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The Difference Between ‘Thinking’ You’re Right and ‘Being’ Right

Published on 28/07/16
by randy

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When we attach to a thought we can grow it, elaborate on it, feed it and put ourselves in a position to defend it. We call this a ‘belief’. These thoughts are shaped by where, when and who we’re born with. As a child born on a small Minnesota dairy farm, my life was quite homogenous. The only cultural diversity we had was Mexican migrant workers and some neighbors who switched to Czech speak when they could hear my mother listening in on the nine party telephone line. I was taught to believe that red tractors were better than green tractors, Norwegian Synod Lutherans had a lock on heaven, the Russians wanted to kill us, and if you work hard enough you can get the American Dream. Today I can see how my attachments to these thoughts as a child continue to cause me suffering. Years of life experience, education and travel have taught me a huge lesson, to hold an open mind. I’ve come to see that some green tractors are better than red tractors, racial diversity is way more fun than just hanging with white people, the study of comparative religions has deepened my spiritual inquiry and the American Dream isn’t about excess, stuff and greed.

When I ‘think’ I’m right and you’re wrong there’s usually a rise in anger. The attempt to push another to my way of thinking has never gone well for me. Yet, we do influence one another in very powerful ways by the way we act in response to the way we think. I’ve found it helpful to put focus on what ‘feels’ right as opposed to locking into fixated thoughts. It seems that when I close my mind to new thought learning stops. For me, real spiritual inquiry by definition demands an open mind in full respect to the vast mystery of the unknown. When I can bow in awe to all that ‘is’, in respect to this very gift of being, I can humbly meet uncertainty with a sense of grounding that needs no cognitive defense. I can allow you to ‘think’ what you want while at the same time standing tall in the real center of my being. This is what’s been called holding ‘uprightness’. There’s a centering and alignment. It’s beyond defense, persuasion, anger, greed and division. It’s what many find in the midst of great suffering, that ability to get back up when knocked down. It’s the hope that’s found the morning after, when all hope had seemed to be lost the night before. In nature, it’s what’s called harmony. The dissonance of argument is gone and we come together in honor and respect to our shared suffering.

So today I still suffer from the thoughts deeply engrained as a child. Thoughts of superiority and inferiority plague me throughout the day. Smashing the remnants of my childhood bigotry is a continual practice. Embracing diversity and change is respect to the truth of impermanence. It requires a deep vow to upright living in the face of the unknown. It recognizes that no one is immune to suffering, that we’re here to help one another suffer less, diversity and change are, and the real American Dream is the opportunity to participate in reducing suffering within our family, community, state, nation and planet.

At the risk of sounding ‘right’, I have to say that the words and tone of the Democratic Convention align with my ‘feeling’ of uprightness. Many of the speakers spoke to a deep gratitude for the opportunities we have in this country, for the desires to engage our democratic government with an open mind rather than from a fixed notion of ‘thinking’ one is right. As we move through this campaign, I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to get angry with people I love and care for. I just hope we can all sit with an empty, open mind and ‘feel’ the heart’s desire to ease one another’s suffering. However, I do promise to listen to you with an open mind provided you can commit to listen to me for the same amount of time with an open mind. It requires a brief suspension of thoughts of rightness. It opens us to a bigger possibility when we can each ‘feel’ our center, touching uprightness over belief. This is the America I relish as I bow in gratitude to a lifetime of blessed experience in this great country of ours. I love the phrase, “Let’s make America grateful again”.

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