We come into contact with so many schools of thought in our lives — philosophies, religions, self-help strategies, suggested ways to reach happiness, and so forth. It is tempting to look at each of these and decide if they are correct or incorrect. And there is a lot of value in doing that — you have to make decisions about things, right?
And yet, I’ve recently come to realize the (perhaps) obvious — in many cases a whole system of thought isn’t “right” or “wrong”, but a mix of both. It sometimes happens that in the middle of some “ridiculousness” there is hidden a vein of pure gold. In other words, instead of accepting and rejecting something as a whole, we sometimes have to do the harder work of figuring out what parts are valuable and what parts are not.
In particular, over the past few months I’ve been looking at Eastern philosophies and practices such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, and Taoism. Each of these have beliefs that, in the past, I have found to be in some ways romantic, and yet at the same time (to me) unlikely to be true — things like reincarnation, various deities, and present-life immortality.
My reexamination of these systems of thought hasn’t caused me to change my stance on most of these beliefs. However, I’ve realized that in addition to a set of beliefs, each of these contains methods for changing our conscious experience. By “changing our conscious experience” I mean such things as, oh, feeling ridiculously happy, getting rid of anxiety, and increasing self-discipline. Most of these aren’t stated so directly, and are often written with mystical language accompanying them. But this is exactly what they are doing. Buddhism, for example, contains a truly massive amount of thought and experience aimed at figuring out how to feel ridiculously happy, in a wide range of circumstances.
Of course, even within these various systems, there is much that is vague or inconsistent or unhelpful alongside that which is helpful, and it involves some sifting though. But I am beginning to suspect that there are some real techniques here for mastering our minds and emotions, something I care very much about. Stay tuned for more.