August 12, 2011

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

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.


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)


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”.


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.


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.

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rebekka haas Jan 20, 2015 11:25pm

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

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Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting.
He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.