Discernment in a world gone mad.
The world is turning and churning with divisiveness these days – and yet it always has been. But these times are especially fascinating. There is a vast chasm forming in our collective, and individual minds, while we constantly get hit with a barrage of information, misinformation, propaganda, marketing ploys, social feeds and sensationalized news. It seems to keep us flitting about like candle flames in a breezy room. Eons ago, prior to Instagram, TikTok, 0’s & 1’s and the surge of information available at the swipe of a finger, yogis of old knew of this dilemma and understood the detrimental effect it had on the mind. These sages and seers emphasized the importance of viveka, or discernment & discrimination.
How does one stay steady and discerning amidst such sensory overload? Here's a clue from Yoga Sutra 2.26: (viveka khyati aviplava hana upayah) Translated loosely into English it would be something like this: the means of being free (yay!) is unwavering discriminative discernment. Discriminative knowledge is the constant inquiry (curiosity) into what is real vs. unreal, between the real Self and the non-self, between permanence and impermanence, what is Truth and what is untruth. And my oh my, we are in quite an interesting state of this conversation right now.
Unfortunately though it feels like the art of ‘conversation’ has been thrown out the window and the blooms of curiosity have withered. Now it’s simply each person staking their flag into one side, looking for comrades to help them hold up that particular flagpole of beliefs and all the while busily trying to chop down someone else’s. We have moved beyond curiosity and are simply calcifying our own decisions: vaxed, unvaxed, Republican, Democrat. It’s all the same. It’s ALL the same! Pick a side, believe the rhetoric, fall in line with it, defend it wildly and then ardently try to dissolve or dissuade anything in opposition that threatens the you that you ‘THINK’ you are. This is as far from Yoga as possible.
Lack of curiosity is a taproot of suffering. Without this constant inquisition into what is real (and I mean REAL), we simply label things, formulate rigid belief systems and limit possibility. We don’t actually ask questions about why someone makes a particular choice vs. another. We hold our own experience as the only reality and then dig our fingernails into it with such angst that letting go feels like death! We lose the open field of awareness that sustains aliveness and lets us see it all as new, ever changing and harmonious in the bigger picture.
When we become too solid and affirmed in our positionality, then we can no longer see one another. I keep hearing of rifts happening inside families, friend groups, colleagues and beyond. It’s heartbreaking to see belief systems get built up upon fear that then tears people apart. When there is no longer a willingness to be curious about someone else, ask honest questions and empathize – even if we don’t necessarily agree – then there can be no way to get to the heart and truth of any of this. And without truth, clarity and discernment, we’re all just stumbling about aimlessly, pointing fingers, shouting from soap boxes and desperately trying to defend and make ourselves feel right. But feeling right is an inside job that won’t come from one group’s affirmation on this side, or that side. That’s just a temporary distraction from the bigger Truth.
And the only Truth I know is that we are all impermanent and that I am in control of NOTHING. Oops, there, I said it. This body and this life last only a short while. (Yay again!) It makes sense to me to remain as curious as possible, to keep my mind open and supple, to keep my friends, family and community close and to learn to listen better to those I may not yet understand (especially before I respond). Capital ‘T’ Truth is not elusive. It transcends viruses, politics, hatred, ignorance, self-righteousness and fear. This Truth preceded all of humanity before we started thinking we were running the show and will be here long after we go. This Truth knows no difference between you or I, it IS you and I! Let us not forget where we come from and where we all return to.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from ‘Awareness,’ an incredible read from Anthony De Mello.
The most difficult thing in the world is to listen, to see. We don’t want to see. Do you think a *capitalist wants to see what is good in the *communist system? Do you think a communist wants to see what is good and healthy in the capitalist system? *[Insert vaxed/unvaxed, GOP/Liberal] Do you think a rich man wants to look at poor people? We don’t want to look, because if we do, we may change. We don’t want to look. If you look, you lose control of the life that you are so precariously holding together. And so in order to wake up, the one thing you need the most is not energy, or strength, or youthfulness, or even great intelligence. The one thing you need most of all is the readiness to learn something new.
Stay curious and cultivate discriminative discernment through your daily sadhana. Sharpen your mind, soften your tongue, open your ears and be kind. That is all. The rest is in someone else’s hands. Thank goodness, thank Goddess!
May we all know the Big Love. Om bolo shri satguru bhagavan ki jai!