Sep 2011: What Are We So Afraid Of?

by Brad on September 1, 2011

“A problem is solved not by confronting it directly,
but by going to a level where no problem exists.”     
– Deepak Chopra, and perhaps originally from the Bhagavad Gita

In a conversation over coffee recently, I listened as a woman said to me, “You know, Mary is such a close friend. We get along so well. We’ve just agreed not to talk about religion, politics, parenting, or men.” My reply, “Isn’t that interesting,” probably failed to hide my reaction to the paradox this brought up. In contemplating the conversation later on, however, I realized her comment was a common symptom of many of our conversations, along with many of our relationships, and many of our “societal structures” (workplaces, communities, families, etc.), and that perhaps it might be a good topic for exploration. So why do we avoid so many topics, and why avoid some topics in one situation yet not in others? Further, why do we see it as acceptable to subscribe to avoidance while still claiming closeness?

As a general rule, if there are any general rules, avoidance is a sign of fear. What might we fear? Much, or most, of what we’ve learned has come from what others told us to believe and think, and at least in our impressionable years, we bought all this as “truth,” rarely questioning its validity. Most of us live as if who we are today is the sum total of all these lessons. But because we “became” who we are more through blind acceptance than our critical thinking, we really don’t know what we “know,” yet believe we do. Not surprisingly, the “truths” we easily adopted from others’ stories include just the topics we now avoid – religion, politics, parenting, sex, finances, relationships, etc.  Curious.

The issue, then, is not so much that we’re afraid of the topics, but that we’re afraid of our own truth about the topics, and cover up our uncertainty (a kind of fear) with avoidance. If we really did know our own truth, we’d not be afraid of the conversation. But because we’ve never stopped to ask simple (but big) questions, we’ve become paralyzed. Big questions are intriguing; they open us to greater and greater truths, which create greater and greater possibility in our lives. How do you know what you know? By what internal process did you come to know it? What alternatives to this truth might you have considered along the way? If you don’t know your own truth, is it because you tried to find it and came up empty, or is it because you refused to look?  I, for one, want to understand these things. It’s how I learn. And it’s why, in these writings, I invite deeper and deeper inquiry into your own ways of believing, seeing and thinking. If you’ve done the practices I suggest monthly, you’ve experienced the power they hold. If you haven’t, then this idea, too, may appear as nonsense. Note: I am in no way suggesting what you should think, only that you do … think.

Critical thinking seems to be a lost art in our world today. That’s a sad, and scary, thing. We’ve become easy prey for those who want to manipulate us. And there are lots of them. When we don’t think for ourselves, we tend to believe, buy, go along and comply more than when we do think for ourselves. Blind acceptance of this sort comes from choosing not to think. Yet because we’re not aware, we don’t even know it’s happening. A few things on my list of dangers here:  (1) industry lobbies – capitalism was intended to serve the common good, not control it; (2) political campaigns – democracy asks neither divisiveness nor compliance; (3) church doctrine – religions were intended as communities of faith to explore together that which couldn’t be “known,” not to control behavior out of fear of that same unknown; (4) media – news was intended to keep us informed, not to selectively and irresponsibly sensationalize human events.

Exercise: Know your truth: The antidote to fear is truth, not avoidance or intransigence of belief. You can discover your truth by reflecting on your thinking, perhaps using the questions in paragraph three as a guide. What do you believe and think? How did you come to believe and think it? It doesn’t matter what you discover, only that you do. It’s a great way to exchange your long-held yet little-understood position in the matter (of religion, politics, etc.) with the possibility the matter holds in your own life. Positions come from fear; possibilities come from truth and faith. Both are choices. The safety and certainty you seek don’t exist in the external world, but in the personal experience, and a subsequent belief in, your own inner truth. And that is all the certainty you ever need in life. What’s your truth?


A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature] 

I received an email this week entitled, “Two moons this month.” Now, as a lover of our world, physical and natural, I’m of course intrigued by the claim. In the attached slide show, the writer says that Mars would come closer to earth this month than it has in hundreds of years, making it appear much brighter and closer than normal. I love long-term rhythms in nature. So far, so good. But two moons, I’m thinking. How might this be? Then I found my “answer.” It came in a side-by-side comparison photo of the moon and Mars, with the all-too-common “fine print” that no more than hinted that the image of Mars was from a 75x telescope magnification. Side-by-side, however, they did appear the same size. Now I’m not sure how you would see it, but if shown side-by-side with a small child or animal, a butterfly magnified 75 times would appear to be capable of eating said child or animal. But it doesn’t mean that it’s so. 

By accepting so much yet questioning so little, we’ve not only lost a huge piece of ourselves, but become easy prey, not for giant butterflies, but for those who know we’re not awake. It’s a good thing neither Mars nor the moon is susceptible to such tactics. It’s time to reclaim what is rightfully your own – your mind. As always, one of the best ways to renew and refresh is to “hang out” in nature, doing nothing, yet noticing everything. Nature’s message is simple: life’s purpose is to create life, and to be creative in how it does so. Nothing to hide; no pretense; no judgment. Perhaps this is why we seek, and find, peace and freedom in nature. Nature accepts herself, and trusts her ways of knowing. Perhaps one of the reasons we’re such easy prey is that we feel so overloaded we can’t/won’t take the time to get out of our everyday worlds for long enough to experience the potential waiting for us. It’s so close, yet so far. Why?

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