“Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere. The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself.” – Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kun Do
“The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do.” Cpt. Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
So often, we find ourselves struggling with not just our thoughts (restrictive or not), but our expectations, our habits, and our own judgements. While doing so is rather comfortable for us, it may directly lead to our own discomforts. Consider someone with major anxiety who drinks coffee all day. The thought may be “I need caffeine to function,” but this may also be leading to waking in the middle of the night, panic attacks, etc. It’s worth considering that perhaps the original statement is actually backwards to reality. Perhaps it’s the caffeine that’s preventing functionality.
That’s all metaphorical, of course. The point being that until we’re willing to really embrace that we don’t -know- all of the answers yet, we cut ourselves off from many solutions that might or might not work for us. In order for us to come to see many options, we need to do as Bruce says above, “Bring the mind into sharp focus…intuit truth.”
The use of ‘truth’ here is a wonderful exploration of both knowledge and wisdom. For instance, knowledge tells me that a coffee table is made of molecules, atoms, quarks, and eventually wave-forms of light. These items are spaced so far apart at the levels that they become visible that I could scientifically show that a coffee table is made of so much “empty space” that it almost doesn’t exist at all.
Wisdom, though, is that if I stub my toe into one of its legs in the dark, it will hurt. This is the “truth” that should really be at the forefront of our minds.
This, though, leads us to many potential solutions if our goal is to avoid stubbing our toes. Anxiety may lead us to insist on always wearing boots in the house and wrapping all of our furniture in foam on the off chance that we might stub our toes. Depression might lead us to ask if it’s even worth getting up if all that we can look forward to is toe-stubbing. Neither of these things are really the only solutions, so it may do us well to really practice no-mindedness and consider our current selves.
Do we need a coffee table? Is it worth possibly stubbing a toe or two? Could we perhaps turn on a light? Maybe we stumble around in the dark too quickly and could be served better by slowing down and being patient.
Again, all a silly metaphorical set of questions that have practically nothing to do with tables at all. What may prove useful is how we view the real problem “I do not like pain.” This can lead us into self-destructive rumination, or it could lead us to explore all of the individual moments that make up our lives…openly, without prejudice, and with our minds in the here and now. Are we currently stubbing a toe? If not, then let us be where we are.
In the end, we should be free to try things that we can hope will help us be where we are enjoying life. If they don’t work, abandon them. Use what is useful. Keep the worthwhile, and build a new present moment, and with enough of these, we build a new and worthwhile world.