The very first thing we learn, after the names of things, is where each thing is “located” on the scale of good / bad, right / wrong. Because we are compelled to make these evaluations, as children, with the force of tribal beliefs behind the lists, in a real sense we are quite unreflective as we judge.
Lists are imposed by our “tribes.”
It’s kind of odd, how seldom we look at our baseline beliefs. In order to do so authentically, we need to look outside of our tribes and cultures, and take a wider view. As we do, we begin to see that, pretty much universally, any behaviour or object you consider “wrong” is considered “right” (and put into practice) by some other group.
Indeed, some things you judge as wrong, or bad are other people’s religious practices, and are held to be not only right, but ‘god-given.’
It’s no wonder we are constantly at war.
War is nothing more than a clash of ideologies and beliefs. Sticks and stones have been replaced by Scuds and bombs, but the game is the same.
The same is so when it comes to interpersonal conflict. I’ve been counselling since 1981, and the only time I ‘know’ someone is ‘wrong’ is when they physically hurt another. And I recognize that this is still a personal determination, or bias,(and is also one supported by law in Canada.)
Beyond physical violence, differences between people are always differences of opinion, and it’s impossible to judge which perspective is right.
This is not to say that I do not have a personal preference.
I have a decided personal bias toward good communication, and I can even define such communication for you. (see my free booklets…) My prejudice in favour of elegant communication is based upon my experience. It’s just that my view works, for me, and my intention is to teach this way of communicating to clients. Not because it’s ‘right,’ but because it works… again, for me.
It’s taken me several decades to learn the difference between being right and having a personal bias or preference. I spent much of my time, prior to age 32 or so, trying to persuade everyone of the correctness of my beliefs. So I have some compassion for clients that are stuck in ‘persuasion mode.’ It runs deep.
I suspect that the alternative to being right is to understand the meaning of integrity.
Clients insist that they are ‘right’ because they fear calling everything they believe into question. It seems strange to me, for example, to hear men tell me how women ‘should’ behave toward them (or vice versa) and yet have never found anyone interested in being that obedient. Indeed, all of their relationships have featured the opposite of what they want. Yet, on and on they insist that they know better, and that the problem is that they haven’t found the ‘right’ person. There’s that word again. It never occurs to them to change their beliefs. They just keep changing people.
So, how does this apply to clinging?
Well, unease (sanskrit dukkha, often translated ‘suffering’) comes from clinging to something, and in this case it’s clinging to preconceived notions.
Notice that word. Pre conceived.
This means “thought of in advance.”
In other words, I am applying a rule, or judgment from the past , without thinking, to a present situation. Or, I’m just applying ‘what I always do,’ with no regard to the present situation at all.
In a sense, all clinging is a form of attachment, and our attachments are always to mental formations. Here’s the interesting part: notice how often you’d rather be considered ‘right’ about your fervently held beliefs, to the extent that you’ll ruin relationships, sabotage careers, and spend your life in misery. But boy, are you ever right!
I have trouble getting traction on this one, because most of us have really strong egos. I tend to be a simple guy, and say,
“If you are not content, it’s likely your beliefs that are getting in your way, so let’s work at changing them.”
Up pops an ego, and says, “But… but… I’ve spent years developing these strategies, and your job is to make them work, so I don’t have to change anything!”
But, you see… I’m just not interested. I really want my clients, and you, to consider not having beliefs. To, in other words, approach your life directly, trust your instincts, and to engage with life as opposed to categorizing it.
In other words, to have a life, rather than a judgment.
And just where is your head, these days?
Haven’t you figured this out yet? All of your stubborn, well-worn platitudes about how life should be have never worked out, and never will.
You can rant, rave, whine, sob, sniffle, grouse, bitch, moan, complain, lecture, defend, demand.
And nothing changes.
Except you get to feel hard-done-by. So, doing more of this, harder and louder, is somehow going to suddenly start working? I think not.
I’ve been reading and recommending Michael Webb’s e‑books for years. His newest is called “Sex All Around the House.” This book actually has some fantastic and exciting ideas you can use to spice up any lovemaking, no matter how fiery it already is. And best of all, because toys are so expensive, you’ll save lots of money (and lots of embarrassment) by using the items you already have around the house.
I love the Tao te Ching,
for its practical wisdom and innate grasp of the energy of the Universe – chi.
Here’s the 56th chapter, translated by Gia Fu Feng and Jane English
Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
Keep your mouth closed,
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the earth.
This is the primal union.
He who has achieved this state
Is unconcerned with friends and enemies,
With good and harm, with honor and disgrace.
This therefore is the highest state of man.
That first couplet is famous. It has a specific meaning, and it’s not to stop teaching. In a sense, the Tao te Ching would not exist if that was the case. The meaning is this: people who lecture others about right and wrong ‘don’t know.’ People who live (without pronouncements) according to the Tao ‘know.’
Here’s how: The handy dandy 5 steps to cure what ails you
If you look at the rest of the text of #56, you’ll see a description of someone unconcerned. This does not mean disinterested or disconnected. The idea is that one can actually be present in the world, curious, supportive, knowledgeable, and existing at the highest level.
This is possible only when the opinions of others of our character and motives is no longer a concern.
Many are the people who try to be popular, who try to be all things to all people, who try to ‘help.’ Lives wasted being jerked around by the whims and will of others, and it’s only possible if you co-operate.
Non-co-operation is not by making a demand—“I told you and told you. Don’t make me unhappy!” Yikes. Who cares?
Non-co-operation is simply this: “Here is me, living out me, as me.” I intend to do this, and am not looking for permission. I’m also not looking to be told what to do, as you can’t know what’s best for me. I also know I do not know what’s best for you. So, I’m just going to hang out here, and be me. I hope you’ll join me.”
Clinging to rules—to right and wrong—will get you endless conflict and no peace. Decide who you are and how you want to be—and make that picture your ‘best self.’ Then, quietly live from your best self.