Sometimes I receive critical emails from people who strongly disagree with The Warrior’s Way material. These are not emails from people who have signed up for our email list. They are from people who come across the material when doing internet searches. They are so upset that they take time out of their busy schedules to write to me.
We all tend to think we’re right in how we perceive life. This is a natural tendency, which can give us confidence to live our lives. Yet, thinking we’re right tends to limit learning. The critical emails I receive take it a step further, saying The Warrior’s Way material is wrong.
How do we balance thinking we’re right, with staying receptive to learning? Knowing our values can help. All of us, however, don’t have the same values. For example, valuing end results is very different from valuing processes. The former gives us confidence based on end results we achieve; the latter gives us confidence based on processes we engage in. We shouldn’t expect others to agree with us if our values are different. So, how do we live our lives when we know we won’t get agreement from everyone? We need to develop awareness and then speak from that awareness.
The “I’m right, you’re wrong” approach is unaware. It’s unaware that the universe cycles between the poles of duality, seeking balance. We can’t have a left without a right. Left and right create the poles of a cycle. Valuing end results clings to one pole of this duality, seeking to validate what we perceive is right. Valuing processes pulsates between them, modifying what we perceive is right. Life is not one pole of a cycle—an end result—to validate; it’s embracing both poles—a process—to modify. Developing awareness leads us away from valuing end results to valuing processes.
The “I’m right, you’re wrong” approach limits learning, but we tend to take it further. We not only think we’re right, but we want to force others to think like we do. One of the main tenets of Zen is to leave others alone and let them figure out their own life journey. We tend not to leave others alone, but rather interfere with their journey. We want more people to agree with our perspective. The bigger our group, the more we feel comfortable that our way is right, and with a bigger group it’s easier to validate that we’re right.
Friedrich Nietzsche said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” The Warrior’s Way is one way that people can consider including in their journey. It’s one expression of reality that gives others options to consider.
Since we all have varying perspectives, we’re all wrong, not right, in our understanding of ultimate reality. How do we maintain confidence to live our lives if we know we’re wrong? Should we just stay quiet until we know ultimate reality? No, we’ll never know ultimate reality. Our confidence doesn’t come from knowing we’re right and others are wrong, it comes from knowing we have a process that goes beyond right and wrong, that includes all perspectives so we can dig deep within ourselves to learn. Valuing processes over end results complements learning.
Having different values will cause others to criticize us. Critics provide learning opportunities, even if it’s only to diminish our egos. When I receive critical emails I can notice my ego react. Does it get defensive, protecting its identity? Or, do I consider what they’re saying and find a way to balance my perspective? In other words, do I stay in my comfort zone and protect an end result of how the material is now, validating it? Or, do I allow myself to feel the stress, look for connections, and modify it? Sometimes I do the former, sometimes both, but my overall intention is to live the material, to do the latter.
It’s interesting to consider why something would irritate us, such as a blog post on the internet, that isn’t addressed to us personally. Perhaps we take it personally because it speaks to something inside us that hasn’t been addressed. The universe requires balance. Irritation is the universe’s way of letting us know we’re out of balance. We’re irritated because we’re too far to the left or right. Other people’s perspectives conflict with ours. In fact, the farther we are to the left or right the more we’re irritated, the more angry we are, and the more we’re willing to take actions to express that anger. Extremist groups come from the extremes of left/right thinking.
Socrates reminds us that the unexamined life is not worth living. He’s not talking about examining other people’s lives; he’s talking about examining our own lives. The Warrior’s Way is a process to examine our own lives. It’s helped me examine my life, made me more aware and now I speak from that awareness. Critics could learn something from Socrates.
Practice Tip: Examine Your Life
Buddhism teaches the importance of the middle way. It seeks to embrace both poles and find a way to maintain balance while walking through the middle. Irritation is a sign that we’re not in the middle, that we’re out of balance.
What irritates you? There’s certainly plenty to choose from when we consider what is occurring in the news, our work, and relationships. Now, instead of looking outside yourself for the cause of the irritation, examine your own life. What is within you that is out of balance?