Every one of us will have been affected in some way by the Covid 19 pandemic or the world’s reaction to it. My heart goes out to every person who has experienced suffering or hardship. Those who have been ill themselves or witnessed the suffering of others, those who have lost loved ones or been separated from them due to quarantines. And those who have experienced a deterioration in their mental health and wellbeing or are struggling having lost jobs and businesses. My heart also fills with gratitude when I think of all those who are finding resilience in the face of challenge and reaching out with kindness to help others around them in so many ways.
Each of us will have a different experience and a different point of view about what should and should not be happening. Pro-lockdown, anti-lockdown, pro-mask, anti-mask, pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, pro US/UK trade deal, anti-US/UK trade deal, pro-no deal Brexit etc.… ad infinitum. Those views are made up of layers and layers of thought and beliefs based on whole lifetimes of experience influenced by childhood conditioning, family, education, culture, events, experiences, circumstances. It is the nature of belief, that we often take our own to be right or true and judge others’ to be wrong or false. That’s why the world is full of people shouting at each other and worse, much worse.
What if there is no such thing as a completely true belief? Pause to think about it for a moment. A belief is only true until we no longer believe it. What if we realised this at a fundamental level? What if we stopped defending our own beliefs and judging those of others? What if we accepted that we do not know very much at all about reality?
The past has no reality except in our mind as memory, the future has no reality except in our mind as imagination. Only the present moment is real. All life happens now. And yet we do not experience life as it really is. We perceive it through multiple layers of thought, concept and belief accumulated over years and often clung to and defended as though it were ourselves.
I had a deep realisation about the illusory nature of experience seen through the human thought system. In fact, it is a realisation I have over and over again, when I drop out of my concepts and beliefs and sit in the unknown. In this open space of not-knowing, the world looks different. I get to connect with the miracle of life, the joy, the wonder, the love and the beauty inherent in creation. Have you ever really looked at a tree as though for the first time, without your concepts and beliefs about what a tree is? It can be tricky I know! Give it a go. See what you notice and feel. You may be surprised by how much more you become aware of.
Our concepts and beliefs make sense to us in daily life. Given the complexity of how they were formed, they are not always easy to change at will, some are even invisible to us. And if we struggle to change our own, how fruitless it is to try to change someone else’s beliefs. I still have plenty of personal beliefs and concepts, but it makes less sense to defend them or to try to convince someone else of them because I know they are only one version of reality, one limited perspective, at one moment in time. Discovering what is beyond them however is transformational. Even a brief glimpse of a deeper dimension of life can be helpful in so many ways. My work is not to change people’s concepts or belief’s but to invite them to look beyond their own.
When we look beyond our own ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood, we can drop out of judgement. Then we see the world as it is and realise our innate connection with others, our oneness. There is a verse in a beautiful poem called A Great Wagon by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi which points to this:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.”
The most incredible aspect of humanity is our individual uniqueness and yet there is an undeniable sameness to each human being. Like icebergs which all have a unique shape while all being made from ice, despite our differing beliefs and perspectives, we all share a common sense of being, a shared awareness. If we can learn to drop into the unknown, beyond our personal thought system we find that shared connection and the world can become a kinder place.
Whatever your life circumstances in the coming weeks and months, I hope you can look beyond your own thought system and uncover the kindness of this design.
The verse from the Rumi poem A Great Wagon is a Coleman Banks translation taken from “Rumi – Selected Poems” published Penguin Books
The image of the iceberg is from an original photograph by Allan Boroughs taken in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica