Good people can very often be complete assholes. Likewise a meal can be objectively great, and also taste like total dogshit. You’ve heard that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure; what if one person’s treasure was also that same person’s garbage? Lets talk about contradictions and the universal truth (and butts)!
What might be very true for one person, could be completely false for another. Duh. We write this off as a difference of opinion, we cling to our own view, and thus separate ourselves from the other, “wrong” view. We are right, they are wrong. Rather than toy with the notion that both of us might be wrong, or both of us might be right, we draw a line in the dirt and stick to it. Separation is how the ego gives itself identity.
Let’s take a moment to address ego versus Self. We’ve all surely (don’t call me Shirley!) spent a lot of time trying to figure out just who we are, and what the hell we’re doing here. We’re humans, it’s what we do. The thing that drives this need to know, can be given the name ego. It’s a part of your mind, and not who you actually are.
Think of it this way: if you lost your arm, you’d still be you right? If you lost your feet, your hands and your butt, you’d still be you (albeit a footless, handless, buttless version of yourself). Where do we draw the line? If you lost your physical head, would you still be you? You would certainly be dead, but I would say that yes, you would still be YOU. For argument’s sake: let’s say we aren’t our bodies. YOU exist beyond the body, whether or not you have a butt or an arm or whatever.
Now, if you were to lose your mind, would you still be yourself? You can see where this is going. I’ll spare you the new-age speculation and say that yes, you would still be you, even if you lost your mind. This is where most people get tripped right the fuck up. We think we are our minds, because our minds tell us that is the truth. But in a moment of actual silence (the Buddhists call it nonthinking) we can see that not only do we exist without our minds, we are far more awesome than our minds could ever properly express. We are infinite. We’ll save that for future articles. For now, let’s draw the conclusion that we are neither our butts, nor our minds. We are something deeper. Let’s call it Self with a capital “S” and leave it at that for the time being.
Back to the line-in-the-dirt-difference-of-opinions conversation we were having. Your true Self doesn’t need to create an identity to validate itself. Your true Self just is, it always has been, it always will be. Your ego on the other hand needs to make up all sorts of dramas to convince you that it’s real. In fact the more ego can convince you that some things are good, and others are bad, the more power it has. This is all a horrible sin against our actual Self, which transcends any notion of good or bad.
I’ll add some basic meditation instructions to the end of this article, and several other articles so you can begin to play with it. Meditation is a very direct way of seeing our true Self in all it’s awesomeness, but it can take some consistent effort, and isn’t always easy. Don’t worry though, there are many, many other ways to connect to this. In fact, with the right mindset everything is an opportunity to connect to Self/the world around us.
Take for example an epic sunset or a hike through the woods. Too easy? Yeah, alright, how about a super good meal, or a song that sends shivers down your spine? This total awesomeness, that’s what I’m talking about. The vastness of the entire universe exists within you, and all around you and….alright, let’s pump the brakes. This is not something I’m going to convince you of in one article, it’s something you need to see for yourself. And that can take a lot of time, lifetimes even. For now all I want you thinking about is the possibility that this pure connection can exist, and to start seeing opportunities to explore it. Back to the line-in-the-dirt stuff again.
The greatest trick ego can pull off is convincing your Self that it is separate from all the other Selfs. In reality it’s all one thing. This connecting to our Self/the world around us ideology is just an attempt at using language our minds can process. Minds love to process. And since we’ve spent such a long time convinced we are our minds, we will probably have to spend a fair amount of time breaking those habits to get to the truth.
So let’s use our words. This true Self/world around you stuff, it’s one thing. It’s greater than the sum of its parts, greater than our ego could ever hope to be. In reaction, ego creates dramas of separation to distract us from this awesomeness, and convince us if its own importance. It does this on every level possible to try and cement its status as the actual truth.
Opinions are one of ego’s greatest assets. While opinions aren’t inherently bad, they become detrimental when they close us off to new possibilities. For example: some people are of the opinion that New York style pizza is the only way to go, while others would argue that Chicago deep dish kicks the shit out of NY style. Some people get so stuck in one opinion or the other that they fail to see that both sides are equally right, and wrong. Chicago deep dish and New York style BOTH suck. Or are both delicious. Or are both awesome and awful at the same time. Ego can’t wrap its mind around this, our true Self knows it could be true.
That’s just pizza. This goes into all aspects of life. I’m sure none of us want to think too deeply about politics. It’s painful, it’s exhausting, the separation is worse than ever. Don’t worry, we’re not going there. None of you signed up to get lectures on politics that either: a) affirm something you already believe or b) are so contrary to what you believe that you leave. I just want us to examine the underlying division.
I often see headlines or posts that I don’t agree with (to put it very lightly). It can be hard to listen to what is being presented, without completely losing my shit. Lots of total no-brainers to me. Well, at least to ego me.
When I take some time to slow down and connect to Self-me, I can hold space for the other side. I can see for a moment that these aren’t inherently bad people. I don’t need to feel like I’m better educated than they are, or that I know something they don’t know, I don’t need to feel like it’s me versus them. Yes, I want these people to see my side of the argument very badly. They want people like me to see things their way just as badly. Is yelling at each other going to somehow force a solution that actually works? I kinda doubt it. But neither is just sitting on a meditation cushion and hoping for the best.
So I act, and I speak, and I try to do so in a way that also includes listening, and holding space. I try to present my truth in a way that doesn’t cause further division (as much as possible). I accept that maybe, just maybe, both sides are (to a degree) right, and wrong, and everything in between. If I start to get pissed off, I try to pause and connect to my deeper Self. Here contradictions can exist side by side, ego-games are cast aside, and our connections matter more than our separateness. I try to see people as my brothers and sisters, and I especially try to do so with people where that doesn’t come easily. It’s an ongoing practice, progress is slow, but there’s something very powerful there. I am in search of truth, and that’s a place where both my ego and my Self are united: we want to feel like we’re connected to the truth.
As far as I can tell, there are very few absolute truths. In fact, I can think of maybe two: first, we are connected in ways that are far greater than our human minds can grasp; and second, farts are always, always funny. The more inappropriate a fart might seem, the funnier it will undoubtedly be. Outside of these two truths, I’m realizing more and more each day that I don’t really know much. I just think I do. This is my garbage, and my treasure.
Not knowing can be a gigantic burden, or it can be a huge gift. It can cripple us with fear, or set us on a path of truth, one where we can actually make progress and positively affect the world around us. So for now, let’s take in some non-thinking, embrace some not-knowing and try to listen as much as we talk. May all beings be happy.
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Thank you very much. Oh, and scroll down for those meditation instructions I promised. xoxo
Early in the morning, before you start your day find a quiet space in your home. Don’t look at your phone, don’t open any emails, do this practice very first thing.
Sit in a way that’s comfortable, but not so comfortable you accidentally fall back asleep. Sit on a cushion, or in a chair, whatever works. Try to have your knees lower than your hips so you can find a tall, relaxed spine without having to put in too much effort.
Soften your gaze, take any last movements you need, then settle into your seat.
Now take a deep breath in. Then a deep breath out. Again. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Continue. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Don’t worry about anything else besides breathing in, and breathing out. As long as you’re sitting and breathing, you’re doing the exercise correctly.
That’s it for now. It might not be the fancy-feel good-new aged meditation you’re used to, but it’ll work just fine.
If you’re able, commit to doing this for 5 minutes every day. And if you’d like to have any insights or questions addressed in a future article, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We can do it anonymously, or use your name if you’d like. Whatever works. High-fives and deep bowing,