The Reflection

“No fight: No blame.”
     –Tao Te Ching c. 600BC

How We Know Others

Eastern philosophies have, for thousands of years, presented a view of the individual and the universe which has, over the past century begun to appear again in the vision of the newer ideas of physics—those which have post-dated the apple-falls-from-a-tree physics of Newton. There is no “matter” in the sense of hard and fast physical “stuff” that makes up a material world of bodies and buildings and trees and planets. There is energy—more loosely packed or more densely packed. We represent consciousness, an awareness of what we sense around us and how it is organized and what it means.

In short, we do not perceive the universe as it is; it is as we perceive it. Two people experiencing the same family or living in the same neighborhood or nation, or walking in the same woods can have completely different views of them. That’s not because these “external” phenomena are different, but because the individuals’ expectations and modes of sensing, feeling and remembering are different.

How We Know the Universe

Most of us live our lives in relation to how we experience and feel the “world around us”: it is a dangerous place, a bountiful place, filled with untrustworthy others or people we generally find to be positive and caring. Most western cultures present a dualistic world: liberal vs. conservative, black vs. white, good vs. evil, constant conflict between what we want and what we can have. That’s the view our art and entertainment, our news and education present to us every hour of every day. But few of us recognize that those judgments are not built into the things outside us that we perceive—they are built into us. One man’s terrorist is another man’s patriotic hero.

This judgmental view of the universe is described in eastern philosophies using the “opposites” Yin and Yang. But the symbol for Yin/Yang is the Tai Chi—the circle made up of two opposite-colored commas nested within each other making up a single continuous whole. That is another view, in which all of us and all around us is part of a single integrated whole in which “good” can only be defined against “evil”, where human and animal and environment are not separate but rather elements of a unified whole.

How Others Know Us

Every person we meet projects himself onto the “world”. It doesn’t take long after meeting someone to recognize that he or she is essentially fearful, confident, angry or accepting. We know the difference between those who are primarily aware of themselves or cognizant of the needs and feelings of others. In many cases we may be attracted to—or repelled by—that person. That response is often related to how we feel when we are with that person—how the universe he or she “creates” matches with our own.

The less “self-centered” we are—the less we project ourselves onto the universe we perceive—the less dissatisfied we are likely to be. If you experience the people around you and the “things that happen” to you in comparison to what you want, what you expect, what you like or don’t like, it is very likely that you will be dissatisfied at least some of the time—perhaps often.

If we are able to experience without judging and categorizing, being aware of what’s in front of us without comparing against what we wanted, it changes how we feel about living and how others feel about us. It is a distinction between self-centered and self-aware.

Selfishness and the Center

It seems counter-intuitive, but the less we live in our center, the more self-centered we are. People who are self-centered have enemies, they have been hurt by others, they have strong opinions, they must “forgive” others. Everything that happens is seen in very personal terms: how it affects me.

Many project futures that might happen to them, expecting disappointment or worse, and burn brain energy worrying and planning. Occasionally they admit that their worrying did not change the outcome at all—that the things we most worry about are things we can’t control. But they continue to push a heavy load of negative predictions in front of them.

Others experience limited energy but refuse to recognize the cost of dragging a load of past losses and disappointments behind.

People who are able to live as much as possible aware of how they relate to what they find, rather than how it relates to them, don’t experience being offended, injured, lucky or unlucky, because they don’t compare what happens with what “should have” happened. There is no need to be anxious, nothing to drag them into depression.

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