photo by alicepopkorn
Someone may be “walking on water” not because they have learned a great secret, but rather that they have not 'learned' that they cannot do such a thing. Sometimes the correction for a situation is not to do something more, but primarily to stop what we have being doing; rather than learning something new, relinquish limiting information that you have acquired along the way.
Knowledge is gained by daily increment,
Tao is gained by daily loss
Verse 48: Tao Te Ching
Some would assert that except in certain medically or psychologically induced conditions unlearning our limitations is a hopeless fantasy. But isn't the effect of a Zen koan a bit of “un-learning”? In such things exposed via a koan, the conscious mind is provided ‘enough rope to hang itself' so that the wisdom beyond and before the dubious learning can come forward. When the blaring flaw in any held/learned concept is exposed, the accepted reality of it crumbles.
One might argue that the purpose of a Zen koan is redirection of the mind. It is generally a question unanswerable in the context of the logical mind—something like, “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” The logical mind will grapple with such a question until it exhausts itself. At that point, with it defenses—the infallible fortress of reason—down, the mind is open for a new perspective…thinking outside the box, as it is sometimes called.
The most common example of unlearning is being confronted with undeniable qualities of an individual, situation, or thing that are in direct conflict with a prejudice we hold. When our perception is so challenged, we are left with either denial—recede deeper into our delusion—or redefinition, releasing the “education” we had on that subject before.
At this point there is a subtle but powerful difference in the path we choose. Redefinition can be by amending the existing belief, or by completely releasing the old belief and making a new definition. Outwardly the result of the two options will initially appear the same. With either, one would cease to carry on choices that would be immediate evidence of the previously held prejudice. However, with amendment of a false belief, we are building atop a bad foundation. There is always room for the implicit justification of the amendment—the object of my prejudice is no longer bad ‘because’…The implication here is that—even if it is at the subconscious level—the prejudice is not justified now, but could possibly have been justified at one time. As if a change in the one abused by your prejudice is the reason for the amendment.
“Argue your limitations and sure enough they become yours.”
Illusions by Richard Bach
Consider how much of what we “cannot” do may actually be what we will not allow ourselves to be able to do because we have accepted some a bit of self-definition imposed on us by another or by a particular experience. The problem in investing in such a definition of self is that we often do not do our “fact checking” before allowing the experience to become a self-creating, self-perpetuating truth.
If the source of information was another person, were we at that time so perceptive as to know the motivation of the person’s assessment? If not, how can we sufficiently validate the value of their input as to warrant incorporating it into our very definition of self—the pattern that will define our experience of life? Perhaps they were intentionally malicious, or maybe they were an ally, but factors in their own life at that time clouded their perception.
“Truth told with bad intent beats all the lies you can ever invent.” Wm. Blake
Sometimes the person from whom we have incorporated the limiting belief truly was acting out of love for us, but they were the possessor of a limiting belief. Their intention was for our best interest as they saw it, but could offer no more than they were capable of perceiving. If this limiting perception comes from an incontestable source of support—parent, teacher, role model, or spouse—it becomes a particularly complex structure of overcome. In order to free ourselves from this limiting perception at the same time we are seeking to redefine our abilities, we must also accept that our supporter is fallible, that from even our allies may come limiting directives—even though unintentionally.
The more cornerstones of our definition of self or reality that we are attempting to break simultaneously, the more internal resistance we will encounter. Structures like relationships, self-definition, society, etc favor stability and generally have mechanisms to maintain that permanence. Abrupt or extensive change is responded to by personal psychological countermeasures to sure up the existing structure or deterrent reactions to stave of further assault. It is much like a spyware or virus software ‘overreacting’ to your desired efforts to access a particular website or program that you know does not pose any threat. The structural program is designed to respond categorically, not to a specific item or attempt.
So, how do we unlearn….become less? It is our great blessing that our nature has a self-righting ability, a spiritual gyroscope, except when our spirit, mind, and/or heart has become extremely damaged—and such scenarios take exceptional mechanisms for correction like reincarnation, contact with divine individuals, etc.
Anything that takes you out of your head, your ego, out of thought, will bring you to a place often referred to as your center. This place of your truest definition of self existed before and beyond any accepted limitations. It remains forever with you even if doubted and never visited. This slate of your definition of self is never written upon or marred by your experience. It is what you were in the beginning and what you remain outside the illusion of collected belief.
There are methods and structures of considerable effort that can take you to this place, but it is just as effective to just let go—though this path is not right for everyone and extremely hard for some. In methods, the most common is probably meditation, which runs the gamut of techniques from very intricate combinations of breath, chant and ritual, to just watching the rain fall. In the methods of a less defined nature, it might be as simple as laughing with a young child, lingering on coming out of a much needed nap, or even what some might consider a chore like washing the dishes or mowing the lawn. It is not the activity that makes the difference, but the state of mind…anything that draws you into giving yourself to it whole-heartedly, without thought.
Time spent in such states initiates the self-righting of any host of damages to body, mind, heart, spirit. Such are multiply blessed activities, a joy in and of themselves, boons to health and spirit, as well as one of the most effective methods of releasing ourselves from the bonds of self limitation.
Copyright 2007 CG Walters
This is my truth. Only you can determine if there is any value in it for you.
C.G. Walters primarily writes fiction that focuses on the multidimensionality of our loves and our lives.