiritual experience where they discover a certain ideology really speaks to them, maybe a religion or a religious view, and they adhere to it, and they follow it, and they’re enjoying, they’re experiencing the joy of that experience, but the very next thing that happens is the sharing of it. “Hey, you’ve got to come listen to this,” or, “Now I believe this. I want you to believe this, too, because this makes me happy and I wasn’t happy before I had this belief. Therefore, you must not be happy unless you also share in this belief,” so now we’re on that second layer.

On the second layer, maybe someone will say, “No, I don’t like that,” or, “That doesn’t interest me,” or it could get more complicated like, “No, that’s stupid. Why would you believe that,” or, “That’s false,” or, “Get away from that. That’s a cult,” or anything along those lines. Now you’re experiencing the shame of sharing the experience of what was bringing you joy. By not separating the two, the pain of the second level, or the second layer, can drastically affect the joy of the first level, the first layer of the experience.

I see this all the time, especially with religious and ideological views. Somebody will feel the joy of their religious system or their belief system, and then they feel tremendous suffering because you don’t share in that with them. It’s unfortunate that the pain of the second layer is affecting their first layer, which is their direct experience with their own belief or their own idea.

I’m sure you’ve seen this and I’m sure you’ve experienced this. Like I said, with little things, going to a movie or finding a good restaurant, that’s one thing, but you’ve probably noticed. If you’re listening to this, it’s possible that you’re not connected to a religion anymore. I know a lot of podcast listeners are in that boat. We have the tendency to want to do the same thing. It’s like, “Well, I used to believe this. Now, I don’t believe that. I’ve found this new way of thinking and this open-mindedness, this liberation from that belief feels really good.” So there we are experiencing the first layer of the experience.

Then, we want to share that with others so we go to someone who doesn’t have our view or maybe has our old view, our old belief, and we’re like, “Hey, just so you know, I left that belief. I left that view, and now I’m here, and now I’m happy. Therefore, you must not be very happy where you are because you can’t possibly know what if feels like to be happy like I am experiencing where I am.” They’ll reject it and say, “No, that’s not … That doesn’t call to me. I’m very happy with my belief,” or anything along those lines. Now, we’re in the same boat backwards as the same example I gave earlier where you’re sharing something that’s very meaningful for you. But at the second level of that experience, the sharing portion of it, it’s affecting you because now you feel offended that they don’t want to listen to you, that they don’t want to consider your view, or that they’ll invalidate your view. They’ll say, “No, your view is wrong because my view is right.” Then, we experience suffering or we experience pain.

What I want to highlight here is that in those moments, you can pause and recognize that the pain or suffering you’re experiencing at that moment in the rejection of the sharing of the experience, it’s a rejection of the sharing, not a rejection of your experience itself, because your experience of whatever is your belief, or your non-belief, or your view, your political opinion, whatever that thing is that makes you feel a certain way, that’s you. That’s on you, and that’s all yours. Nobody else can share that with you. But the moment you want to share that with someone, you’ll experience an additional joy if they share in it with you, and you’ll experience a new form of pain, or suffering, or discontent when they don’t want to share it with you, but you don’t have to allow that to affect your initial experience. I hope that makes sense.

But, while we were in Africa, we would get together in the mornings and we would do meditation sessions and we would do mindfulness classes where we spend time talking about different topics. One of the things I really enjoyed with this group is that we had a lot of people who were experienced in the topic of mindfulness and had wonderful ideas and things to contribute to the discussions that we were having. Now, one of the days when we were talking, one of the girls who was on the trip with us, Pamela [Corky 00:12:27], who became a really good friend of mine … You know how sometimes you meet people and your personalities just mesh, they work really well? She has a sense of humor that really works well with mine.

A lot of people listening to this podcast may not know the dry sense of humor I have because it doesn’t come across in the podcast. It’s not like I spend time joking on here. But meeting with podcasts listeners on a trip like this and getting to know each other much more intimately over the course of two weeks, that’s something that Pamela had highlight to me. She was like, “Wow, it’s really fun to hear your sense of humor and to spend time bouncing jokes back and forth from each other.” She’s a writer, so she has a very witty sense of humor.

But anyway, long story short, this was my quick shout-out to Pamela. Pamela, if you’re listening to this, like I’ve mentioned before, thank you so much for coming on the trip. I want everyone to hear the profound teaching that you shared with us in Africa. We’re talking about this concept, right? Pamela mentions something like when people are sharing something that’s meaningful to them, their opinion, their belief, their ideas, she said something that really stood out to me. When something is shared with her, an experience is shared her and she disagrees with that experience, she said in moments like that she reminds herself that I love things, too, or, you know, if somebody’s sharing with her, “You know what? I really love this new way of thinking. I’ve switched to this political ideology or this new religion, or I went away from this religion and now I found this open secular way of life.” Whatever it is they’re sharing that’s meaningful for them in their experience, if it doesn’t resonate with her or she doesn’t understand it because she’s not in their shoes, she can always empathize by expressing that she loves things, too, right?

I thought that was such a clever and profound to navigate things. If someone’s complaining to you, “Oh, you know, this, this or that,” whether it be about politics, or religion, or any sensitive topic, you can allow them to vent. Even if you don’t agree with that, you can acknowledge, “You know, I hate things, too. There are ideas that I really dislike, too. I know what that’s like.” That’s a way of validating their sharing, the sharing of their experience.

Now, this isn’t about endorsing people, endorsing their ideas, or their views, or their beliefs. This is not about that. This is about having a sense of empathy and the sense that I know what it’s like to be passionate about something, too. It may not be the same thing. I may disagree completely with you, but that’s what I thought was so clever and brilliant about Pamela’s suggestion is that you can say, “I love things, too,” or, “I hate things, too.” That kind of became one of the little inside jokes for the rest of our trip when, you know, if somebody was … In our group, we had vegetarians and we had meat eaters. If a topic came up where it’s like, “Oh, man, this chicken is really good,” or something, maybe one of the vegetarians would be like, “I love things, too,” or backwards. If somebody was having an experience that they weren’t enjoying, like, “Man, I really don’t like this,” but somebody else in the group was thinking that was just fine, they would be able to respond with, “Well, I hate things, too.”

That was a reminder to ourselves throughout the trip that we don’t have to agree on anything, but we all know what it is to love things and to hate things, and to agree with things, and to disagree with things, and we were expressing it in that notion. I thought was a really fun, clever thing that Pamela shared with us on the group, so thank you, Pamela, if you’re listening.

What I want to highlight with this, again, is the pain of the second layer will often ruin the joy of the first layer if we allow it. But the first layer of experience is very personal. As you go through life and you experience things, and you develop ideas, or you get rid of beliefs, or you acquire new beliefs, you do this because you’re having personal experiences, thoughts, emotions, feelings, and these things are yours. They’re yours. The tendency to want to share it is very natural. It’s a very natural thing, a human thing, for us to want to share with each other.

Now, just because somebody wants to share with you doesn’t mean that you’ve got to accept or buy into whatever they’re experience is because it’s just their experience. I think about this with, you know, if just today we had some Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on our door. They were visiting out upstairs neighbors, but I had this thought, “You know, whatever they’re sharing, whatever they’re passionate about, I may not agree with it at all, but I could say, ‘I’m passionate about things, too.'” You know, if they were to express their pitch of here’s the deal and listen to my message, I genuinely could respond and say, “You know, I’m passionate about things, too. Thank you for sharing that.” Just something to think about.

Especially with people that we care about, I think this can be a really interesting way of looking at things, recognizing that on one layer, at one level or on one layer, I am experiencing life my way. Having beliefs will make me feel a certain, I know this because there was a time in my life when my beliefs made me feel a certain way, a very comforting way. There’s another phase in life where those beliefs were causing discomfort and I didn’t want to feel that anymore. Then, there was a phase where I didn’t have those beliefs anymore, they went away. Then, I was experiencing comfort around the uncertainty of not knowing.

At every stage, there’s always in the back of your mind that inclination to share the other, “Hey, I want you to know how I feel.” This is the same drive that says, “Hey, I need to take a picture of my meal on Instagram so you can see what I’m experiencing.” It’s so hardwired, so ingrained in us to want to share our experience with others. There’s no wonder that when we share our experience is can become a volatile thing. Any of you who are on social media know this. You can share anything of Facebook, like a puppy rescues a baby kitten, and you’re going to have controversy in the comments. There’s now way around it. You can share whatever is meaningful to you, whether that be a philosophy, a religious view, a political view. It doesn’t matter what it is, you’re going to have people who do not agree with it at all, people who are going to be angry that you hold those views or that you don’t hold those view.

It seems like this can be aggravated the closer we are to the people that we’re wanting to share with. Wanting to share my experience with my brothers is one thing. Wanting to share an experience with a coworker, that’s another thing, and friends, and everyone in between. We get more and more sensitive about the reception of what we’re sharing when it’s people closest to us, at least that’s what it seems like to me. If I share something with someone that is close to me, I expect that they will take from the sharing the same thing that I took from the original experience. In other words, I’m expecting that from layer two that they’re going to extract what I got out of layer one, and that’s never going to happen. It’s just impossible.

Keeping this in mind and tying this in with the teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness, it helps us to keep in mind these layers. Whatever experience you’re having, that’s one thing. Don’t allow the sharing of the experience to alter the experience itself. I you took joy from an experience, then you took joy from it. If you didn’t, then you didn’t. So what? But when you share and somebody is disgusted that you didn’t take joy from that experience and now it makes you go back and question the experience, why do that? You already had the experience. This way of thinking allows us to keep these layers separate to experience joy on one layer. Then, if I’m going to experience joy or pain on the second layer when I try to share the experience, so be it, but that’s a whole new layer. I won’t allow the suffering of the second layer to take away from the joy of the first layer.

The expression to keep in mind that I think is really helpful here is, “I love things, too,” or, “I don’t like things either,” or, “I hate things, too,” or, “Things are gross for me, too,” or anything along those lines. You get the idea of that quote, which I think is ingenious. That’s what I wanted to share. This is the podcast episode I’ve prepared for today. Like I mentioned, it’s really good to be back on schedule trying to get podcast episodes out. I have a whole list of topics and I’m going to try to get them all out. So at least for the next little while, I hope to be consistent getting new podcast episodes out, maybe every Monday. At least for now, my goal is every Monday.

Then, I have several thing in the works that I’m excited to announce. I’m not going to tell you the details now, but I have another trip in the works that is going to be an epic, incredible trip. It won’t happen till middle to late next year, 2019, but I’ll give you the details as soon as I have the dates dialed in. I’ve got some fun announcements around the book. I’ve got some fun announcements around the online workshop that I’m still working on that I eventually plan to have available to anyone to take at any time on your own time for free, and a few other little announcements that I’ll mention when the time is right, but that’s all I have for now.

If you enjoyed this podcast episode, please consider sharing it with others. Oh, there we go, sharing. Keep this in mind, what you get out of this podcast, that’s the first layer, right? That’s on you. Then, when you share it with others, let’s say you try to share it with someone, they’re like, “That’s stupid. Why would I listen to something about Buddhism.” Notice how it makes you feel and recognize how that doesn’t take away from the joy that you experience from listening to it, or backwards. Maybe they’ll say, “Oh, that’s great,” or they’ll come back and say, “Hey, that was awesome. I love listening to this podcast. It’s changed my life. Thank you. You were a direct contributor to that.” You’ll notice how the joy that’s being compounded there is first your joy of listening to the podcast, and second your joy of sharing it and that being well received, but those are two different things. You can notice that. That just popped up in my head because I do mention please share it with others.

Consider writing a review. Give it a rating in iTunes. If you want to join the online community, right now we just have the Facebook group. There’s the Secular Buddhism Facebook Group and the Secular Buddhism Podcast Community, which is a Facebook group that’s a little bit more specific to discussing topics around the podcast rather than secular buddhism in general. I was running the Online Weekly Sangha, but I’ve paused that for now, mostly because I’m still feeling quite behind in trying to get a lot of these projects that I’ve got on my table right now. I have to put that on hold until I can get the book out and several other things done and off the table, so to speak. That’s paused for now. If you want to make a donation to support the work I’m doing with the podcast, you can visit SecularBuddhism.com and click the donate button. That’s all I have for now. I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. I’m glad to be back with you guys, and until next time.

About the Author
Noah Rasheta is a Buddhist teacher, lay minister, and author, as well as the host of the podcast Secular Buddhism. He teaches mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy online and in workshops all around the world. He works with others to make the world a better place as he studies, embodies, and teaches the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy, integrating Buddhist teachings with modern science, humanism, and humor. He lives in Kamas, Utah, with his wife and three kids.