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The virtuous one is still and without thought. When he moves he is without design. He keeps no tally of right and wrong, good or bad. Virtuous ones share their gains with All, and from this they derive pleasure.
- The Book of Chuang Tzu
Becoming the objective observer, refreshing your views through active and unbiased observation, is taking a step along the enlightening path. The more judgment we place on what we observe, the farther from the center of mindfulness we move. Being centered is being free of judgment, being mindful, being empty.
Views are what we experience when we observe something from different angles, considering various aspects and qualities. Views help us see a portion of a situation. They can be narrow or broad, but they don't automatically change when situations change, so they are often in need of updating. View points are useful to help us learn about something, but it is when we begin to collect views a memories that we risk moving away from the Center. Views that are held in our memories are no longer in-the-moment experiences and therefore can affect the way we experience the world.
As we collect views as memories, we may develop an Orientation, a way of favoring certain types of views and viewing the world in a particular way. When we become oriented in our thinking and life experiences, we may end up rejecting experiences and information that don’t quite fit with those we’ve collected, even when our experiences are first-hand. We unconsciously restrict our perception, our thinking, and end up with a preferred set of views that we hold onto, like old photographs that bring us comfort.
If we continue to deepen a particular orientation, viewing the world from the same perspective over and over, without taking the time to observe without bias, without judgment, and seeing through a beginner's eyes, we may eventually take a Position. Positions keep us locked into specific ways of thinking, built from static artifacts of our experiences. They are predictable and often unchanging, even in the light of the truth. A position says, "I don't need to look or listen any longer because I already know what that is." Positions can destroy presence. They keep us far away from center and often, in order to feel balanced, need an opposite position to lean against. Maintaining a position requires work. It requires that we build walls around our minds, our senses, and our hearts. When a position becomes so engrained that we no longer are aware of all the work we’re doing to maintain it, it might become a Belief.
Beliefs are notions of the world that supersede our experience of it. They are views that emanate from our internal experiences, rather than our observations. There is nothing unnatural about having beliefs. Everyone believes things. It's only when we place our beliefs in the highest regard, choosing them over our unbiased experiences, that we stray from the center of our mindfulness practice. Being mindful requires that we be willing to update our beliefs, positions, and orientations by taking into account our unbiased observations and first-hand experiences.
Experiences meaning what we sense, rather than what we think or imagine. It means trusting our bodies over our minds, remembering that our minds are as creative as the weather is unpredictable.
Forming beliefs around thoughts is like building a house on the wind.
We find our center when we consider all Views, remember that Orientations and Positions are limiting, and that Beliefs are perceptions of the world that are more rooted in thinking, rather than experiences. Life is growth, change, and forever new. Presence and centeredness develop through observation and attending to in-the-moment experiences, that are uncompromised by thoughts. Thoughts may be interesting, amusing, and even useful, but thoughts about your life are not your life. Memories are not in-the-moment experiences. Feeling centered does not require any special doing. It’s simply a matter of not doing things that may move you away from center. Your natural state is one of peace, joy, and contentment. All you need to do, is to allow the clouds of over thinking to lift away by not holding them in place.
Take a breath and blow them away.
Music by Layne Redmond, Greg Ellis, and Azam Ali, used with permission.
Artwork by Cameron Grey