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The Same & Different

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of recognizing and holding both elements of sameness & non-sameness, when it comes to our relationships and interactions with others. Too often, we’re stuck in operating from the perspective of either one OR the other, rather than being able to blend both together. In other words, we either think: Yes, we’re all the same! We all have the same woes and struggles and the same desire to be happy. There is no separation. Or, we think: I’m right and that dude’s wrong! I’m like this and that person is like that and we’re on opposite/opposing sides, we are sooo different.

I feel as though this is a tricky topic to address. Many of the teachings foundational to mindfulness, or the Buddha, are of a rather complex nature and extremely easy to misunderstand or misinterpret. One of the biggest factors in this complexity is our western mindset. Our common cultural tendencies for goal-setting, intellectual processing, needing to see results, and our propensity for ego development, mental dispersion, and emotional disconnect. All of that is to say: This post might be a bit of a schlog to read, for a few different reasons.

I’m reminded of a great quote from Albert Einstein: If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. I love this insight and try to keep it in mind when writing, giving a talk, offering a consult, or helping to lead or guide a group. This post, however, may wind up being a clear indication that I need to further my understanding :)

Let’s see if I can whittle it down: If we think we are all ONLY the same, we lose sight of the variety of experiences, causes, and conditions that impact and affect others. If we think we are all ONLY different, we lose sight of our shared humanity, and reduce greatly our capacity for developing understanding and compassion. Hmm. That actually turned out pretty well as a simplified account of my own thoughts around this particular subject.

Non-duality is rather a tangled mess for our western minds to wrap themselves around. To deeply understand that life rarely, if ever, consists of a “this” or “that” arrangement takes a fair amount of time and practice, in order to untangle our thick web of misperceptions. We have a wealth of strongly held notions in regards to the many pairs of duality that we often get so stuck and mired down in: right/wrong, good/bad, yes/no, republican/democrat, happy/sad, same/different. In reality, the truth of life’s very essence most often resides in a mixture of both dualistic pairs happening at the same time. Rather than a situation or occurrence fitting neatly into the box labeled “right” or “wrong” the chances are more likely that it could fit into both boxes, simultaneously.

Ah, the great confusing beauty of the teachings around non-duality!

 
 

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Positivity

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To change our outlook, to change our disposition, to change our life, to change anything really, we have to, well…actually change.  We have to do something different then we’ve been doing in order to get a different result.  To keep on doing what we’ve always done and expect a different outcome is one of the definitions of insanity.

There are a lot of negative people in the world.  And there are a greater number of people who aren’t necessarily negative but certainly aren’t positive, instead residing in some sluggish, disconnected in-between area that leans more towards the negative then the positive.  From my experience we are collectively lacking in positive, happy individuals.  I am reminded of a dharma talk that Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) once gave where he said: The world needs more happy people.

Over the last 2-3 years, as I’ve been intently focusing on the practice of cultivating joy, my outlook on things has transformed a great deal.  And reasonably so!  It makes good sense that outlook and disposition are interconnected with quality of life.  What I see as good news is that neither is mutually exclusive.  And what I mean by that is that we don’t have to do one to develop the other – practicing one IS practicing the other one too at the same time, and vice versa.  So, when we’re practicing to be more positive we’re also practicing to cultivate joy and live a happier life and when we’re practicing to develop joy we’re also strengthening our ability to be more positive.  They are intertwined, not separate.

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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Everyday Practice

 

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