If you’re having doubts about organized religion, if you have trouble with New Age positivity, and if life has kicked you recently in the belly, you may like me be feeling winded, wondering what to believe.
I could say, “Nothing! It’s all relative.” But it’s not that simple. I’m a skeptic, not a cynic. That’s why I often wonder just how much explanations can really help.
You can rationalize all you want, any way you want. It’s not going to stop your brain churning. You’ll never think yourself into less thinking. What do you do about a mind that’s on auto-repeat, reciting the same old chattering phrases over and over?
And the answer is…
You may not want to hear this, but here’s the thing: you need to take a closer look.
The thing about mental chatter is that we’re not normally looking at it: we’re caught up in it. There’s a difference. What we need is to take a step back and watch. The more space you create between you and it, the less it will torment you.
I know: it’s not that easy. Still, some ways work better than others. Gazing without any focus is a fruitless exercise. It helps to know what you’re looking for. That’s where a good spiritual teacher is helpful.
For the record, a “good spiritual teacher” is not someone with all the answers, just someone who can tell a dead end from a path that leads somewhere. In the end, the only place you’ll find answers to your existential dilemmas is in your own experience.
You know what’s true
Okay, take a step back and ask, “Why is ‘What can you believe’ the right question?” It implies some sort of belief or explanation will help. Why do we think that?
Because we’re human beings. Our brain is our greatest tool (excuse the pun). It always has an answer and always presumes that answers count. It’s an arrogant organ that explains, rationalizes, understands and convinces everyone that the riddles of life actually have solutions.
I’ve been touched by a lot of death recently. Young people dying for no good reason, old people hanging on for even less reason. It’s sad. Try as I might to console myself with explanations, they don’t help. Like it or not, whether I embrace it or not, all I can do is accept. Bob Dylan put it simply: ‘It’s life and life only.’
Starting next Tuesday January 17th, I’m teaching a Mindful Reflection workshop on this very topic — a 21st century version of what the Buddha discovered: how to escape the tyranny of the rational mind and accept the irrationality of life.
Don’t stay home just because it’s cold and dark outside. Come sit with us. Share your stories, Contribute to the insight. It’ll be the best night of your week, I promise.