I have this itch that never seems to be satisfied—and it isn’t sex.
It is fighting and arguing.
Most lawyers have the ability to separate the argument from the cause. By that I mean a lawyer can argue passionately for a position and then turn around and argue just as passionately for the opposite position. When you are arguing with a lawyer, be forewarned that they don’t care who is right, they only love the battle.
Despite protests to the contrary, I find most “spiritual” people have a position and will defend it passionately. Even if means to argue about equanimity or bliss. That is like rolling in dead skunks to get clean.
Any one of us who is interested in spirituality and changing our lives for the better has to detach from the fight and, as Buddha instructed, find the middle way. Some of the most passionate debates (arguments) I have engaged in were about spiritual concepts. How absurd is that? It’s a trap laid by the ego to keep us addicted to the fight within all of us.
Here are some things that we need to realize in order to transcend this trap:
We are so addicted to melodrama.
We convince ourselves that we are victims and we need to tell everyone about it for our mental health. Bullshit! Who did what to whom is a favorite conversation, even in spiritual circles.
Ideally when spiritual people get together we could be silent and just enjoy each other’s energy. We don’t need to talk at all. But where is the perverse fun in that? We thoroughly dissect everything that has happened “to” everyone and then judge it aloud or silently against our own melodrama. It seems to be our human nature.
We end up electing the “least worst” candidate, not the best. No wonder we are so disappointed in administrations. We always elect who we deserve.
The bottom line is we argue for sport and entertainment, not necessity and as in the case of many things, including campaigning, the melodrama serves to distract us from the real issues at hand.
We love to judge everything and everyone in our lives.
Originally we learned to judge for survival: whether to run, fight or relax is one of our most primitive thought patterns.
As we got civilized, we eradicated most of the daily threats so our egos had to invent some more in order to have something to do. So we invented the concepts of “right/wrong”, “good/bad”, “better/less” and “enough/not enough” to make sense of the world around us. But all this business of thought is just a game to keep our ego busy and to validate its existence.
These concepts are illusions—no more real than what everything we perceive. All perception is, in fact, projection which means that we see what we want to see. Being a trial lawyer for 27 years taught me that 10 people can witness the same thing and you will get 10 different stories about what happened.
We rarely say to ourselves, “Wait a minute, I’m an advocate for my own way of thinking and what I am perceiving may not be accurate.”
3. My way or the highway:
We get so enamored with our perceptions that when challenged, we don’t know what to do.
So we run away or fight—this is our primitive nature again and usually comes on in the form of forgetting to breathe. When we are threatened our primitive nature is to hold our breath and our fight/flight reflex kicks in.
We have to have heightened awareness of our bodies in order to prevent this reflex action—especially whether we are getting enough oxygen to our frontal cortex to be able to analyze and respond, rather than react. I had a tough childhood and suffered from PTSD for many years. That was a tough one to crack because every time I heard a loud noise, especially people shouting, I went into panic mode.
I had to learn to focus on my breathing, and in doing so, life became a less threatening experience for me. We can apply the same technique when our point of view is challenged. Just because someone doesn’t agree with us, doesn’t mean we are being threatened.
Remember to breathe.
4. Never try to teach a pig to sing:
By that I mean let’s stop trying so hard to convince everyone that we are right.
Some spiritual teachings would have me sitting in a cave allowing other people to experience their life and stop trying to show them a different path. Many people leave breadcrumbs for others to follow, thinking that their journey’s experiences will help others live a happier, more fulfilled life.
We all are at different levels of consciousness and awareness and I have learnt that some people will understand what I am saying and others will not. That is the reality of what I do. Rather than argue harder, I simply wish those who disagree a pleasant journey.
There is one caveat I would add to “never try to teach a pig to sing,” and that is “until they are ready”.
We are attached to many things, including comfort, pleasure, abundance, beliefs, thoughts and our identity.
The spiritual leaders of all ages say that when we let go of who we think we are, we will find who we truly are.
We not only fight others to defend our attachments, we fight ourselves most of all. It is impossible to find peace and tranquility if we are waging a war inside our heads over who we think we are versus who we think we should be, or whether life is fair or not.
What we have to do is detach from all of the things that makes us suffer, like comfort, pleasure, abundance, beliefs, thoughts and our personality. I realize it sounds counter-intuitive to suggest that we detach from things that make us feel good, but if we expect to feel good all the time we will wind up suffering when we don’t.
The only way out of that nasty jar of home-made sorry-ass jam is to take responsibility for the suffering we cause ourselves.
Those of us who are part of the privileged minority will find that we rarely suffer because of external circumstances—we suffer mainly because of what is happening in our minds.
6. The scoreboard:
Many arguments are carried for decades and are fueled by the past.
I can remember the most frustrating thing about my second marriage was that my wife would bring up stuff that allegedly happened twenty years ago. Who wants to carry that shit around for twenty years?
I would have no idea what she was talking about and we could never seem to wipe the slate clean. More damaging, however, is that we do this to ourselves.
We just can’t seem to let the past go. We are constantly beating ourselves up about stuff that may or may not have happened. Regret eats us alive. We feel sorry for ourselves because of it. We are hurt when people don’t acknowledge us in the way we think they should and we shut down when people trigger us. Then we blame ourselves for stuff we had no control over.
If there is a hell, it is between our ears. No wonder we fight with other people—we are duking it out all of the time in our minds. Besides, ultimately, no one cares if we’re right, except us.
So what do we do with all these unhelpful behaviours which we keep repeating even, sometimes, when we know better?
We have to detach from them—from our beliefs, our thoughts, and our circumstances. When we find ourselves in the middle of a battle, we have to imagine ourselves on a mountain top looking down on the situation. Taking a deep breath, we can focus on what is the kindest thing we can do in the moment.
When we remember that we have a choice to go into battle or not, we can rise above the fighting, bickering, fear and suffering.
The simplest solution of all, detach from all that you associate with “me” and just be kind.
Reprinted from The Elephant Journal