How your personal views are worthless (& why you should probably re-think everything you think you know)

Via on Aug 12, 2011

I once believed that:

If I don’t wear shoes, I’ll hurt my feet.

If I don’t keep warm, I’ll catch a cold.

I only need to practice yoga to stay fit and healthy.

I only need to stay fit and healthy to be happy.

What’s good for me is good for everyone.

When I was at school I had a friend who was, to be honest, an asshole. He once hawked up a big green lump of phlegm out of the depths of his chest and spat it full in my face. Yes, that kind of asshole. But he was nevertheless my friend, and I loved him, and somehow still do (although we’ve long since lost touch).

He once told me this saying, and it’s stuck with me ever since:

The more you study, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother?

Of course it’s a bit silly, but when I heard it then it felt very right. Perhaps because at that time the whole adult world seemed to be pitted in a deadly struggle to teach me crap. Parents, teachers, extended family, family friends, and distant relatives were all hell-bent on cramming my head full of algebra, geology, ancient history and chemistry, at a time when all I really wanted to do was climb trees.

Many years later I read the classic book ‘I Am That’, by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and the following line changed my life:

“Love says ‘I am everything’. Wisdom says ‘I am nothing’. Between the two, my life flows.”

 

Socrates said:

“All I know is that I know nothing”.

 

Such simplicity. Such beauty. Such wisdom.

That’s the kind of ancient history I am interested in.

Shoes.

Of course, if you don’t wear shoes, you hurt your feet, right? It’s only logical.

There’s another way. Develop faith, and walk down a jungle-covered Indian mountain barefoot.

I also once got high (long time ago), and ran full speed down a narrow, steep, crooked and uneven footpath, (tree roots, rocks, and all) in the pitch dark. The odds of my making it down in one piece were probably about a billion to one. “But” as it says in the bible, “with faith, anything is possible”. (Mathew 19; 26)

Cold.

That’s why they call it ‘a cold’ isn’t it? If you get cold, you get a cold, right? Right!

Except, if you raise your energy, develop a strong immune system, and have faith, you don’t ever get colds (or, very rarely).

When I believed this one, I used to keep warm. I also used to get a lot of colds, flu’s, and throat problems. Now, I rarely dress ‘sensibly’, and I hardly ever get sick.

Fit and Healthy.

Many times in my life I thought I found The Answer. You know, the answer to all our problems – Life, The Universe, and Everything. But the truth is, there is no answer. The question is the answer, because in the asking of the question we find another question, and it’s in the very asking of questions that we find our purpose (isn’t it?). So every time you think you’ve found that answer, think again. The part of us that likes to believe in answers is our Ego. So what would happen is, my Ego would find The Answer, and then a little while later I’d realize that The Answer didn’t actually answer all the questions after all, and I’d set off in search of The Answer all over again. This is the definition of suffering isn’t it? It’s certainly one definition of insanity.

Nowadays, I very much concur with Carlos Castaneda / Don Juan’s secret to staying fit and healthy:

“The secret to having a healthy body is in what you don’t do”.

Happy.

It’s been told a million times by a million people better than myself, but I’ll say it again: happiness is an inside job.

‘There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.’

That said, I’ve found something very interesting in my time thus far on Earth: we are innately happy beings. Given a natural, peaceful biological development (from conception to adulthood), and a supportive and loving upbringing / education, we cannot fail to be happy.

How many of us had those two simple things? Very few. Instead we have almost all of us experienced abuse and trauma, and trauma disconnects us from our happy Self.

So, yes, happiness is inside us already, waiting to come out, and yes, in that sense, Self Help or Personal Development is a waste of time, but you know what? Until you’ve healed the trauma, the happiness is hiding. Like the Sun behind the clouds.

Good.

Another cliché: ‘human beings are like snowflakes’.

Yes, cliché but true. No two of us are the same. Even if you take the most identical identical twins, they are deeply different; each unique. And as different as we all are, we are also all on different paths, and at different stages of the path. So no, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in this life.

One of the things that brought this home to me very clearly was a comment that a reader left after my article The 3 Reasons to be a Vegetarian. Calling himself simply ‘Omnivore’, this person said that despite having had been raised a vegetarian; and despite believing completely in everything that my article espoused; and despite having eaten the perfect ‘textbook’ vegetarian diet; he needed meat, and when he started eating meat, his health and sense of well-being improved greatly. He went from ‘surviving to thriving’. His comment helped me to understand that there is no right way to eat. (I thought I’d been writing The Truth, The Answer). It also helped me to find a better way for me to eat. Changing this belief – a strong viewpoint that I’d taught in seminars – wasn’t easy. But it was liberating.

What this world needs like a hole in the head is more beliefs, views, and opinions.

What this world desperately needs is more people who love themselves and each other and the world around them, regardless of views, beliefs, and opinions.

Please spread the love by leaving a comment.
Share, ‘like’, Tweet and ‘Stumble’ it.
Thank you!

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston is a therapist, healer, advanced Sivananda Yoga teacher, and writer. His writings have been read by millions of people and can be found on Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society, and various other portals online. He has been teaching Yoga for 16 years in hotels, ashrams, beaches, gyms and rooftops worldwide. And he runs a busy international therapeutic practice from his home in rural Croatia. Offering sessions in person or via Skype, his therapeutic work is based on healing trauma, and the tools he uses for this are varied – mainly RPT, Shamanism, and energy work. He has also developed some of his own methods, particularly in the area of abuse trauma; ‘resource state’ awareness; and boundary reconstruction. He regularly runs retreats combining Yoga and other energetic exercises with his therapy. He would love nothing more than to see you on one of these retreats, since he believes that this approach to personal development is really the only effective way of bringing love and peace to global human society. Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)

1,456 views

42 Responses to “How your personal views are worthless (& why you should probably re-think everything you think you know)”

  1. Kate says:

    For me, your last sentence is it–the Alpha and the Omega. I get it, I agree with it. Reading it, I get it. Saying it aloud, I get it. Next maybe writing it, I will get it some more. Posting it for all to see, we all get to get it! Thanks.

  2. Sue says:

    Ok so I am presently struggling with a work colleague – we can't seem to find a connection, I am told by others that we are very similar yet we seem incapable of dropping our own beliefs. I am at a loss to figure this out and now am having leave from work to avoid working with them. How do you accept and show love to someone who you feel totally judges you and disrespects you.

  3. missbernklau says:

    Awesome post! The end sums everything up perfectly for me: "What this world desperately needs is more people who love themselves and each other and the world around them, regardless of views, beliefs, and opinions." Facebooking/Retweeting now! Thank you :)

  4. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  5. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  6. Louise Brooks says:

    I'm going to print this essay of yours and pin it to my bulletin board. I hope to review it each morning as I feel it captures all the areas I struggle and fight with!

    Thank you and blessings.

  7. Emily says:

    “All I know is that I know nothing" was one of the first (Logic 101) and most important things I learned in undergrad. A frustrating bit of negative knowledge, really.

  8. […] amount of water, with diligence and persistence, cannot shape an entire canyon. On the contrary, being human means being in constant change and this change involves faith in what you can’t yet see or touch. It also implies that you have […]

  9. Keren says:

    Hi Ben,
    Enjoyed this very much .

    This part really sums it up well:
    "What this world needs like a hole in the head is more beliefs, views, and opinions.
    What this world desperately needs is more people who love themselves and each other and the world around them, regardless of views, beliefs, and opinions."

    I basically have the same "job" as you but what you wrote about the "omnivore" really hit home because being a yoga teacher/healer most people assume I am vegetarian and I no longer am. It was very difficult to cross that bridge but after finding out that beliefs and principles were killing my body, I started to research and meditate on the subjectivity of spiritual principles. The answer came in this form: be grateful and thank everything you eat for its sustenance. Simple because like "omnivore" I went from surviving to thriving and therein lies an abundance of happiness… and as we all know, happiness is contagious.

    Loving ourselves, the planet and the animals, thanking each and every one for everything that is co-involved in our survival is the basis of spiritual happiness. Disciplinary principles are highly valuable tools to help us get there, but we must remember they are tools… not who we are.

  10. Keren says:

    Everything tends to be a bit radical when it comes to changing ones beliefs. We hang onto them for dear life in fear of what? Finding out we were wrong? Being judged? Unfortunately, if we don't heal the ego (and the trauma that the ego is subjected to as well) we will continue to carry the baggage with us into our spiritual lives. Sometimes change = terror … but this is where breathing comes in handy :-)

    So yes… it's pretty green, sunny and liberating on the other side!

    Thanks again for this wonderful article!!

  11. Kathy says:

    Another beautifully written and touching article, Ben! Thank you!! I was especially touched by your comment about trauma obscuring happiness like the clouds to the sun. I love that! I’m in the process of healing my own childhood trauma, a painful but extremely worthwhile process, and I told my therapist yesterday over these last six months I have felt the clouds lifting, replaced by a sense of lightness and calm. Less judgment, more compassion. It’s a process, and every morning I ask “god” to show me a sign I am on the right path, or at least facing in the right direction.

    …..then I read this!

    You made me smile! Thank you, Ben!!!

  12. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  13. Suri kate says:

    Well the worst thing about beliefs is that usually they are someone else's beliefs…we never invent our own beliefs…we borrow them from someone else ancient or contemporary

  14. Laura says:

    Beautifully written, thank you!!

  15. Yogini5 says:

    To paraphrase Albert Clayton Gaulden, sometimes "you are not who you think you are" – until one day you wake up and realize that actually, you are …

    Now, this flexitarian is off to eat mostly plant foods but still almost everything …

  16. […] How your personal views are worthless (and why you should probably re-think everything you think you… […]

  17. Tom Pedersen says:

    Your friends quote "The more you study, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother?" The definitions for "learning", "know" and "study" are different than what I have understood them to mean.

    Conceptual understanding is knowing, is not a memory and at the moment understanding occurs, the significance vanishes and there is no memory to forget or then remember. "Knowing about" is data about something and requires memory. Example of the two: Do you know how to walk or do you know about how to walk? One requires remembering, the other is instinctual and is part of you, a conceptual knowing. “All I know is that I know nothing”. Nothing is the result of knowing as it vanishes things, leaving nothing to know.

    I'm not touching upon the Maharaj's quote without a whole lot more room here :-)

    Basically, if we as Spirit is the entity that can know, when we do, becomes noting, as we duplicated (became, permeated) exactly that something, it then becomes nothing, just as we are, conceptual knowing.
    Look again & again & again, observe everything until it becomes a conceptual understanding, a nothing. Thinking does not do it, perception does and becomes wisdom.

  18. guest says:

    While I like the premises of your article, I don't like your explanations. they are too whooy humbug "faith saves" to me. very disappointing.

    Except, if you raise your energy, develop a strong immune system, and have faith, you don’t ever get colds (or, very rarely).

    only partially true. scientist have tested if wet feet give you a cold (one group with wet feet and one without) and they found it's just not true. so it doesn't matter if you have faith or not, it matters if you your immune system is compromised (e.g stress) and you come into contact with the cold virus.

    "Of course, if you don’t wear shoes, you hurt your feet, right? It’s only logical."
    I always walk barefoot at home. I don't hurt my feet because I wear no shoes, I hurt my feet if I step on something sharp (e.g glass, a sharp stone). this assumption mixes up causations and correlation.

  19. Caroline says:

    I posted this on my facebook because I have never read more truer words. I love the last two sentences. They struck a cord in me and resonate in my mind. I will play it over and over until I can understand why. What you said about Happiness was truly beautiful. Having been raised my a Mother who suffers from chronic depression caused by trauma in her childhood I have seen first hand what damage abuse and trauma can do, and how trauma disconnects us from our happy Self. Thank you for writing its a gift to read! Caroline

  20. Mads says:

    Thank you Ben…
    For being humble enough to share your learning with us. It's not easy having to openly admit ones's wrong preceptions… and You do it with grace. i loved reading this. I share the same view in wishing that everyone as you say it… "What this world desperately needs is more people who love themselves and each other and the world around them, regardless of views, beliefs, and opinions."

  21. […] How your personal views are worthless (and why you should probably re-think everything you think you… […]

  22. […] How your personal views are worthless (& why you should probably re-think everything you think y… […]

  23. rebekka haas says:

    Great article Ben and very urgent and necessary!

    "If you feel a sense of social responsibility, first of all keep working on yourself. Being peaceful yourself is the first step if you want to live in a peaceful universe.
    Have you ever noticed how many angry people there are at peace rallies? Social action arouses righteousness. Righteousness ultimately starves you to death. If you want to be free more than you want to be right, you have to let go of righteousness, of being right"
    Ram Das said this an i agree very much

Leave a Reply