Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Becoming transparent and unlearning the 'unmagical' words

Becoming transparent

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle teaches techniques to help drop negativity.
Let's say you are sitting quietly at home. Suddenly there is the piercing sound of a car alarm from across the street. Irritation arises. What is the purpose of the irritation? None whatsoever. Why did you create it? You didn't. The mind did. It was totally automatic, totally unconscious. Why did the mind create it? Because it holds the unconscious belief that its resistance, which you experience as negativity or unhappiness in some form, will somehow dissolve the undesireable condition. This, of course, is a delusion. The resistance that it creates, the irritation or anger in this case, is far more disturbing than the original cause that it is attempting to dissolve.

All this can be transformed into a spiritual practice. Feel yourself becoming transparent, as it were, without the solidity of a material body. Now allow the noise, or whatever causes a negative reaction, to pass right through you. It is no long hitting a solid 'wall' inside you. Practise with little things first. The car alarm, the dog barking, children screaming, traffic jams. Instead of having a wall of resistance inside you that gets constantly and painfully hit by things that 'should not be happening', let everything pass through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness. In this way, you become invulnerable.

This is a wonderful lesson, and one I have been trying to apply in various situations. Now I am taking on board the visualisation of becoming transparent. I can imagine myself going invisible, and the irritation passing through me, like a special effect from the X-Men! I have started doing this with teeny tiny irritations, so that I can work up to the big stuff.

The 'unmagical word'

On the website Zen Habits, I ran across an article called 'Are These Three Words Ruining Your Life'? It had a big impact on me. What are the 'unmagical words' that could be ruining your life?

'I don't know.'

Those are the words. 'I don't know.'

For myself, I must say those 3 words a hundred times a day. Ask me anything and my first response is going to be, 'I don't know.' Even if I do know, and 15 seconds later I pop out with the answer, my default response is almost invariably, 'I don't know.' I certainly say it a lot on this blog!

I don't know why I say 'I don't know' so often. Maybe it's because I doubt myself to the point that I think I could not possibly know the answer, so it's the first thing that comes out. Maybe it's because I've convinced myself that a declaration of ignorance means people don't bother me so much with questions. (Not true!) Maybe it's because I can't be asked to make a decision and saying 'I don't know' gets me off the hook.

Even if you don't know, it's still important to move in the direction of knowing. If you don't have an opinion, it's still important to remember that the person you're engaging with deserves your participation in life. Saying 'I don't know' is just an opt-out. Stop opting out of your life!

The example Zen Habits uses is when your partner asks you what you want for dinner. 'I don't know' can mean , 'It doesn't matter to me, whatever you make is fine', but it also means that you're dumping a decision on the other person, someone who would like some input from you. What a surprise it would be to me if for once my husband would say, 'You know what, I would like you to make some spaghetti and veggie mince' instead of 'I don't know.' And I'm sure he would love it if when he asks what I'd like to do on the weekend, I said, 'Let's go for a drive and see what we can find down a little country road' instead of 'I don't know.' I get frustrated always making the decision about dinner, and I bet he gets frustrated sitting at home on the weekends. 'I don't know' is the lazy way, which leads to us doing nothing and getting into a big fat rut. Instead of defaulting to 'I don't know', Zen Habits suggests you take a second and think of something, even it's something you're 'not 100% stoked about' and say that instead, because anything is an improvement over 'I don't know.'

'I don't know' really means 'I don't care'.

If you do care, stop saying 'I don't know.' And if you don't care, maybe you should start caring, for the sake of those around you as well as to make your own life a happier experience.

So...from now on, I'm a transparent X-Man who never says, 'I don't know' lightly. Look out, Jean Grey!


SnowEnvi said...

very good points
thank you for sharing

Dazed said...

I'm afraid you've got this horribly wrong.

"I don't know" is the mind state you are to attempt to maintain when you pursue zen.

Maybe you shouldn't get your eastern mysticism from a douchey European blogger?

Dazed said...

I suggest you read this

Just so you don't feel like I'm arbitrarily trolling you.

I know what I'm talking about.

Carla said...

Dazed, I wasn't really looking for correction, but I see you've chosen to offer it. I understand about the Zen mind, and that particular meaning of 'I don't know' is not the one I am referring to. I was not referencing 'eastern mysticism' in my thoughts about 'I don't know,' but rather the habit of just saying that out of laziness.

In any case, I believe telling someone they're 'horribly wrong' a very un-Zen thing to do. It must be such a comfort to you that you 'know what you're talking about.' Actually, I know what I'm talking about as well; it pertains to me and in no way am I trying to teach anyone anything, zen or otherwise.

I read the link you sent me and am familiar with these concepts. I know what I don't know. I know what I can't fathom. I know there are things that are unknowable and that would be unskillful to pursue, like where we come from and where we go when we die.

I also know that I live in this world with other people, and, as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, the most important person in the world is the person standing right in front of me. And when that person needs me, it is unskillful of me to be lazy and say 'I don't know' when I'm asked a question or my input is sought. It's my job to find out, to be of help. It's a way of 'radiating kindness over the entire world, spreading upward to the skies and downward to the depths, outward and unbounded, freed from hatred and ill will,' as the Metta Sutra teaches.

No animosity, no hard feelings, only brotherhood between us. A lotus to you.

Louann said...

I live with someone who is elderly and she constantly asks me questions that she either knows the answer to, or knows that I DONT know the answer to. I am constantly saying "I don't know" because I refuse to do her thinking for. I really DONT care to do that, so even if I know the answer I say "I don't know", like if we are watching TV and she didn't hear something. I'm not gonna be used as a hearing aid, either. So, sometimes it's a good thing. I guess that is my point. But, otherwise I agree with you.
Dazed, you are rude. Some mysticicism you got!! Oh, and she KNOWS what she's talking about. What a crock!
I like your response.

Louann said...

Reading your response to Dazed, I am wondering, do you think we should be helpful to others even when they are "using" us? Isn't it better to teach people to think for themselves? What about people who want to borrow money constantly, and then start demanding money from you? You have to draw the line, sometimes. Sometimes helping others means you have to say no. Teach them how to catch thier own fish. Well, maybe I just answered my own question. Very interesting topic tho.

Carla said...

Louann, moderation in all things--it's the 'middle way.' People have a tendency to hear something and try to make a hard and fast rule out of it. Of course you should stand up for yourself, use your judgement, not allow yourself to be taken advantage of, and so on. But just as you shouldn't always be on the defensive like that, you also shouldn't always instantly say no, which is what I think 'I don't know' in this instance means. It's just about being softer, more compassionate, which for me is something I need to do more of. For people who find they give too much, they might need to steer the other way to find the 'middle way.'

Thanks for your comments. :)