A post from Zen Daddy
Greetings and salutations! The Zen Daddy is back to share a little dharma with you today. Over the past several years we have seen a polarization of viewpoints in the media and – for many – in our daily lives. It’s as if every person in the country has been given a loudspeaker and feels the need to convince everyone else that their view is correct. Sometimes we are dragged into the debate (or jump) without even realizing it. The problem is that instead of spreading clarity, we’re just adding to the babble of voices. Few people are convinced by logical arguments or repetition or by sheer volume, because our individual viewpoints are deeply ingrained.So what’s a person to do? If we get very emotional about political issues, we might do well to heed the Buddha’s stand when he was asked about the afterlife and simply not get involved. To paraphrase his words, “Such a topic of conversation is not worthy of one seeking enlightenment.” If our political participation is limited to the occasional election but we frequently debate issues, maybe we need to withdraw until we are no longer attached to outcomes. Over our lifetime, many elections will take place, many programs will be started and ended by Congress, and many bills will be signed into law. We will agree with some of them, and we will not agree with others, and that is that.
If we actively participate in the political process or do not get too attached to discussions of issues (or seek to get to that place), we should pay attention to our actions and ask ourselves, “What type of river rock am I?” In a conversation, are you the type that sticks proudly out of the water and tries to be the proverbial Immoveable Object, or do you sit just below the surface and let the water slip smoothly by, yet your influence can be seen by the slight rise in the river as the water slips over? One of the best ways we can have productive, beneficial conversations is to make sure we understand the other person’s viewpoint before we make sure they understand every nuance of ours.
This can feel uncomfortable as our ego is deeply involved, but one of the main reasons conversations can turn into arguments is that one or both parties don’t feel they’re heard, so they start using volume and intensity to push their points through. However, if we truly hear the other person and are able to repeat their points back to them, we reassure them that they being heard and they are more open to listening.
Also, letting someone share their views without getting attached to what their view is can be an act of kindness. Think about how it feels when someone clearly hears you when you express your viewpoint… doesn’t it feel good on some level? We have the opportunity to perform that act of charity for someone else as well, and that helps break down the illusion of our separation from other sentient beings as well. As Christianity’s Prayer of Saint Francis says, “Lord, grant that I may seek rather… to understand, than to be understood.”
Enjoy your day!
[Editor’s note: Want more Zen Daddy? Let us know by commenting on this post. Perhaps we can persuade him to come on out of his Zen Den more often!]