Make up any two unrelated words and put them together. Then see that you can make sense out of them. If you want to, make up a title or concept. Think of a few terms that are involved in the subject. Don’t be concerned about making a coherent phrase or sentence out of them. Then put them together. It will make sense in some abstract and probably interesting way. The mind even enjoys connecting such things together.
Michael Mamas Blog
I hope the previous blog, “Mindsets vs Belief Systems,” offers a sense of the all-pervading depth and breadth of the concept of ‘mindset.’ Through the years, we continue to explore the nature of life from more and more different angles. The foundational understanding was given in the very first weekend class I ever offered. It can even be summarized in a single sentence. However, there is no end to the exploration. Indeed, life is not so much about learning new facts, as it is about gaining an ever-deepening understanding of the facts we already know. The concept of ‘mindset’ is a powerful example, pointing in the direction of that principle.
Everything can be condensed down to a buzzword or a quote. Yet in doing so, the deeper meaning is lost. That we have referred to as the “I-get-it Syndrome.” As we continue to explore anything from additional angles of view, wisdom grows. True Knowledge dwells not in facts, but deep within our souls. There we under-stand everything. There, with humility, we stand under everything and over-stand nothing. Nothing is fully graspable. The essence of everything expands to infinity… to Oneness… to the transcendental Ishwara.
I have been teaching, on average, eight long-weekend classes plus retreats, and giving multiple lectures every year, for twenty-five years now. I do not plan my classes or lectures with any detail. I prefer to get a feeling for the group and go from there. I do, however, have thoughts on my mind the few days or morning before the lecture, and start with that. Because Knowledge with a capital ‘K’ permeates all aspects of life and existence, any topic will open the door, connect with, and shed light on universal (transcendental) Knowledge. Perhaps illustrating that by talking about whatever comes up demonstrates that truth more convincingly than a canned or preplanned lecture.
Though I have employed that principle for over two decades now, this last class illustrated the principle even more fully. As I write this, I am flying home to Asheville from San Francisco, and sharing my reflections on the recent long weekend. I walked into the classroom the first day, Friday, as a blank slate. None of my thoughts that morning felt right to start with, whereas usually I have so many things to share that I do not know where to even begin.
We usually save ‘personal process day’ for Sunday. But Friday morning, I sat down in the classroom and before class even began, I asked a woman in the group how she was doing. What ensued determined the topic of the entire three-day weekend. I would like now to share some aspects of the weekend that I feel are most valuable.
Firstly, language and definitions are flexible. The meaning of words change over time. We are free, then, to use words. Otherwise, they use us—they force us to speak and think within the bounds of tiny definitions that limit and narrow our awareness and stifle our creativity. After all, who has the right to evolve the meaning of words? There is no overlord with such authority. Yet, meanings do change. When need be, we must have the boldness and confidence to mold and contour words to fit our insights and progressive understandings. We are free to do so. We must do so. Otherwise, life itself stagnates.
As the woman explained what was going on in her life, she opened the door to an arena we have not spoken of. Perhaps it is an arena others have discussed and defined with a word—perhaps not. So, in the moment, I defined the term “mindset” to generalize her experience into something universally applicable and not only valuable, but tremendously important and profoundly healing.
A mindset is a mode of function of the physiology of the brain. It is the ‘infrastructure’ or circuitry of the manner in which all life experiences are processed intellectually, as well as emotionally. A mindset determines not just what a person thinks or feels, but more importantly, how one thinks and feels. It is deeply foundational to everything one thinks, feels, and experiences. Every mindset has multiple facets—some positive, some negative. Anger, kindness, self-doubt, reflectiveness, etc. can all be facets of a mindset. Mindset goes far beyond attitude, temperament, belief systems, mood, or personality. It defines the very mode of function, the vessel, that holds all of those things and more. In the past, we have spoken of how the color of the glasses one is wearing determines what is seen and experienced: rose-colored glasses, grey-colored, etc. That points in the direction of mindset, but mindset is far more complex and multifaceted. It reaches deeply into the hidden channels of the heart and mind.
The churning waves of the ocean of life are indeed tempestuous. The conflict of opposing opinions is the warp and woof of worldly life. It plays out not only in the marketplace, not only in governmental affairs, but also as the inner heart and mind dynamic of the individual.
Who among us lives strong in such a world? What does it even mean to be strong? Does strength mean clinging to a perspective as truth and ramrodding through life in allegiance to that perspective? Is truth made of clay that is molded and contorted to support a perspective? Are the strong among us nothing more than the most vocal perpetrators of perspective? Do the strong turn their back and move on when challenges arise or perspective is blurred? When they make a mistake? When the going gets tough? When they become upset or confused? Do the strong erase and start over when the inevitable churning tides of life overwhelm them? Do the strong fight for their perspective disregarding all else? Where is strength to be found?
From time to time, we have all been wounded in life. The sun does not shine every day. When wounded, we are not at our best. Or are we? At those times, what does “being our best” even look like? At those times, what does “strength” even look like? Surely, it cannot be conformity to some superficial Hollywood notion of strength. Yet, is such conformity what we strive for at those times? Do we live in service to such idealized preconceived perspectives of life? Can we learn, or does our notion of strength preclude learning? Only the strong can truly sit with their weakness.
While the street mentality might believe that strength is unswerving allegiance to perspective, doesn’t strength include the ability to overcome current perspective? To acknowledge mistakes? To not walk away, but rather clean up the damage one perpetrated?
Whatever one’s perspective, these words can be used or abused. They can fuel one’s adherence to a current perspective, or they can facilitate one’s ability to evolve one’s relationship with situations, large and small. For strength is not concrete. Strength is fluid—open, dynamic, and movable. Strength can be yielding, transformed, powerful, noncommittal, or even ambivalent. Ultimately, strength is wisdom. Strength does not judge, yet can act decisively. Strength is not rickety, yet can rest with not knowing. Strength is righteous, but not self-righteous. Strength is not meek, but is humble. Strength resigns not to the unknown, but salutes it.
Find strength not in the surface of worldly convictions. Find strength in the ungraspable depth of the soul.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde
Seems everybody is looking for the bottom line or decides they have already found it. This applies to everything from the deepest most profound issues, like the purpose of life, to the most mundane like, “What should we have for dinner?”
This is the world of opinion. Opinions are just perspectives. Even the ‘laws’ of physics are not really true. Newton’s laws are ultimately just approximations. That is what special relativity is all about! Even mathematics is just an approximation. One plus one equals two? Show me a perfect ‘one’ of anything. Plato got that right a long time ago with the notion of Plato’s Theory of Forms.
But let’s take it down to the grassroots, real world, daily life, practical level. Who has the real story on anything? We are all juggling between this and that: Pragmatic vs. idealistic, what you saw vs. what they saw, half empty vs. half full, the endless paradoxes of this vs. that. There is no end to it.
Wisdom just isn’t black and white. Yet, we are all faced with ‘this or that’ decisions from moment to moment. For every decision you make, there is someone out there who would judge it as wrong. Chances are, given enough time, you too will end up judging yourself.
Wisdom is really a fascinating thing. What is it really? What is its basis? Where does it come from? What perspective does it hold? Does it ever have a solid conviction about anything? Or are the ‘wise’ just a wishy-washy benign and nebulous cloud of ‘not knowing’ anything for absolute certain?
If we insist upon the notion of ‘Truth,’ then we must understand that Truth is not concrete. Why? Because Truth transcends perspective. Truth transcends relativity. “Truth,” by its very definition, is Absolute. It is an abstraction. It is not of this material world. It is unbounded by opinion or perspective.
Yet we live in a world that is relative. So, even the wise must act in a relative world, even though they see beyond it… even though they know better! Oscar Wilde said that truth is rarely pure. He got that right. Truth is only pure (Absolute) when it is not relative, not of this world. The wise live that. It is not just a notion for them. It is a living reality. Yet, even for them, life is an ongoing sequence of one decision after another. Often those decisions come with great conviction and commitment. But more often, they come with the understanding of multiple perspectives. They do not over-stand life. They under-stand life. Humility is built right into the word ‘understanding’.
Now, it is easy enough to comprehend this notion of Truth and wisdom. But to understand it is quite another thing. To understand it is to live it. To live it is to understand it. To live it is far more than to just comprehend it as a concept. And to live it? That is not so easy to do. In fact, it cannot be simply comprehended and then done. If it could, we would all have been enlightened many years ago. Living Truth, while living in this world of relativity, is a state of being. It is a state of physiology. It is a state that is not understood by those who are of this relative world. In fact, those who are of this world judge Truth as just another relative perspective. To live Truth is to “be in this world but not of it”. Truth lies beyond this world. Find Truth within the depth of your being. Over time, integrate the polar opposites of the Absolute and the relative. To do so is to see beyond the horizon. To do so is to become wise.