Friday, May 1, 2015

Change Your Perspective! (Damnit!)

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

There is a story that a woman once took her son to see Gandhi so that she could ask him to tell her son to stop eating sweets. He told her to come back in a month.

On visiting Gandhi a month later, the woman placed the same request: that he tell her son to stop eating sweets. With that, Gandhi told her son to stop eating sweets.

Confused, the child’s mother asked why she had waited a month just for Gandhi to tell her child what he could have spoken a few weeks earlier. Gandhi said that he first had to stop eating sweets himself.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Before we learn the fundamental truth that other people mirror the self, or at least before this fact becomes more fully understood and integrated, many of us have a penchant for telling others to do what we cannot.

On the whole, I believe the majority of mankind knows that “do as I say, not as I do” is complete and utter folly. But I’m also well aware that we’re quite reluctant to change old ways and thus lack the willingness to consciously acknowledge that we must change before we can change the world.

I would like to elaborate on this, here, as a means of offering another angle by which to see ourselves and our behavior in a different light.


In one instance, it may just be, shall I say, a guideline, like a father and mother who tell their children to get to bed on time, to eat healthy, or to avoid cigarettes. Without a doubt, the direction given is of benefit to the well-being of the children.

Yet it seems many people fail to realize that giving others such direction is of little value when the direction-givers are unable to follow their own guidelines; when, say, a mother tells her daughter to quit smoking because she does not wish to put in the effort required to quit herself.

In the above example, the mother is aware of the problem. Maybe not deeply, but enough so that there is at least a hope or desire to achieve a better outcome. At the same time, though, rather than acknowledging the problem fully as her own, rather than attempting to resolve the problem at its source, she will give herself a false sense of “doing something good” by attempting to get her child to do what she chooses not to. She will instead attempt to live vicariously through her child to obtain what would amount, if successful, to nothing more than short-lived fulfillment.

If we cannot find satisfaction in our own doings, how in the world could we ever expect to find it in what other people do, even if they’re following every word we speak? How can we expect that others will listen to us if we can’t even listen to ourselves?

Blind Commands

In a second instance, I want to discuss what could be labelled as “blind commands.” I view these as a deeper level of those I referred to above. Sometimes these commands are made by one in total unawareness and sometimes they are made by those in the category above—where there is awareness but that awareness has not been consciously acknowledged.

Overall, these are generalities, not specifics such as “get enough sleep” or “eat well.” Off the top of my head (not really, but I’m sure you understand), a few of these commands I recall hearing through the course of my life are:
  • “You have to do something.”
  • “You need to change your perspective.”
  • “Grow up.”
Typically, an exclamation point of anger or frustration follows each. Yet, the majority of people speaking these words can rarely do themselves what they're so adamantly telling others to do.

For example, I used to complain +/- 100 percent of the time I had my mouth open. During this period, I’d heard from many people that: “You need to change your perspective!” But here’s the thing: Not a single one of those people had ever given me a solitary shred of advice on how to do it!

Why? Because no one knew! The fact of the matter was this: We were all complaining, and we were all repeatedly acting out our own faulty perspectives. The only difference was in how we did it and what degree of acceptability society had placed on our actions. Roughly speaking:
  • Vocal complainers are the worst. Instead of hiding their problems, they just bitch and bitch and bitch them out to the world.
  • The bar is just his preferred place to be. It’s where his friends are. It’s perfectly legal to drink. So long as he’s not drinking and driving or mistreating his family—drink away!
  • He’s a nice guy. He plays one of the most violent sports on the planet, but really, he’s a nice guy. He’s just looking for a recreational activity to fill his free time.
  • She’s just got a compulsive personality. She wouldn’t otherwise buy everything she looks at. It’s just a chemical imbalance, really. Get her some medication and the problem is solved.

We All Complain

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s so obvious. And maybe because it is so obvious that it’s so easily overlooked: We may live different lifestyles and take part in different activities, but we’re are all guilty of doing something to complain; to reveal to others that we are just as unfulfilled as the next guy, just as misguided as the next guy, and that we have absolutely no clue what to do about it.

And the real kicker is that the “advice” offered, the “solution” given—from one complainer to the next—follows along the lines of one telling the other merely to get a new job or go to the doctor because there’s probably a chemical imbalance. That’s it. Few dare to consider that there’s a root cause—a very personal root cause—that has to be taken care of.

Take hard candy away from a sugar fanatic and she’s going to drink more soda.
Take soda away and she’s going to eat more cookies.
Take the cookies away and she’s going to eat more cake.
Take the cake away and she’s going to eat more popsicles.
Take the popsicles away and she’s going to eat sugar straight from the bag.
Take the sugar bag away and, well, by that time she’ll be old enough to buy cigarettes.

(Yikes. A bit of an exaggeration [is it?], but it’s mostly true. Just watch a dieter who doesn’t really have the drive or someone who’s fasting only because they’ve been told to do so [Lenten abstinence, for instance]. You’ll see.)

What this all comes down to is that we really—really—have to focus on the cause of our problems and not the effect. We have to look within. (Side note: We don’t have to do anything. However, any other “solution” will fall far short of the positive ends we seek.)

In one way or another, nearly all of us are complaining. In our own particular way(s), we are each addicted to whatever form(s) our “complaints” take—overworking, undereating, cursing our boss, etc. And just as one can’t normally drop an addiction without picking up some other detrimental practice, so many complainers expect so many other complainers to just stop complaining and find kind, balanced circumstances with which to fill their lives.

Sorry, folks. But it doesn’t work that way. The universe mirrors our every thought right back to us. The circumstances we find ourselves in will nearly always be with like-natured people, places, and things—as disturbing as that may seem to us.

And until we come to a point where we consciously maintain the decision to cultivate our lives, whatever (typically subconscious) short-comings we have which drive us to complain to begin with—low self-worth, lack of self-empowerment, self-loathing, etc.—will continually be mirrored by the majority of life circumstances.

So I ask: If we find ourselves telling others to follow specific guidelines which we don’t even bother to follow ourselves, if we find ourselves needing to use “blind commands” for which we cannot even offer a solution to doing so, let’s stop for a moment and consider—at what are we truly pointing a finger?

A reflection.

Note: This text is a modified version of a post originally published on 3/25/12 to former personal blog “Without a Story.”