How to see the true nature of other people
Tao Te Ching Reflections
1st line of Chapter 33 Tao Te Ching
Wisdom is seeing the true nature of others
This line makes me think about how blind we normally are to the true nature of other people, on how many times one takes for granted what one may think about a person or a situation. It is so easy to stereotype, label, assume. This is because our brains have been designed to reduce its daily tasks by organising, filing, and classifying information. To do that, our brain needs to judge, label, and organise accordingly. What happens is that these labelling and classifying depends on our past experiences. To the extent that we are wounded by our past, we will lack wisdom to be open to the true nature of others, being triggered instead by their actions, words, and behaviours.
In my opinion, the way of the Tao is to try and be open, making efforts to understand as if we had no memory, no past. We would use what the Buddhists call “a beginners mind” or what Jesus call “being like a child”. A child does not judge because it has no experience. Equally, if we approach a situation as children, beginners, with openness, we may learn about others and ourselves.
For example, if you tell your loved one about a problem that is preoccupying you at the moment, and he/she responds with a solution, instead of listening to the pain that this preoccupation is causing you, you might feel triggered. Maybe your parents were very controlling, and now you read your loved one reaction to your words as an attempt at controlling you. You are now feeling defensive and you might react to his/her words with criticism, anger, or cold silence. Tension will arise. You may create a false idea that your loved one is controlling.
If you approach the situation from a beginners/ child mind, you will be calm and ask your loved one what makes him/her give you advice, you might ask for a needed hug, or just being listened. That will create a different scenario.
If your loved one was listening to your concerns, he/she may feel triggered by his/her past. Maybe one of his/her parents was never happy and suddenly he/she feels very unsafe and feels that something needs to be done urgently. Hence, she/he offers many solutions instead of truly listening.
However, if your loved one listens to you with a child/beginners mind, he/she will be listening to you fully, asking you questions about the situation, and at the end he/she might ask you how this situation is making you feel, and what you need from him/her. It will be then be easier for you to clarify whether you need anything from them, or just being listened.
This type of interaction is very transformative and healing for both parts, requiring love and attention for yourself and others. It can be used in your private life, at work, in your social life, anywhere you go. As you are learning from others and yourself in this way, you will gain wisdom and insight into the nature of human beings.
But how do we approach this extremely triggering situation from a beginners’ mind? You might ask. From my psychotherapy knowledge, tai chi, qigong and meditation practice, and personal experience, I have gathered some tips that might help:
1) Notice your body activation – pay attention to your body and notice whether you are getting activated: fast heartbeat, shallow breathing, tension in the limbs, confusion in your thoughts. If your body is highly activated, bear in mind that you are probably triggered by something that is bringing your past to the present. You are experiencing a “feeling memory”. It probably has nothing to do with the situation presented.
2) Pay attention to your feet on the ground and breath into your Dantien (lower abdomen) - Notice your breath calming you as you pay attention to things around you. If you do this in ordinary life, and make it into a habit, you will be able to do it while in stressful situations and see everything in a different light.
3) Talking does not always help – If you are activated, talking might not be your best friend. It might be a better idea to calm yourself down, think things through, assess this situation from an objective standpoint, and then decide on what to do. Talking might be one of the things you decide to do, but make sure that you are clear on what you need to say.
4) Meditate - If you meditate daily or do tai chi, qigong, or mindfulness on a regular basis, you will find getting into a beginners’ mind easier to do.
Here I offer you an interpretation of the 1st line of the Chapter 33 of Tao Te Ching with practical derivations in your daily life in the hope that it might help you in your journey.
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