There is no doubt we are living in extreme times, but before I go there, let me offer context.
As I consider the topic “Reflection” for this edition of Garden Spices Magazine, I go to the dictionary. So many times I have pasted meaning upon words, thoughts, emotions, circumstances, sensations, experiences and other conditions that simply are not true. In other words, meaning has been allocated to words through my own points of view that may at times bear little, if any, resonance with the word’s true meaning. If this is true for me, then it must be true for others. So basically what we end up with is seven billion people walking around the planet using words in common conversation, describing and opining on this, that and the other, each applying their own meaning and concluding that others are in either in agreement or in disagreement with that meaning. Which is why I am starting this essay with a dictionary definition of “reflection.”
As with most words, there are a variety of definitions which depend upon form and use, but the one I will explore here is the first one Google offered: reflection is “the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.”
“…without absorbing it.” Without attributing an independent nature to what is being thrown back and then taking it on as a self-referential impetus. In other words, not seeing the opinions or behaviors of others as cue for the expression of a responsive point of view. You might even interpret that as meaning “without taking what is being thrown back personally.” Taking things personally. Notice what arises as you read that last sentence – just notice.
A conventional way of going about things is to see or hear something and immediately respond with the expression of a point of view, be it in the form of a verbal or physical reaction. This tit-for-tat lifestyle of reactivity is the way the majority of the planet functions, and it only takes a moment of reflection to see how things are turning out. As we continue to see an exponential increase of mental dysfunction and extreme behaviors at all levels of social influence, it becomes obviously imperative to arrive, for oneself, at a point of reflection where one is able to see with absolute clarity whether such methodology is working. Here follows an example of what this might look like.
Someone expresses an extreme point of view. Another feels reactively compelled to respond, to educate the other on the error of their ways. The first becomes defensive and attacks. The second defends against the attack, and new points of view are formed, each about the other. Soon, communities are formed around these points of view, each one elaborating further and further on the rightness and wrongness of the other’s theme. As this dysfunction continues, communities turn into organizations and nations, and the Us-Versus-Them conceptual framework solidifies – if we can get “them” to convert to our way of thinking, then we can be happy/they can be acceptable/we can be at peace. This dysfunctional interaction ensues in either a gross or subtle way, and depending upon the level of one’s self-awareness, can either escalate and devolve rapidly, or over the course of generations.
Look to your own experience to see that this is true. Look to our collective experience to see that this is true. Reflect.
There is a choice in the use of the mind: to reflect, allowing “the throwing back of… without absorbing it,” or to continue to attribute self-referential meaning to every point of view that is heard, seen or felt, and then chasing after it in endless elaboration, asserting and defending points and counterpoints of view.
I mentioned earlier, as we continue to see an exponential increase of the display of mental dysfunction and extreme behaviors at all levels of society, it becomes imperative to arrive at a point of self-reflection where one is able to see with absolute certainty whether their methods are bringing about an easeful mind and life.
In a moment-by-moment resting of the mind, no matter what thoughts, words, sights, sounds, emotions or experiences are arising, reflection offers the opportunity to:
- Observe what is presenting without elaboration or response.
- Observe the tendency to assert and insert a point of view.
- Consider from whence your point of view arises; in other words, where does it come from, how was it formed?
- Consider where a point of view goes; in other words, experiment with it – watch it arise, remain, and resolve without needing to do anything about it – without needing to articulate it, avoid it, replace it, deny it, and so forth.
- Observe the choice that is present. Notice that there is a choice.
- Consider a choice’s influence upon your own mental clarity and emotional stability.
- Consider the results of previous similar choices.
- Consider how choice can either open the door to endless reactive elaboration, or lead to clarity of mind that may offer a more comprehensive intelligence than that which is available exclusively in one’s experiential point of view.
- Intuitively feel into the potential of using the mind differently.
There is no doubt we are living in extreme times. As a human society we are arriving at the crux of continuity: the denouement of which will be the determination of whether we survive as a species, or self-destruct. In a moment of reflection we can come to know that where we are at this moment is due to our conventional way of engaging. In a moment of reflection – and in a very clear, logical, unobstructed and non-emotional way – we can see that if we ourselves do not change this way of engaging we will continue to experience the same results. It has been said that doing the same thing repeatedly, and expecting different results each time, can be a definition for insanity. Well, there you go.
Reflection: “the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.” If we begin to understand this – to really instinctively understand this, we empower others and ourselves. In the immediacy of an emotionally charged or afflictive point of view (as well as an emotionally pleasing or positive state of mind) we can rest, without elaboration; we can rest, without assertion or defense; we can rest, without chasing hope or avoiding fear; we can rest, as our fundamental nature of awareness; we can rest. And in so resting, reflection becomes instantaneous and self-resolving; reflection becomes both the action and reaction; reflection becomes both result and resolution.
Reflection without absorption has the potential to usher in a lifestyle of mental clarity, emotional stability, and beneficial intent that will serve humanity’s intelligence upgrade. There is a choice in the use of the mind. Choose wisely.
Parrot-loving student of existential phenomenology and its psychological implications upon the human experience.
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