Reunion with Reality
A precondition for ethnic and cultural harmony is mutual respect. Respect means that we view each other and various cultures in a manner clear-minded, openhearted and non-judgmental. We all stand to learn from each other, if we are willing to live with transparency and honesty.
Much of our view of other people and ourselves is filtered through our personal and cultural conditioning. This conditioning is a mixed blessing.
There are positive and negative aspects of each culture. Exaggerating the positive or negative aspects of any culture blurs our vision and muddies our thinking. We can learn from each, and, just as individuals often learn more from failures than from successes, cultures can learn from their own imperfections.
This would be the demonstration of mutual respect.
It’s all too easy to think in a rut. We grow used to thinking in patterns that repeat themselves over and over. We share these patterns and teach them to each other. Institutional education is often the means by which patterned thinking is perpetuated.
Good education teaches us how to step out of these ruts of conditional or habitual thinking. The common phrase is “thinking outside the box.” At its best, education teaches us how to control our thoughts, to choose how and what to think, and even how to stop our thoughts altogether, to still our mind.
Meditation is training the mind to be clear, unconditioned, and ultimately still. Conditioning blurs our vision of the reality. Meditation clears it. Meditation is a means to escape the ruts of conditional thinking. We can think of it as deconditioning.
Meditation is focusing attention and slowing the mind. A mind that is slow and focused experiences reality free from patterned, habitual and conditional thinking. This training of the mind is mostly missing from our educational systems today.
The well-trained mind, which can choose its thoughts rather than being driven by them, is a treasure beyond price.
Many of us have been conditioned in negative thinking. Bias, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, stubbornness, impatience and selfishness are all characteristics of conditioned thinking. They lead to stereotyping other people and even demonizing them.
We often see in people only what we recognize, framing them in our own perception of reality. We view them from our point of view. How different they appear from their point of view!
As we often tend to demonize, we also lionize. We create images in thought and word of others and ourselves that are idealized and sanitized. Rarely are people as good or as bad as we think them. Indeed, how can we know enough about anyone to form an accurate mental picture of them? How many of us actually have accurate pictures of ourselves?
Not all conditioning is necessarily bad. We do develop good habits. We can, for example, train ourselves to put on our seatbelts whenever we get into a car. We can recondition our minds to think, feel and perceive positively. For example, we can train our minds to give people the benefit of the doubt. We can suspend judgment regarding others, at least in non-crucial matters.
We can (I know this sounds miraculous) recondition ourselves to be selfless when the modern world has conditioned us to be selfish, to put ourselves first.
Copyright 2017 James Phoenix