If two people who have very different beliefs argue, the argument might never end. In an attempt to convince each other to change, to fit their version of what they each believe is true, they create a veil between them. Their inability to listen results in a lack of respect.
Although it may appear that one side is ahead for a while and then the other, as long as each side is attached to their beliefs, the battle never ends. It is only when one person is able to step back and listen to the other without judging that is there is potential for a shift to occur. By consistently questioning our own beliefs, we open up infinite possibilities and avoid getting trapped inside a closed mind that only wants to be right.
Defending Ourselves, We Switch from Defense to Offense
We do not need to defend ourselves or our beliefs against other people's opinions and beliefs. Our only need is self-respect. When we have self-respect, we do not take what other people say and do personally.
If we give in to the temptation to make someone else's actions a personal affront, we have lost that self-respect by saying yes to their agreement. Once we do this, the attachment to this belief makes it necessary for us to switch our motive from one of defense to offense. With one shift, we can easily go from being victim to aggressor, which has a whole new set of consequences. By not taking things personally we do not give in to our personal importance and can therefore make decisions based on mutual respect that will solve problems instead of making them worse.
Asking Questions, Listening, Learning
Recently, a worker came to my home to install something. As I do with anyone who comes to my home, I sat and spoke with him, asking questions and watching him work. He asked me what I did, and I explained a little about what I do. He grew agitated, saying there is only one truth, only one way, and everyone else just wants your money.
He spoke about his pastor and the teachings of his church, reiterating that there is only one way. I didn't argue with him, I just listened to what he was saying. By my grandmother's application, that is learning. As he was leaving, he said to me, "When I die, I only have to answer to one person. If I'm wrong, well, I'll find out then."
He went on to tell me that the reason he believes is not because he had love or faith, but because he wants to get into heaven. That was his main purpose. At least that is what he said to me. He said, "Miguel, you can say whatever you want to all those people, but remember there is only one way, one truth."
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Through listening to him, I had indeed learned something. He shared his belief system, but that is not what I learned. What I learned is that he honestly believed what he was telling me. And who am I to say otherwise? Had I felt the need to retort, this would have been based on my own attachment to my identity and my beliefs, and a battle of personal importance would have begun between us.
This worker showed me that if I had to chosen to argue with him, I would be forming my own attachment to knowledge, which had nothing to do with him. This gave me the freedom of choice. I was able to look at my belief square in the face and chose to listen to both him and myself. How he chooses to live his life has no bearing on how I live mine. Although I can see how his attachments and his knowledge control him, I know that it is not my place to object.
Instead of blindly and deafly arguing a point fueled by our personal importance, we can at least be willing to admit that we might be wrong or that the situation can be looked at from an entirely different perspective, as in the case of the worker. When we choose to share our truth with others from this place, we can begin building mutual respect. When we look at our beliefs and viewpoints with an open mind, it becomes clear to us how attached we are to our own beliefs.
Being Aware of Our Attachments
Being aware of our attachments allows us to regain power over our freedom to choose whether or not we want to continue to hold them. The choice is crucial. Sometimes we choose to root for our home team or debate religion or politics with our family. Sometimes we choose to devote a portion of our life to a cause or a movement, and sometimes we choose not to. Having awareness, however, will let us know if our personal importance begins to corrupt the essence of whatever activity we have chosen to engage in. If we find ourselves vehemently defending our position or cause, it means our attachment has crowded out our awareness.
Listening to what others say without giving their words power over us allows us to become aware of our own truth. It enables us to see what is real for us and what is just an illusion — a lie fueled by personal importance. The gift of listening will expose any illusions of personal importance.
If we are coming from a place of awareness, our truth does not need to be defended through the ego-feeding mechanics of an argument. It requires very little energy on our part to simply state our truth, if we choose to state it. When the truth is simple, you know your foundation is solid. Of course, there may come a time to stand up for that truth. If that time comes, you can be confident that you are standing on firm ground with the full awareness of the power of your own will.
©2013 by don Miguel Ruiz Jr. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Hierophant Publishing.
Dist. by Red Wheel/Weiser, Inc. www.redwheelweiser.com
The Five Levels of Attachment: Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World
by don Miguel Ruiz Jr.
About the Author
don Miguel Ruiz, Jr., is a Nagual, or a Toltec Master of Transformation. He is a direct descendant of the Toltecs of the Eagle Night lineage, and is the son of don Miguel Ruiz, Sr., author of The Four Agreements. At the age of 14, don Miguel Jr. apprenticed to his father and his grandmother, Madre Sarita. His apprenticeship lasted 10 years. For the past six years, don Miguel Jr. has applied the lessons learned from his father and grandmother to define and enjoy his own personal freedom while achieving peace with all of creation. As a Nagual, he now helps others discover optimal physical and spiritual health, so that they may achieve their own personal freedom.