Questions, Doubts and Concerns

June 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

Questions, doubts and concerns. We all have them.The difference is that some people question their choice of footwear and use of accessories. Other people question life, their own existence, the validity of claims made by the government, the possibility of life after death, and other boring things.

My life up until now has been based on questioning, on doubting what I am told. When did people begin just accepting what they’re told? When did it happen that people stopped thinking for themselves? Please, don’t think I’m accusing everyone of being brainless. Not at all. But I do think people on a general basis don’t even realize they’re being manipulated by the created world around them.

How many people acknowledge that the basis of advertising is mind control? Manipulation of the masses? Really, think about it. Advertisers use methods of psychology in order to sell their products. Their success is based on how effectively they convince the consumers that they need their products in their lives, in order to feel more complete. The basis of commercials is to lay seeds in the minds of the watchers in the shortest blurb of time possible, short due to the general lack of attention span. Sometimes we don’t even know it has happened at all. Somehow, though, the influence is there. When shopping at the grocery, at Target, wherever, we glimpse a product and for some reason we feel the need to put it in the shopping cart.

If you don’t believe me, look at studies in psychology, advertising and the manipulative techniques utilized.

The first time I started thinking about this was when visiting with friends I began noticing that the majority of them had matching laundry products. Yep, I thought it was hilarious. Most of them had never noticed it before. If their laundry detergent was in an orange bottle, their fabric softener was usually in an orange bottle as well. If one was blue, the other was usually blue. Just one aspect of advertising: linking products and messages with color influences and preferences which we think are our own.

What about the bigger issues in life? What about matters of the heart, the mind, the spirit? Am I evil by birth? Am I born a creation of sin? What right do I have to question established dogma? Is there one truth? One and only one way? How much is held by people in authority, limiting understanding and knowledge, in order to keep a handle on the public?  It used to be that the ability to read and write was reserved for only the wealthy. Why was that? Education and information hold the ability to transform the mind, make it flexible, able to grapple with larger issues. If people begin challenging status quo, then the general equation of  the sheep syndrome begins to crumble.

I don’t know if I’ve been too sure about much of anything in my life, except for the fact that while growing up I didn’t believe most of the stuff I was spoon fed about the nature of the world. When someone says, “Well, that’s the nature of the world.” My response is, “That’s the nature of your world, how you choose to accept it.” I cannot accept that people are innately bad. I cannot accept that people don’t care. I cannot accept that at all.

I think people are innately good and that they are concerned about others. I think our true nature is beautiful, not sin. I also think that as a society we have become so fragmented that it is increasingly difficult to relate to others on a personal basis. Fear has been spread in our society to such a degree that may of us even fear our neighbors. How many times have we ignored people we’re passing in a hall, on the sidewalk, in a store, simply because we keep ourselves so guarded? From where did all this fear originate?

I work as a nurse. In the beginning, I doubted myself everyday. I was terrified I was going to literally kill a patient because I did something wrong or forgot to do something altogether. I was absolutely horrified to have all those peoples’ lives in my hands. It took me about a year to feel comfortable. Now I’m okay with the stress level. I actually became comfortable with questioning myself so as to ensure patient safety. I think the moment I stop questioning myself then I run into the danger of lowering the standard of care I provide to patients. It’s good to keep an edge to one’s self, to not get too comfortable, so we can continue to grow in whatever roles we might find ourselves in.

As for the monastic aspect of my life, a friend of mine asked me about the path recently. Sure, I still have questions and doubts, concerns about it all. I don’t know if there is ever a time in which I truly feel, “Yeah, I can do this right!” Conversely, I live every day with the Buddhist teachings as my compass, attempting to live mindfully, hoping that one day I will be able to realize the true beauty that the Buddha taught, while acknowledging the vast existence of my many imperfections. Living with religious vows has not tied me up, but rather it has allowed me an opportunity to step beyond my constructs as well as beyond the usual sexual innuendos that plagued my past and pop culture today. Yes, I am imperfect. That doesn’t mean that the imperfections are sins. It means that I acknowledge that I don’t always make the best decisions, that I’m not always right, that I don’t have all the answers. It also means I’m open to learning, listening, and working towards a world that more fully embraces its own beauty with tolerance and understanding instead of dogmatic bigotry.

At the same time, living with monastic vows has required me to closely examine myself, my mind, the contents of my heart. It has required me to be more honest with myself than I used to be. How do I define myself? Do I continue to attempt to define myself? I am not the typical monk. Yes, I received full vows. I live according to the vows I accepted. Yet I do not live in a monastery. I live with a house full of rescued cats; one has only three legs, one with a cranial nerve six deficit (poor thing is so cross-eyed he has difficulty not running into things), among others running around and chasing one another. As I don’t have the usual supporters, I have to work to support myself. You know, food, water, rent, those sorts of things don’t magically manifest after the ordination ceremony.

While attempting to remain mindful, I also try living creatively. Sometimes I take out a camera and see how I view the world through the lens. Other times I attempt to write something of substance, poetry or prose, if only to amuse myself.

Questions, doubts and concerns are important. Pay attention to them. Nurture your ability to see through what you used to believe was the truth. I think the moment we cease questioning, well, we cease being human.

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