'At the Turning of the Seasons'
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Individuals and groups become delusional partly for illusions are usually well-disguised as true. If this were not so, delusional systems of belief would not be as prevalent as they are. In addition to this, we humans often prefer to believe a lie rather than fact, for the lie seems more convenient. Yet, truth is never about convenience or personal choice. Truth is what is.
So, the Buddhist teaching on Right View is a devotion to seeing as clearly as possible. This noble intent is not always an easy task, for it counters our wish for reality to please us, rather than our being discomforted by acknowledging what is is not what we had wished it to be or were taught as true by significant others. We may consider it a betrayal of those others, if we adopt views other than what they handed on to us in all sincerity. We can honor those who taught us the best they knew while living into new truths, however. We honor our ancestors by continuing the search into truth, even as we hope those after us will do the same, when we are gone. Truth is not a stopping place, it is an endless journey. Truth keeps showing more of itself.
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My cousin, Gary, enjoyed telling untruths. One day, Gary told me about Bloody Fingers. He said Bloody Fingers lived under our beds. This blood-thirsty creature had been known to grab the arms of persons who hung them over the side of the bed in the dark of night. Gary was an expert, well-seasoned tale teller, so this all sounded true to me.
Years after learning about Bloody Fingers, I still refused to hang my arm over the side of the bed. I wanted to at times. I never did. Before hearing of the malevolent, nocturnal creature, I had enjoyed letting my arm hang off the bed. With this newfound knowledge, I could not do that. An untruth of the past held me captive in the present.
Did I really believe what Gary told me? No. His tall-tell did not fool my brain. Yet, it felt true. So, for years, I followed what felt true. I dared not challenge the feeling.
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Right View, or Right Understanding, challenges us partly due to the power of feelings. What we feel is true can influence us more than what we think is true.
In Right View, we want to bring into harmony thought and feeling. We will live in inner conflict until we do, and either what we think or feel will win out. Hence, we need harmony to live with integrity.
It seems most persons come to decide what is true is what they feel to be true. I believe a minority of humans prioritize facts over feelings; instead, they give more credence to feelings in formulating belief. And Right View is about what is true, not what we wish to be true, think is true, feel is true, or insist is true.
I recall the night I integrated feeling and thought regarding Bloody Fingers, so creating unity in truthfulness between mind and body. I needed to act out the truth I had known for years. I had to challenge what I had long felt. With some anxiety, I extended my arm, letting it hang loose over the side of the bed. There was no Bloody Fingers. I never again feared Bloody Fingers. Also, I enjoyed this arm hanging loose off the bed, which I had missed for those years of not challenging what I felt to be true but knew to be false.
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Yes, this may appear a silly story. Yet, many humans live like this: trusting what is false, for it feels true, rather than trusting what is true even when it does not feel true. Likely, we are none excluded from this mistaken identity of what is.
To mature spiritually, we may face the tension between thought and feeling many times in growing into Right View. Right View is not something static. Right View is a process. We keep growing into Right View. And by challenging falsehoods we have held to be true, we unite within ourselves feeling and thought.
Still, truth is not merely what we think to be true, anymore than what we feel to be true. We may feel something to be true and refuse to believe it is true. In this case, the challenge we face is the same as surrendering feeling into thought: integrate feeling and thought with what is. If I had felt Bloody Fingers to be true, and the creature had been actual, I would have needed to align belief with my feeling of truth. Not letting my arm hang loose over the side of the bed would have been wise.
Sometimes, in discerning truth, feeling can lead the way, especially when we find fact to be something we wish were not fact. Yet, in bringing mind and heart together in solidarity with truth, we find relief, even if the adjustment is initially difficult.
Truth liberates, for truth is liberating - that is Reality's nature. Clinging to what seems the pleasant untruth binds us. Welcoming what appears to be the unwelcome truth frees us.
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Last, belief is embodied. Belief takes up residence in the body. Belief is not merely abstract, it is chemical. And the liberation by truth appears as a release in the body. Freedom and captivity are both embodied experiences, and often the body is more truthful than what we say is true. So, our spirituality needs to encompass listening deeply to what the body is saying. In meditation, we can practice listening to the body. And we can stop and ask, anytime and anywhere, "What is the body saying, now, here?"
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.