Two friends of mine are dying now. One has given up further treatment and one is doing every thing he can think to do—chemo, radiation, alternative modalities—so that he can stay alive to see his fifteen-year-old son grow up.
I have my own opinions/thoughts about what my friend-the-father is doing. What I think I would do in the same situation (although I know that it is impossible to know what I would do unless I was in that situation). And what I see with him, and what I see in myself is that every time I come down hard on the side of what I believe someone else should do, a sheer film of self-righteousness covers my heart. It hardens like the chocolate syrup I used to eat when I was in college that hardened the second I poured it on ice cream. (Man oh man, did I love that chocolate syrup).
And that, I think, is the biggest suffering: when I believe my opinions (and that doesn’t mean I can or should stop them from entering my mind. That’s hopeless), my heart hardens in self-righteousnes and in that hardening, I separate myself from my own heart. I make someone else an other, an “out there” and in the process, I cut myself off from the well of vulnerability and sweetness of connection. From the fact that somewhere, deep down, we are all the same. We're doing the best we can in living our lives here in earth school.
Also, and this is secondary, the truth is that what I believe someone else should be doing or saying has nothing to do with them. It only has to do with me and the color glasses from which I am looking at the world and everyone in it.
Anyway, I’ve developed a new practice (wanna do it with me?): Every time I hear myself stating an opinion or a judgment (judgments are opinions in exacerbated form), I notice it. I watch it. I question it. And then I ask myself what it is doing to my heart. Because the amount of opinions and judgments I have is staggering—it’s like walking down the street with a muttering, insane person who happens to be me—I have to do this many times a day. Sometimes I just don’t feel like it and so I get all puffed up like a rooster with my belief that I am right. According to my husband, however, I am not a particulalry attractive rooster.
But mostly, because it hurts to be cut off from that sweet well of connection with myself and everyone else, I stop myself. I refuse to say my cherished opinions out loud. If I am feeling particularly expansive, I laugh at myself. I remember that the world out there is an expression of all of our minds and that if I start with my own crazy, stuttering, opinionated mind first, maybe, just maybe true, lasting change “out there” really is possible.