By Jill Griffiths
I recently attended our daughter’s college orientation in Boston, which involved a day of back to back lectures from morning until evening. Sitting among a sea of partents, my morning coffee long worn off, I had flashbacks of my own college days as a freshman. Having gone to a large school, with 500 students in a lecture hall, paying attention was often a struggle. Come sophomore year, I realized I needed a wake up call, literally, and made a pact with myself to sit as close to the teacher as possible. I chuckled now, noting that I was sitting in the balcony.
As the speaker began talking about the school’s code of ethics and expectations, I admittedly started to drift until I heard something that caught my attention; the Platinum Rule. And whether it was the words that caught my attention, or the enthusiasm in the speaker’s voice, I perked up. Unlike the Golden Rule, which encourages us to treat others as we would like to be treated, The Platinum Rule, she explained, encourages us to treat others as they would like to be treated. Hmmmm, I liked this evolved way of thinking. I was suddenly feeling better about the tuition check we just wrote.
In fact, many of us already know this rule, especially if we’ve been in a romantic relationship. My husband and I have had our fair share of ups and downs resulting in a marriage counselor or two (or seven). And while each counselor had a different piece of advice, they all seemed to want the same thing; for us to be able to communicate better. And part of that improved communication was getting us to understand what the other was trying to say. You’ve heard of the popular phrase ‘love language,’ where you try to identify how your partner is expressing love. Well the Platinum Rule is not very different, but it goes beyond gestures of kindness to understanding why people do what they do and how we can shift our perspective to better understand their motives.
In fact, I remember thinking when my own marriage was under distress, how it felt as if we were speaking two different languages. I felt my husband was misreading what I said or did. I wanted to record our conversations for proof in case I needed to defend myself later. But instead, I chose kindness over the need to prove myself (I guess the seven therapists paid off). And once the negative energy lifted, it was as if we were finally graced with the same language. Because love, thankfully, is a universal language and difficult to misread when it is genuine.
Treat others as they want to be treated, means understanding where they are coming from. It means shifting your perspective so that you can hear what they are saying and look at them with fresh eyes. That shift means being utterly present to the moment without an agenda, past reference, or getting ready for the rebuttal. That tiny shift, by the way, is cataclysmic in effort.
When practicing yoga this shift in perspective is also challenging. Imagine being in a balancing pose teetering on the edge, about to fall, unable to peel your gaze from the floor, because you are afraid of losing your stance and the firm ground you stand on. If not yoga, consider another form of workout or situation where you are afraid of falling. Where you don’t have something firm to grasp. This is called fear. And fear is at the core of most of our challenges. But like any challenge the reward is substantial.
This willingness to let go of fear can also be described as groundlessness. The Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says, “keep your mind open and always question and explore. When you feel yourself getting triggered or hooked, see that as a warning sign that you’re holding onto something and be curious. Step in a little further. That’s what I think counteracts it.”
Platinum is more durable than gold. It can withstand more stress. So next time you find yourself in a challenging situation or yoga pose, remember the Platinum Rule and lean into fear rather than away from it. The more comfortable we get with this feeling of “groundlessness,” the easier shifting our perspective becomes. And that is how we get along with people who think differently, act differently, dress differently, talk differently or even pray differently. It’s not a cause for fear, but celebration because it expands our capacity to love, or be in that yoga pose just a wee bit longer, until we find our edge, our true power.
The more comfortable we get with this feeling of “groundlessness,” the easier shifting our perspective becomes.