“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” — Nathaniel Branden
The mirror encompasses our social learning. We know, socially, that the truth is never what it seems to be. A “truth” for me is not a “truth” for you”; what’s “right” for me is not “right” for you. A diversity of opinions reflects a diversity of needs. So any approach a complex social situation is fraught with challenge. The boundaries around “social veracity” do not always overlap with “personal veracity.” So the best we can do is be mindful of our conduct. How can we do that?
One place to look is at how values complicate our interpretations. We distort our observations to make sure that “the situation” conforms to our understanding. The irony of self-awareness is that what we “bring-to-the-table” becomes more transparent the more we extend a flexible appreciation to the world around us. With a flexible appreciation, the veils of illusion are progressively discarded. Greater conscious of ignorance, fear, clinging, and attachment (and of the impact they have on us) result from this awareness. We are served with a kind of “enlightenment.”
But how is this possible? If we create what we know, do we ever stop creating? The trick is to know that we never do. We never stop creating. And that awareness, all by itself, enables us to step away from the immersion of being “caught” by what we create.
Let’s take an example: “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” With that knowledge, I am less likely to fall wholeheartedly into my fear. I remain suspicious. I am less likely to see my fear as originating “out there” and more willing to see it as originating “in here.” The difficulty, of course, is gauging when to be suspicious. The more transfixed I am about my own belief, the less I am able to hold my experience at arms length. And arms length takes practice. It takes a willingness to suspend our belief in what experience “teaches” — we have to be willing to discover some other kind of “truth.”
The Uroborus image illustrates this dynamic perfectly. The serpent eating its own tail; self-awareness consuming itself. The part becomes the whole, which then becomes just a part yet again. The cycle is growthful and expansive. Awareness expands. A deeper appreciation for experience results if we do not let ourselves become too tightly contained inside our system of beliefs.
For most, however, confusion sets in when we ask: what exactly is the snake eating? It may be “the-part-that-becomes-the-whole” – but what kind of part is it? Is it “the-truth-that-experience-teaches,” which builds and expands, or is it “the-impact-of-our-truth” which limits and discards.
The first alternative allows us to be ever more aware of our external situation. We “learn” in a conventional sense. The second alternative allows us to be more aware our distortions, biases, and assumptions that come from our system of beliefs. We alter dynamic of limitation which they create.
Both of these idea are important, so let’s look at a few examples using the mindfulness commands, “choose, respond, and change”:
- I choose to look at my fear. I engage without trusting my fear. I respond by focusing on the freedom of surpassing my fear. I change by giving myself a new experience. I discover what it is like not to fear (or to fear less than before).
- I choose to look at something I don’t understand. I respond by engaging my curiosity. I discover what it is like to know something new. My awareness is changed by the my new understanding.
- I choose to examine a limiting belief. I engage without trusting my belief. I respond by putting aside my limiting belief. I change by being larger than my original belief. Now, I have two potential beliefs – not just one.
The serpent eating its own tail is learning to trust. And surprisingly, that is what the serpent is always creating. Until , of course, it over-identifies with that trust. And then the Serpent’s belief becomes the One – which is the truth – and not actual, living – here, right now, in the moment.
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
Thanks for listening!