These are issues I’ve discussed before, but someone felt close a breakthrough and they wanted clarity around this question, particularly as it related to pride, loyalty and embarrassment.
We all share a central truth around how our realities are created. But one of the biggest hurdles in explaining that truth to people is that they must first dismiss egocentric ideas they have about what a ‘good’ or ‘enlightened’ life truly is.
If we stop to think about it, it simply cannot be true that an enlightened life means that we experience all joy and no suffering. Every celebrity has haters. Even the Dalai Lama is despised by many, lives in exile, and he also suffers with a temper and dietary issues.
The Buddha was quite clear: to end suffering we must accept suffering. Jesus version was we have all been forgiven. Our sins are not wiped away or avoided in the future. They are forgiven. All religions and spiritual philosophies have some form of this message of acceptance.
It’s good we are forgiven, or innocent, or however we want to see it. Because ‘trying to be a good person’ can pave some roads to Hell with righteous good intentions. Meanwhile, being an authentic person means that people tend to be quite naturally good.
Once we surrender our suffering-resistant thoughts and take that suffering in stride, we suddenly realize that we need to change less about our lives, and we simply need to learn to let our consciousness evolve and flow more; toward any future that enthuses us.
If we do that, and if we’re paying any attention, we start to notice that in life, we take about seven steps forward for every two we go back. Over time our wisdom grows.
The enlightened person simply takes a less egocentric view of history, and they remember that they are still engaged in the act of progress,even during the periods where they are temporarily going backwards (i.e. ‘suffering’).
This effect applies in the larger sense, to society overall, as well. Those two steps backward that set up the five forward tend to be noisy and uncomfortable.
Of course, in most circumstances a clear-headed person will still feel the same emotional ego-states that anyone else would. They’ll even be felt more freely and deeply. But other than for brief periods, there will always be an awareness that each experience has been filtered through our psychology.
That allows us to let more of those mental struggles go. We know they’re all meaningless conjecture and speculation.
A healthy view isn’t some perfect mind that misses nothing. That is some form of unimaginable ‘God Awareness.’ A humble and honest human will accept that the Dunning-Kruger effect is real, and that at any time we could unwittingly be operating under it.
And the same goes for Cognitive Dissonance, Confirmation Bias etc. etc. Each of these are tricks that our brains can play on us. If we’re honest about that, we’ll know to remain humble. Ironically, that’s what allows us to be confident in our opinions.
If our views are seen by us as merely the best ones we have at the current moment, then we are always open to pivoting to a better answer. Then, if someone asks us if we’ve changed our view, or if we now disagree with our previous view, we can confidently say “yes.”
Our confidence doesn’t come from some impossible certainty about our answer, but from our faith in our humble process for approaching the world. Otherwise our approval-seeking ego can avoid certain choices that might conflict with our desire to remain acceptable to some valued tribe.
In short, we can only be truly confident if we’re prepared to accept when we’re wrong. By enduring that emotional suffering, while remaining aware of its source, we remain free to shift our views. And over time, it is that freedom that becomes our greatest strength.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.