During most of my life I put primary attention on differences that fueled comparisons and flaws. That’s what mattered to me. I viewed it as positive. I thought the way to improve things and solve problems was to compare “what is” with “what should be” in order to find flaws, discover improvements, and figure out how to get more out of every situation.
But the differences so important to me were purely conceptual. The differences that drew my attention were only between this grouping and that one: trees are different from flowers, women from men, Americans from foreigners. These differences in groupings excluded the uniqueness of any one person, flower, or tree. When I was lost in the purely conceptual, uniqueness was insignificant to me, and so was the life experience from which the word-tool categories came.
With my attention only on conceptual groupings, I missed the rich uniqueness of the difference of individuals: the many-faceted wholeness of this actual person; the unity and fullness of the life of this flower, this tree, this cloud in the sky. I rarely noticed this ever present richness as I walked out of my house or drove down the streets every day. And if I did, I would quickly dismiss each as just another person, flower, tree, or cloud. My mind would immediately categorize each specific as just a member of the cluster “I already knew” through the concept/word.
My mind would chatter, There’s a cloud . . . oh yes, I know those. There’s a flower under a tree . . . yeah, I’ve seen those hundreds of times. There’s someone who looks like a street bum . . . ahh, that’s the kind of person I want to avoid.
My world was processed. It consisted only of the fabrication of word-products, filtered through conceptualization with no appreciation for the uniqueness I had lost.
To me, groupings and their word-tool products were the only things worth my attention – the actual reality of the specifics that made up these groupings were not. The power of the word-tool grouping overshadowed the uniqueness of the actual life from which the groupings came in the first place.
Of what importance is that particular person, that one flower or tree, and what does that one cloud matter? What really matters are the categories of people, flowers, trees, and clouds – those we study in science. And further, what really matters are ideas like justice, honesty, productivity, etc. Framing my life around scientific groupings and moral principles was far more important than experiencing reality firsthand.
I had missed the whole of reality because I became lost in the power of groupings, concepts, word-tools.
And of course I justified all this by using a word-tool explanation: Conceptual thinking is what makes human beings human; it’s what differentiates us from animals. At the same time I was ignoring the reality that as a human being I fit into the category as one of those “animals”.
What mattered was: earners vs moochers; Republicans vs Democrats; nonreligious vs religious – groupings carried by concepts. What mattered was methods, procedures, principles, standards, measurements, judgment, morality, logic, reason, noncontradiction, mutual exclusivity – products of word-tools that lie many layers of abstraction away from the reality of actual experience from which they were extracted.
I was unaware of my role in choosing the conceptualized patterns I focused on. I viewed the patterns I chose as the real patterns, and thought that those patterns were right for everyone. They were the objective truth, applicable to everyone whether anyone in particular agreed or not. Falling head first into the ocean of concepts, I ignored the possibility of other patterns that may lie outside the frozen, word-tooled radar screen that I viewed as reality.
Spotting what was bad and needed to change or what could be better made me “smart”. And yet I gradually began to see that this outlook distorted my view by narrowing the reality I attended to.
As an example I would catch my mind saying, This person Anna is bad, implying that that’s all she is. After all she can’t be both bad and good; our this-not-that word-tools don’t allow for both. Then I would begin to wonder why I felt the compulsion to clutch onto this classification, and I’d remind myself that Anna is so many other things that I’m not aware of. I would remember the vast arena of what I don’t know, and how easy it is for me to forget that all of us are part of interconnected life processes that are the Source of all, including Anna, myself, and these word-tool classifications.
It still amazes me how positives suddenly begin to materialize when I open up to something wider than my category groupings. I find myself saying things like: Wow! I never before noticed the bright glow in Anna’s eyes and the tender quality of her face when she’s not upset. After shifting from my initial negatives to these types of positives, I sense that Anna begins to feel safe as we talk. And so do I. We all feel safer when we aren’t bound up and ruled by conceptual worlds detached from reality.
Gradually I begin to notice an outflow of kindness in Anna’s actions and expressions. That’s something that wouldn’t have happened if she (and I) had continued to feel only the negativity of my initial negative judgments. If I had continued my attention on negatives, her outflow of kindness would have been disallowed by those judgments. And as I’ve discovered time after time, the bad I think is so real in others is actually a creation of my own, not something real outside me.
Once I align with Connectivity, my conceptualization of Anna as bad seems like an illusion. With my constricted judgment relaxed, my view opens up to her as a unique human being who is much more like me than she first appeared.
When I approach reality with preconceptions, I miss out. My preconceived word-tool buckets are firmly closed to anything outside of their unforgiving walls. Uniqueness and the core Being of a person are not permitted by the conceptual enclosures of beautiful girl, Anna is bad, or street bum. The aliveness of a person, or even of an object, is lost when I rely solely on the judgmental labeling I find myself so often using.
As long as I view reality only through word-tools, I limit that reality and miss a multitude of positives that can be discovered, enjoyed, nurtured. I become a pawn of word-tools rather than someone wise enough to know when to use the tool and when it doesn’t apply.
Now, like magic, as I continue to practice shifting attention, positives arise often and in all kinds of places I never suspected. I no longer feel trapped by my own compulsions to label as I become more aware of the limitations of word-tools and learn not to take them too seriously.
Much of my life has now become one enjoyable surprise after another. And now that I’ve shifted from a surface self to a whole self, what matters to me has changed. Now it’s the magic of Being with life rather than preconceiving against it; now as I point my attention to Being as often as possible, I feel the enjoyment of connecting with life directly rather than only through the filtering of word-tool groupings.
What mattered then was feeling smart because I was one who could spot problems and improve things. What matters now is living. The wisdom of Connectivity has replaced the illusion of being smart through misuse of word-tools.