Whenever we talk about experience, we often define it with our common notion of hardships and past stories of one’s life. We hear our old folks talk about their old days, or our parents saying that they know better because of their past experiences. We hear ourselves saying that we do not have such experiences, thus we cannot relate to the other’s experience. We often hear people criticize others ad hominem, referring to person’s incapacity simply because he or she does not have the experience, even if he or she has the insight of a particular situation. We often hear this among grown-ups who would label kids as ignorant or foolish just because they don’t have ample experience of the so-called “real” world. (We now all know that children are far more intelligent and intuitive than adults). Or for instance, we have heard countless stories of great people initially mocked by society because they were perceived as foolish and inexperienced, only to find out later that their ideas have greatly moved the world.
Why does the irony of experience surprise us? I feel that we have misconstrued the meaning of experience that we have totally missed experiencing it. We often flaunt our experience in whatever manner to declare our superiority over the other, such as our jobs, our relationships, our trophies, our interests, our passions and our possessions. We use our experience as a license to justify an exclusive knowledge that others do not know. Yet the truest sense of experience is a lot different from what we claim it to be.
Our experience is our gift of Love to each other, because Love is the only experience there is.
What we all talk about experiences are external experiences. Whenever we share our know-hows, tips and advises, we are referring to our external experiences. Whenever we acquire an object, develop a skill, improve a technique or study a theory, we are having external experiences. Whenever we gain mastery over one thing and make mistake over the other, we are working with external experiences. And whenever we respond or react to certain things so we don’t repeat our previous blunders or traumatic situations, we are focusing on external experiences.
External experiences are physical and material, and this is where the problem comes in. We often use external experiences as proofs of expertise that we know more, or points of comparison that we are better than others. We require others to have external experiences so we can consider him more acceptable and credible. We expect others to have external experiences to assure ourselves that they can be, do and have more. In reverse, we require and expect ourselves to have the same. Yet we become frustrated by others and ourselves if these external experiences are largely unfulfilled. Because external experiences do not serve their true purpose.
In our outer world, the purpose of external experiences is to become an important milestone of our lives that anchors us towards a richer dimension of our internal experience. Our internal experience is a different case. It is one essential inner process that arise from how we discern true experience. An internal experience lies in experiencing rather than telling the experience. Each external experience prompts us to internally experience it, however easy or difficult it may be. We are taught by an external experience to be aware of our deeper feelings, those that go beneath the emotional reactions and repetitive thoughts. By going through it, we realize our connection with the other. Despite the differences of our outer experiences, we begin to find our internal experience as a truth that we deeply share.
So we can use external experiences not as walls of separation but bridges between not knowing and knowing, between judging and understanding. We begin to cross the bridge of experience from our ignorant self to our aware self and connect ourselves to others. We often hear the saying, “Experience is the best teacher,” and this is very true. Because a true experience teaches us not to reject what we don’t want or crave what we want, but to exercise awareness and find deep insight. We become aware to the encompassing experiences of oneself and of others, and we gain insight as a result of that experience. We become more empathic and compassionate to others. We now see the experience of the other as our own experience, be it joy and sorrow, or pleasure and pain. This is experience in its truest sense.
As we discern external from the internal, we can now rediscover the very meaning of our human experiences. Even though our external experiences are varied in forms and possibilities, we realize that there is no point in comparing or having the others’ experiences. Rather, we come and meet in a singular core of our humanity. Our experiences are nothing but our way to Love. To teach others the lessons and to learn from them, or share what we have and receive what we lack both encapsulate the purpose of experience . We connect to each other and experience that we are one. Our experience is our gift of Love to each other, because Love is the only experience there is.