There’s an ancient and cleverly self-contradicting, Buddhist saying that goes something like this: “Enlightenment can be summed up in two words: Not Always So.” This playful adage implies that we should use caution before casually using words like… only, every, always, and never. But if – as the ancient Buddhist sages imply – there are no absolutes, then how are we to orient ourselves on the vast and often confusing ocean of life? Is there no “true north” to be found?
As we gaze up at the night sky, nearly every star in the heavens appears to be in motion due to the Earth’s rotation; every star, that is, except one: Polaris (a.k.a., The North Star). Because our planet’s axis points directly at it, Polaris stays fixed and unmoving – regardless of where you happen to be viewing it. However, from the perspective of a ship at sea being tossed around by winds, waves, and currents, Polaris will appear to move; but of course, the ship’s motion is what gives this appearance. In that metaphor, Polaris represents unassailable truth, and the ship represents our constantly moving minds.
Every waking hour, we are pushed and pulled by what appears to us as truth. These appearances, however, are filtered through the very biased and imperfect instrument of our mind’s perception as well as the mind’s interpretations about life. How then, in the throes of life, can we keep our gaze fixed (and much less, find) what is reliably unmoving and constant? Two words: intuitive feeling. Truth has a feel to it. Sure, it can also make logical sense… but inevitably, higher truths – when first glimpsed – will confuse and disorient the mind’s limited perspective. Truth is not something we can cook up in a lab. It can’t be created, it can only be discovered. And it’s with the navigational sextant of our intuitive feelings that we’ll make that discovery. The compass of the mind is well-intentioned. But if a compass passes by a large, metallic object (i.e., metaphorical cravings and fears), the instrument goes wild and – as a result – leads you wildly off course. The mind and the compass are both useful instruments. Knowing their limitations and how they can be influenced, though, is the key to safe and effective navigation.
As we become more in-tune with what feels true about ourselves and about life, we begin to sight immutable truths. For example, spiritual evolution will eventually take us to a vista where we’ll see that love is the highest response to any stimulus. Full stop. When our ego has been thoroughly consumed by our own core essence of love, this principle becomes as obvious and incontrovertible as saying that Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. But that kind of crystal clarity rarely happens without experimentation; and it is through experimentation that we discover what’s functional and sustainable. Our preconceived notions about what we think is true can then be replaced by what we feel is true. And how is it that we can hold onto this feeling? One word: humility. Humility attracts truth like a magnet… and humility is accessed by surrendering the machinations of the mind to a flowing openness of the heart. It is this openness that keeps the mind teachable and makes the mind aware of its own delusions and misperceptions.
When we fully engage the process of feeling for truth rather than thinking for truth, perhaps we will discover unmoving, “North Star” absolutes… in particular, with regard to the power of love. It’s worth noting, however, that in 13,000 years, a slight precession of the Earth’s tilt will result in our planet having a new North Star… the star Vega. And while the ancient Buddhist saying, “not always so” is applicable to astronomy, is it also applicable to the timeless principles of love?
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