I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of truth, about my truth and about reality, the nature of things. As someone who studies Buddhist philosophy and practices meditation and mindfulness, I think about it a lot. I ask myself “is this true?” or “is this solid?” In my Fearlessness in Everyday Life class, we were asked a few weeks ago to contemplate if there was anything solid, anything that didn’t change. This made me think even more intently and directly about what might be real, genuine, certain, unchangeable, dependable, absolute.
There are only two things I could think of: basic goodness (inherent wisdom and compassion, the fundamental nature of sentient beings, I might also call this love), also referred to as buddha nature (the seed of mindfulness and enlightenment in every person, representing our potential to become fully awake), and change or impermanence.
And it doesn’t end there, this contemplation of truth. A loving, confident, strong, whip smart woman suggested that I challenge the stories I tell myself, the myths and even the lies, about me and my life. Thoughts and emotions arise, judgements and beliefs, and I ask myself “is this true?”
I made a list with my friend Joyce on Facebook about the nature of truth:
Knowing what is true for yourself: confidence.
Believing that it must also be true for everyone else: ego.
Trying to force others to accept our truth: aggression.
Being able to let go of old truths that no longer serve us: freedom
Accepting that others may not understand or agree with our truth: serenity.
Standing by our truth in the face of adversity: strength.
Truth sometimes seems clear, tangible, solid, and and other times it is complicated, utterly confusing, like a dream we only half remember, and certainly can’t understand. And yet, I am going to try to say three things that are true about truth, (it’s like a riddle, isn’t it?).
1. Truth: Most of what we think of as truth is relative and subjective. Other than a few essentials, most of the time what might be true in one moment is only that, temporary, and only true because of how you relate to it, viewed as it is through your current perception. Even with all the good, dependable information out there–websites, blogs, newsletters, classes, workshops, experts, teachers, plans, techniques, strategies, practices, methods, and programs, most of it easily accessible and some of it even free–it’s all ultimately relative and subjective. Because of this, we have to develop discernment, critical thinking. And we must reject fundamentalism. Truth is fluid, and having fixed ideas in a world where change and impermanence are the fundamental reality is a risky strategy.
Most of what we think of as truth is relative and subjective? This is good news. It means it’s okay to let go, relax.
2. Truth: Since truth is never an absolute, we must learn to trust ourselves, and allow our truths to be organic. We must have faith in our intuition, our own naturally arising wisdom. This can be difficult if you were taught to not trust your own instincts, or if you’ve been denying them for a really long time. But, we must be willing to let go of beliefs that no longer serve us, not get attached, and also not reject new ideas or possibilities. We are always changing, and what’s true for us will change too. Remain open. Only don’t know.
Since truth is never an absolute, we must learn to trust ourselves, and allow our truths to be organic. This is good news. It means it’s okay to let go, relax.
3. Truth: You must take responsibility for your own truth. Only you can know it. Trying to adopt someone else’s truth is a cheat that won’t work. Looking to others for a fix, an answer, permission, a program or strategy to apply to your life can be helpful, but in the end, it is up to you. Your true north isn’t “out there,” and finding it will be more like remembering. Rest when you need to, contemplate when you must, trust your intelligence, your understanding, your instincts, and the closer you get, the clearer your view will be. It might make you laugh with surprise, but there will also be a deep knowing, recognition. Attention is essential, mindfulness is key to the discovery, as are relaxation and gentleness.
You must take responsibility for your own truth? Yes, dear reader, even this is good news. It too means it’s okay to let go, relax.
One wish: That you know the supreme confidence of your particular truth, and that you can let go of what no longer serves you. I wish always, no matter what three truths I might share, that you know your innate goodness, wisdom and compassion, that you remember, awaken to the light of your true nature.
It’s okay. Cheer up. You’re perfect.