I started listening to “Falling into Grace”, by Adyashanti (available from Sounds True, or from Seattle Public Library via Overdrive!) a book recommended by a friend of mine. So far I’m liking it, it’s sensible basic Buddhist advice. He starts off emphasizing that the simple basics are more important than the complex subtle so-called advanced meditation or thinking. I was listening as roomie & I were cooking and right as dinner was ready he was going through several explanations about how people suffer fundamentally because they believe their own thoughts.
I have come to believe the truth of that statement, but it still triggers a reaction for me to hear it stated. Of course I believe my own thoughts, how else am I to function? It helps a little when he says “you don’t automatically believe someone else’s thoughts when they state them.” Ok, but I don’t necessarily have the experience of built trust with that person that I have with myself. Still, there are people in my life I know well and respect and so yeah, why should I automatically hold the value of my own thoughts above theirs?
Thinking from that perspective, my mind flashed to an article from Strategic Finance magazine that I’d been meaning to photocopy for my business friends. It was about why we make poor business decisions. It basically also says that the problem is A) we believe our own thoughts because B) we believe we can have the whole truth of a situation, so ergo our thoughts are correct. The SF article was about specific ways in which we usually DON’T have the whole truth, in hopes of helping us design a “Professional Judgement Process” to get better results as teams.
Examples of why we don’t have the whole truth:
We are subject to Groupthink – the tendency to suppress divergent views. We are subject to Anchoring – a preference for not moving far from an initial numerical value. We are subject to Overconfidence – the tendency for confidence to grow more rapidly than competence as we gain experience. We are subject to Availability – the tendency to only consider easily accessible information and ignore other relevant information.
Hopefully you find those concrete, specific examples helpful in understanding the Buddhist notion that you should not automatically believe your own thoughts. Another phrase I like is “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional.” In this case, Pain will be when you inevitably (because you are human) make one of the above mistakes. Suffering will be if you beat yourself up about it, perhaps because you read this blog or that Strategic Finance article. Awareness of the mistake you made, graceful acceptance of your humanity (one way to describe Equanimity), and then calmly making the best correction you can will have you on your way to enlightenment!