just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

The Problem with Language and the Need to Train the Non-discursive Mind

Published on 28/03/16
by randy

The field of linguistics teaches us that language is made of arbitrary symbols. General Semantics teaches us that ‘meaning is in the person’. By definition, communication means ‘to join’ and attack means ‘to separate’. It’s basic human nature to fill with dissatisfaction, desiring things to be as they were or as we hope they could be. Yet, we find our greatest peace and most skilled action comes from practicing the art of awareness and presence to the moment. Our notion of separateness feeds the conflict in our lives. The more we hold on to the illusion of our separateness the more we suffer. When we attach to our beliefs (held thoughts fed from the discursive mind), the more we’re willing to fight those who hold different thoughts. Yet, the wisdom of all great spiritual teachers is to hold reverence to life, practicing balance and peace in the midst of a turbulent changing world. The key to effective communication is developing the skill to suspend belief in dialogue with those holding different thought. The joining of humanity comes through this reverence to the other with sincere intention to understand. Our governments become rigid from lack of training in this. Millions of people are needlessly killed from unbalanced reaction to perceived threat. Perhaps the greatest example of balanced action in the midst of extreme threat is when President Kennedy took time to pause before approving the requested nuclear action from his military advisors. A more contemporary example is seen in the flexibility and openness of Pope Francis.

So let’s look at two words highly charged in our society today: prayer and pro-life. Today we’re not able to educate our children to the benefit of comparative religions because of the Supreme Court’s difficulty in understanding the intent of our constitution. Pushing one’s ‘belief’ (fixed thought) on what happens when we die was clearly seen as disruptive to the educational process. For thousands of years various societies have created stories to explain this and the study of these various religions could go a long way to opening the minds of our youth. The refusal to study various religions in the academic setting inadvertently has us inhibiting religious freedom as we ignore the study of common elements and differences. This ‘ignoring’ results in the political discord we have today as we attach ‘right vs. wrong’ thinking to beliefs we’re willing to kill for, violating the very essence of our faith. Similarly, the word ‘pro life’ has been hijacked to mean someone who doesn’t believe a woman has a right to abortion. Yet, the core of all religion is based on reverence for life. It’s based on respecting the unknown, honoring life in each encounter, moment by moment, person by person. It’s not an idealistic practice, but an immediate one requiring respect, openness, and the willingness to dialogue beyond one’s fixed belief system. In the quest for reverence to life, it’s continually examining who/what gets harmed.

So let’s drop the heavy semantic reactivity to prayer and pro-life and see what happens when we have faith to approach life with the open mind. This is the mind that lets go the ‘I know that’ position in willingness and ability to go deeper. Let’s not call this religion. Let’s call it the foundation of effective communication, a pre-requisite to dialogue. It’s a skill that I believe should be central to the educational process. First, we train to settle the discursive mind. We can simply hold stillness with a focus on the breath. The feeling of well being is fed when we practice gratefulness (great fullness). This skill may be spiritual, but it’s not to be confused with religion. Basically, with each breath in we experience opportunity. The opportunity is to participate. It’s essentially the confirmation of our freedom to say ‘yes’ to our belonging. With each breath out we can experience gratitude for this gift of opportunity. It settles the restless mind, balances us to better receive what’s coming up, and leads us to more skilled action in whatever we do. So let’s not call this prayer, meditation, or any other word affiliated with religion. Let’s honor our freedoms and simply refer to it as ‘awareness training’. It’s something I think could be central to the educational curriculum as we face a world demanding more and more skill in effective communication. Finally, joy is the necessary consequence of gratitude, and aren’t peace and joy what we all want for our children, our community, state, nation, global community and planet?

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