Most of us assume that our perceptions are correct most of the time. If we didn’t, life would be too disorienting. Even if many of our facts are incorrect and our beliefs are false or excessively limiting, thinking that we know what’s what anchors us, keeping us from falling into the abyss of the universe’s enormity. The more secure we are, the more doubt we can handle about our views of reality, but we each have a limit.
Part of the spiritual path, however, is the recognition that we are eternal, unlimited beings. We inhabit a body but we aren’t that. We have thoughts and feelings but we are not them. We are not our opinions — how could we be if we’re able to change them?
This awareness of our true identity allows us to let go of excessive attachment to our opinions so that when others disagree with them, we don’t feel that they have disagreed with who we are. It also allows us to see others as being more than their opinions so that we can love them even if we perceive their opinions to be wrong.
Buddhism has a concept called “non-attachment.” Non-attachment is viewing things from a calm, centered place. It’s not the same as detachment, which can be cold, distant, and uncaring. In non-attachment, we can be completely engaged, caring deeply, but not invested — our sense of self doesn’t hinge on getting the results we want. We simply deal with “what is” without wasting energy doing what won’t be helpful such as arguing with people who are closed. We have opinions based on our current knowledge and perspective but have no need to defend or proselytize them. We share them where there is openness, and in turn, listen with openness to others so that we might learn.
Buddhism views attachment as the root of suffering. It’s easy to see why. If we’re attached to a particular person loving us, having a thin waistline, or getting a promotion, and it doesn’t happen, we’re unhappy. On the other hand, if we want those things but in a relaxed way, balancing doing what we can to have them with knowing that we can be happy without them, we aren’t devastated if we don’t get them.
When we’re attached to our opinions and invested in others sharing them, we inevitably slam into the brick wall of others who are similarly attached to their differing opinions. This is largely why so many people argue a great deal. Attachment prevents us from connecting with others soul to soul when they disagree with us.
Those who shout instead of speak, who have a sense of desperation about getting through to others, may be recognizing some serious problems while others have their heads buried in the sand. Imagine living in Germany in 1933 and seeing the writing on the wall. Today, with the election of Trump, some of us wonder whether it’s 1933 all over again. In addition, we see climate change, oil running out, terrorism increasing, the poor becoming poorer, diseases spreading unnecessarily, corporations and religions taking over government, etc. Aren’t such things of huge importance? If, for example, the environment is ruined (a real possibility), humanity won’t survive. How can we be calm?
Although passion is a virtue, people tend to turn away from shrill voices. Shouting can fortify the resolve of perpetrators, and people in the middle often assume that those who are strident are exaggerating and are unnecessarily rocking the boat. There are times when an alarm should be sounded, but that can be overdone. Generally, a quieter voice, speaking from the heart with reasoned arguments backed up by facts and illustrated by people’s experiences, is more effective in reaching people, at least those with some openness (and nothing will reach those who are closed). “I statements” from our own experiences are more effective in communicating with others than “you statements,” which point the finger and put others on the defensive.
When a situation is desperate, there’s all the more reason to speak with eloquence and truth rather than shrillness. When we’re living from our eternal nature, we are able to respond with stillness and a large perspective rather than just reacting emotionally to the immediate situation.
It is extraordinary that the Dalai Lama and his followers in Tibet experienced atrocities at the hands of the Chinese yet endeavored to view them with love and compassion, and to cultivate gratitude for the spiritual lessons they provided. They did what they could about the situation, which wasn’t much, and those who could escaped to India.
One of the paradoxes of the spiritual path is that everything is important and nothing is important. On the one hand, even if we destroy human life on this planet, although that would be calamitous, we and the universe as a whole would go on. Earth would not be the first planet to be destroyed by out-of-control sentient creatures nor would it be the last. On the other hand, everything we do, every choice we make, is important as an opportunity for blessing and growth, not to be wasted. Therefore, we do what we can and let go of the rest, not throwing away energy bemoaning what is beyond our control.
However, doing what we can do isn’t merely physical. Consciousness is the most powerful thing there is, and in the long run (sometimes, the very long run), love triumphs over its absence (such as hate, fear, oppression, etc.) Holding the highest consciousness available to us and letting it keep growing is the greatest gift we can offer the world. Words are important; speaking to those with ears to hear may be part of our service. However, holding the vibration of love is all of it. The more people who love and the higher the quality of the love, the more powerful a force love is in human affairs.
Also, a large perspective reminds us that, although it behooves us to be honest about where things seem to be heading, we never know for certain how they will turn out. Probabilities can change on a dime in this chaotic free-will world. In addition, we never know what tricks the universe has up its proverbial sleeve. Some say, for example, that the earth could heal itself of the wounds of pollution with amazing speed if humanity reached a high enough consciousness (and stopped adding significant new pollution). So it doesn’t pay to get too bent out of shape about what hasn’t happened yet. People sometimes make major life choices based on gloom-and-doom predictions of things that never occur, leaving them with egg on their face. The best approach is to trust our intuition, use common sense, do all we can to change the course of things, and then let go.
In non-attachment, we flow like water. We speak what others can hear when they are open, and are otherwise silent. We choose the words that communicate clearly and honestly without unnecessarily triggering the defenses of others. From centering in love, we find that the words we can say, that flow cleanly, are the right ones. When nothing can be said or done, we can still always work with energy, uplifting the darkness that comes our way. This is what it means to be a lightworker.