Compassionate Deep Listening

As I got to thinking more about censorship, and the actual core as to why it is happening on all sides of the aisle, I believe the real solution is compassionate deep listening.  I first heard about this concept from the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person.  You can call it compassionate listening.  You listen with only one purpose, to help him or her empty his heart.  And if you remember that you are helping him or her to suffer less, and then even if he says things full of wrong perceptions and bitterness, you are still capable to continue to listen with compassion.  Because you know that listening like that, with compassion, you give him or her a chance to suffer less.  If you want to help him or her correct his perception, you must wait for another time.  For the time being, you just listen with compassion and help him or her to suffer less.  And one hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

The fear, the anger, the despair is born on the ground of wrong perception.  We have wrong perceptions concerning ourselves and the other person, and that is the foundation for conflict, war, and violence.

We should be able to say like this: dear friends, dear people, I know that you suffer a lot.  I have not understood enough of your difficulties and suffering.  It’s not our intention to make you suffer more.  It is the opposite.  So please tell us about your suffering, your difficulties.  I’m eager to learn and to understand.  Dialog has to start like that, loving speech.  And if you are honest, if you are true, they will open their heart and tell us.  And then we practice deep, compassionate listening.  And during the process of deep listening, we can learn so much about our own perception, and their perceptions.  And that is the best way, the only way, to remove terrorism.

Anger is energy which people use in order to act, but when you are angry you are not lucid.  And you might do wrong things.  That is why compassion is a better energy.  And the energy of compassion is very strong.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk

The most heated topics involve a great deal of suffering, on all sides of the debate.  That’s what fuels the hatred, anger, and the deep sense of injustice within.  People have to be willing to put aside their differences, respect one another, and enter this compassionate dialog, listening to one another, and learning how each side sees the other.  Then when everyone understands one another’s point of view, has seen the genuine effort from the other side, and understands the suffering involved, it is much easier to make the proper course corrections.

Arguing over one another on social media, getting into some censorship contest, trying to silence your enemies, it isn’t going to accomplish much.  I believe it will only make people more angry; those involved will feel that nobody is listening, that the other sides do not care.

More Censorship

If you haven’t heard, Alex Jones, the popular right-wing conspiracy theorist, has been banned from the Apple Store, Facebook, and Youtube, all in one go.  It’s nothing new; we’ve seen the far-left, Silicon Valley types using what power they wield to stamp out opinions they disagree with.  What really shocked me though was that all the big internet giants censored Alex at once.  Aren’t these separate corporations with their own management and policies?  Isn’t it quite amazing how they all acted together?  That is a bit terrifying.

My worry is that a harmful idea is seeping into people’s heads;  if a person doesn’t like something or someone, it’s ok for them to use their power and influence to remove that other person or idea from the world.  Our problem is that we won’t accept or respect the people we disagree with and dislike. 

As Christopher Hitchens points out in the video above, when we refuse to let people speak, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.  We’re giving up our right to hear a particular idea and make up our own minds about it.

When I think about it morally, we as a society are not letting people be who they really are.  The right and the left are equally guilty of this.  Historically, humans have always been terrible at this.  People are always wanting to control and suppress one another.  But love is different.  Love accepts people for who they are.  Love respects people, and lets them express themselves, whatever that expression may be.

I want you to think for a moment.  When you see Alex Jones being suppressed, I’d like you to consider how this is awfully similar to a bigoted parent shunning his kid because of they are gay.  How are they similar?  Well, the parent has control over that particular household and what goes on there, and they’re using that power to suppress the child from being who they want to be.  The left does the same thing to their children if they ‘come out’ as conservative.  I’ve seen so many Youtube vloggers go into it, and it’s sad.  Many of these children are practically disowned.  So it happens on both the left and the right.

Think of another example.  Say we have a store owner, service, or business that is refusing to serve a particular customer because of their skin color, sexual orientation, political views, or some other characteristic.  Are you seeing the same pattern?  The owner controls what goes on within that business establishment and is trying to suppress certain customers, ways of life, or viewpoints.  This happens on both the left and the right.  The left was kicking out Vice President Pence from watching a play because of his political views, and the right was kicking out gays from their bakeries.  This behavior is a mirror image of one another; it’s the exact same pattern: I don’t like the decisions you’re making, I don’t like your way of life, I don’t like something about you, so I don’t want you to be a part of my reality; get out!

You can mask it in all kinds of fancy rhetoric, fallacious arguments, and mental gymnastics, but it’s all so simple to understand.  People don’t like one another and they want the objects of their hatred to go away.  In this particular case, I find it especially sad and pathetic because you don’t even have to watch Alex Jones’ videos.  It’s not like Alex is in your face, yelling at you with a megaphone.  That’d be a real test of your love and character, but if you had real love in your heart, you’d still love him, even when he was acting that way.  In this case, you don’t have to visit his Facebook page.  You don’t have to listen to his podcast.  He’s so easy to remove from your reality.  Just click away.  Close the window.  Leave that area of the website.  Yeah, he’s different, he’s fringe, but there is a segment of our population who are into him.  Let them do their thing.  Let the UFO, Illuminati, Bilderberg conspiracy people have their place in the big sphere of life.

How can you talk about diversity and then not allow diverse ideas and strange people to exist on your platform?  That’s what freedom looks like.  There’s a bell-curve, where most people fit within a few standard deviations from some norm, and then there’s these fringe people who are hard to classify.  They’re their own thing.  Let them be.

All of this censorship, this is group think, it’s conformity enforcement, and it’s a recipe for a boring world where everyone and everything’s the same.

Maybe you’re a part of the left and are thinking, hooray, now that dude is finally gone!  Well, these things go in cycles.  You can ban anyone and everyone you don’t like.  If you wield power, you have free will and can do that, but there will be backlash, and you’re not going to like it.  Eventually someone else will gain control over the things you now control, and they’re going to ban everything you love and you’re going to regret ever starting this trend. You’re setting precedents into motion that are going to be difficult to reverse.  You enjoy freedom now, but historically it’s a rare thing.  They’ll ban you, you’ll ban them, and eventually we’ll all be crammed into a tiny box, unable to express or be anything or anyone we want to be.

My Experience Going Vegan

Starting this summer, I decided to take the plunge into veganism.  I suppose it’d be more accurate to say I’m a semi-vegan now, because sometimes I’ll eat animals or drink milk.  However, I only do that when I’m with other people, such as eating dinner with my parents. For example, one day my Dad grilled steaks and I could see how excited he was for me to eat it.  In those situations I’ll eat what’s put in front of me, but whenever I’m preparing meals for myself, I’m exclusively vegan these days.

My diet consists of things like beans, lentils, oatmeal, brown rice, salads of all sorts, all kinds of fruits, such as cherries, oranges, apples, grapes, pears, etc.  I only drink water and plant based protein shakes.  You get the idea.

It’s been an incredible experience.  It was hard at first, mainly because I didn’t know what I was supposed to eat.  I was nibbling on some cherries and eating a few oranges and thinking, ok, this is a nice snack, but what about actual food?  I lift weights everyday in the gym, I need a lot of protein, carbs, and serious nutrition.  But once I learned the dishes, how to prepare them, etc., it really has been working out.

The first thing you notice is how light and full of energy you are.  It’s the complete opposite of feeling plugged up and groggy.  I just feel light.  Strangely, I’m now at a place where I don’t even want hamburgers, pizza, potato chips, and all the rest of it.  I know how good I feel, all day long, when I eat fruits, vegetables, beans, and all that.  Eating other junk now feels like pouring sludge into my body.  I don’t want it anymore.

Like one day I was with someone and they had a big bag of these puffy cheesy cheetos, and I grabbed two of them.  I took a bite and it was just like, my gosh, the salt!  My mouth has become super sensitive to things like that.  So much sugar.  So much salt.  So much grease.  Nowadays I’m just like, eh, no thanks!

Another thing was that my body got completely chizzled.  I wasn’t a fat person before this, but the fat I did have just melted off my body.  I look in the mirror and it’s like, hey, not bad!  I’m feeling better, looking better, nice!

And here’s the biggest one — I used to get headaches a lot.  I was popping aspirin all the time, sometimes several times a week, dealing with headaches from working on the computer all day.  I thought it was my eyesight, strain from staring at the screen.  I blamed my contacts, I blamed my glasses, I blamed my computer screens.  I tried all kinds of weird solutions, none of which worked.  I figured it was a fact of life.  However, it wasn’t!  Those headaches just went away.  I don’t get them anymore.  That was huge for me.  I remember the first week I didn’t have headaches, and I was like, wow.  Then the second week, still no headaches.  Double wow.  Then a third week, no headaches.  Oh my gosh, this is amazing.  Then a month, two months, and now three months.  No headaches!

That makes me wonder, what was causing my headaches?  Was it the weird hormones in all the milk I was drinking?  Maybe it was the steroids and growth hormone in all the chicken?  Maybe it was all the preservatives and salt in the processed food?  Maybe it was the MSG that’s in almost everything?  Who knows.

The more I learn, I just realize that our culture and way of life causes so much bodily suffering.  So many people suffer health problems, all because of what we’re eating.  We feel like crap, we’re obese, we’re all plugged up inside, and all because we eat the wrong things.

My Struggles Loving The World

Over the last several years fitness has become very important to me, and I’ve been going to the gym four or five times a week, being careful about what I eat, how much I eat, and all of that. I recently switched to a different gym so that I could work out with my cousin, who is only able to work out later at night.  The previous gym I lifted in was owned by a woman who always carefully selected the playlist playing in the background.  It was mostly classic rock from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  Eric Clapton, Dire Straights, Metallica.  A lot of it great stuff.  However, now at this new gym, they play mainstream pop music, and I’ve been very surprised at how dark and depressing music has become.

Have you guys ever had that feeling when you walk into a place, and it has this depressing energy?  It’s intangible, but somehow you can still sense it.  You just feel that this place is depressing and low energy.  That’s how it feels in there.

So I remember starting this new gym, and on one of the first days in there, I heard this bizarre song playing in the background, radiating throughout the entire gym.  I grabbed my cousin by the shoulder and said, “Are you hearing this song they’re playing on the radio?”  He was like, “What?  I wasn’t even paying attention to it.”  Then we both listened and were very surprised, to say the least.  I found the song on Youtube, and why don’t you all take a listen?

It’s strange to find yourself in the gym, motivational posters on the walls, showing fit people with a positive message of, “There’s never a day off!”; another shows a guy flexing his biceps, “I may not be the strongest, but I’m always doing my best!”  You’re all fired up, ready to hit the weights and then this starts playing in the background.

“I don’t wanna be alive
I don’t wanna be alive
I just wanna die today
I just wanna die
I don’t wanna be alive
I don’t wanna be alive
I just wanna die
And let me tell you why”

The song just goes on and on, about how nobody cares about him, how he’s unloved, and so on.  It was just like, wow, that was dark.  So we go about our workout, doing some bicep curls and tricep extensions, and the next song comes on.  It was this.

“I’m a mess, I’m a loser,
I’m a hater, I’m a user,
I’m a mess for your love, it ain’t new.
I’m obsessed, I’m embarrassed,
I don’t trust no one around us
I’m a mess for your love, it ain’t new.

Nobody shows up unless I’m paying
Have a drink on me, cheers to the failing”

It’s just like, again?  You’re a psychological mess, you hate everyone and everything, you’re an addict, you’re obsessive and embarrassed, nobody loves you either.  Ok.  Wow.  Two songs like this in a row, what are the chances.

So we continue our workout and we hear the announcer, “You’re listening to Spider Radio, playing the top hits of today.”  Top hits?  This is mainstream pop?  Alrighty then.  Get ready for the next song that played!

“Said he tried to phone me
But I never have time
He said that I never listen
But I don’t even try
I got a new place in Cali But I’m gone every night
So I fill it with strangers so they keep ’em alive
She said she told you she knows me
But the face isn’t right
She asked if I recognized her and I told her I might
See, everywhere I go I got a million different people tryna’ kick it
But I’m still alone in my mind
I know you’re dying to meet me
But I can just tell you this
Baby, as soon as you meet me
You’ll wish that you never did
(You’ll wish that you never did)
I stayed a night out in Paris where they don’t know my name
And I got into some trouble with that drink in my veins”

At this point I’m thinking, geez, listening to this is exhausting and depressing.  No time for your real friends and you don’t even try.  Beautiful home but you don’t appreciate it.  Once people meet you they’ll wish they never did?  Out in Paris, one of the most beautiful cities on Earth to walk around and explore, yet you’re disappointed and drowning away your sorrows in alcohol because nobody knows who you are?

Now we come to my struggle.  I want to have peace of mind, and to have that I need to love the world.  I need to see it as myself, and instead of suffering, I will feel compassion and love.  To truly love and have compassion, you have to see people as yourself.  There has to be a deep unity there.  The deepest spiritual states are when you see everyone as everything as aspects of the one true creator, and you see it all as aspects of yourself.  That’s hard for me to do.

But intellectually, just thinking deeply about it all, I came to that conclusion that we’re all one long ago.  Some of you may remember old posts where I thought about wiring people’s brains together and how that would affect consciousness, I pondered if we could exist without an environment to live in, and so forth, and the truth that we are all one became quite clear to me.  However, that’s not how I feel deep within.  I haven’t full integrated it.  I really struggle with that.

I have a lot of baggage and old ways of thinking that I struggle with.  When I hear radio stations like that in this new gym, and I just look at the world in general, there is a giant sense of rejection.  My inner being just holds its nose and wants to get away from it.  It feels like somebody is holding my head over a garbage dumpster and is making me take deep breath after deep breath.  Something within me is screaming, “I’m not here to tell these people how to live their lives, but whatever it they’re doing and thinking, it obviously isn’t working for them.”

Emotionally, this world feels very broken and screwed up to me.  I feel like I’m living in that movie ‘They Live’. I’ve somehow ended up in some alien matrix, surrounded by some strange form of mind control, and most everyone around me is asleep, and there are strange, manipulative beings all around me trying to manipulate all of our emotions and energy, attempting to create as much suffering as possible.  That’s how it feels.

These manipulative beings are always sending messages: Submit, obey, conform, sleep!  There’s no hope!  Be afraid!  Fear!  Terror!  Engage in pointless activities!  Don’t think!  Conform to squirrely religions, give your hope to political leaders who don’t care about you! Consume!  Have sex!  You’re ugly! You’re inadequate!  Buy more stuff!  Drink alcohol!  Escape!  Play violent video games!  Listen to depressing music!  Escape!  Sleep!  Obey!

 You’re powerless!  Only a deity from above can save you in the afterlife!  Put your hope in Buddha, Jesus, Allah!  Until then, give your hope to these people!  Hate this!  Hate that!  Hate the ‘other’, they’re holding you back!  Fight for peace!  Fight the ‘other’!  Hate the Republicans!  Hate the Democrats!  Hate the immigrants!  Hate the rich!  Hate the poor!  Hate!  Hate!  Hate!  Submit to your leaders!  All power exists outside of you!  You are nothing!  You have no power!At this point in my life, I’m just slowly unplugging, and simply observing all of this.  This madness.  What is it?  Why am I here?  Am I supposed to learn something from this?  If so, what exactly am I supposed to learn?

When I got into meditation and bringing peace to my mind, focusing on love, joy, peace, kindness, and the rest of it, all of this darkness just jumps out at me.  The key is not to identify with it.  It’s not so much about “right” and “wrong”, it’s moreso that it seems clear to me that the way they’re conducting themselves causes suffering, both to themselves and others, and that seems like a stupid way to live.

I’m doing my best to try to love everybody and extend compassion out toward everything.  It’s a struggle.  Take for instance when those negative songs were playing in the gym.  I learned a trick from the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.  Its annoying when you’ve just spent the past hour meditating and you’re in this wonderful state of mind, and you go into the gym fired up, and then the gym’s stereo takes a mental diarrhea in your brain.   But I’ve learned what to do.  You observe, let those thoughts come in, and then from within you shower the thoughts with love, and you offer unconditional love and compassion to these misguided souls and their music.  Then you do your best to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.  Why are these singers so unhappy?  Why are our leaders so corrupt and greedy?  You keep loving, walking in peace, blessing, offering compassion, and try to understand what’s going on as best you can.  That’s how you unplug from this mind matrix, and love the world more.  I’m working on it.