The Dangers of ‘Labelling’

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Before you click on the X button, let me swiftly assure you that I’m not going to bang on about how sharp needles are these days or pontificate about how life threatening sewing can be!!

Rather, I’ll be musing about the human tendency to give everything and everyone a label or name, category or judgement.

labels are for clothes

Our creator kind of stacked the odds against us when he bestowed on us such amazing cognitive faculties. Yes, you read that right.  The mind is both a blessing and a curse – the ultimate dichotomy.

We learn how to ‘label’ as a necessary activity to process information and to understand our environment, but if taken too far it can be damaging to ourselves and society. A purely cerebral existence is no existence at all. We must learn to balance it with our emotions, which emanate from the heart.

Mastery of the mind will be the single biggest challenge that any of us will ever undertake.  It all starts upstairs, so to speak. Foes we face are the ego, indoctrination, trauma and old habits just for starters.

George Bernard Shaw - quote-on-changing-our-thinking

I read some fantastic bios on Twitter, but no matter how many labels we give ourselves we are so much more than that. We are powerful, creative, spiritual beings learning how to remember who we really are. Words and labels are just insufficient and insignificant to describe the sentient being that is you; but, clumsy as it is, language is our main tool.

Why is it the arts have endured over millennia and speak to our souls so deeply? Long gone civilisations, movements and individuals that have defined a zeitgeist and had a rich cultural expression are still studied and admired to this day.

They reflect back to us the best of ourselves.

Music, drawings, paintings, sculpture, architecture and literature are a manifestation of our creative impulse, our divine origin.  Two people from different countries not speaking the same language or having anything in common can listen to the same piece of music together and be bonded through how that music makes them feel.

barenboim-quote

Music connects us to our common heritage – our humanity.

Art and culture are an enduring legacy of what mankind can achieve when following passion and harnessing experience rather than looking at what is wrong with the world and others.

The paradox of thought

We are labelling all the time in our thoughts. Only just this morning during my first violin practice in weeks, my thoughts were tuned into how rusty and awful I was until I finally let them go and just enjoyed the feeling of being at one with my instrument (even if it would have made dogs howl and cats run in  terror)!

Humanity’s intellectual and conceptual abilities have propelled us from caves and spears to modern homes, technology and weaponry. But, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, (rather worryingly), our technology is more advanced than our spiritual capability. The implications for self-destruction are all too apparent.

The mental acuity we use to solve our problems is usually the very thing that has created the situation in the first place.

As Einstein said:

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Internal map of representation

When we’re born our minds are blank canvases waiting to be filled. A baby feels no prejudice. Is your canvas a lovingly crafted masterpiece or a collection of quick and clumsy sketches?

We all use compartments to try to make sense of the world, to determine our own personal sense of reality. The danger is that we create divisions, which can easily fester and before you know it you’re facing a rift valley on the scale of Kenya’s!

As we are growing up we have experiences which shape our beliefs and judgments, so that we can formulate our internal map of representation. “I like to eat sweets, but I don’t like going to the dentist.” “I’m good at English but not Maths.”

After wearing a red dress and being teased one might develop negative associations with the colour red.

Over a lifetime billions of images, perceptions, thoughts and ideas enter into the grey matter to be processed. We are all computer programmers!

Perception

Talk about a picture speaking a thousand words. The heart breaking image of drowned 3 year old Aylan Kurdi really affected me. As a mum I couldn’t help but feel devastated for that family. Those boys will never have the chance to reach their full potential and live in peace, which is all they ever wanted. Isn’t that what we all aspire to? The opportunity to lead happy and worthwhile lives?

Until that desperate image was beamed around the world, the perception of ‘migrants’ and the challenges they face was very different.

Labels colour perception and close us off to our true nature and essence. Such labels only serve to dehumanise people. This is where the media have a responsibility to step up to the plate. They have the power to shape our perceptions on a huge scale.

William Blake - perception

When we witness the true suffering of another we can’t close off our hearts. If history can teach us anything it is that.

This talk by Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel at the White House is all too appropriate to the current humanitarian crisis arising from events in the Middle East.

The Perils of Indifference:

When we view anyone as anything other than a fellow human being, just like us, only with different upbringings, beliefs and experiences, it separates us. It means we have the justification to commit evil acts.

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The ones being labelled BECOME their religion or ethnic group, colour or sex. We don’t look past the categories we have placed them in to see the divine spark within them. After all, many faiths teach that we are all ‘one’ at the soul level.

Religion

“Religion is bad because it causes war. ” Let’s examine that provocative label shall we? Religion is neither good or bad. It’s simply a way that humanity organises and practises its different interpretations of faith. The true intention of religion is to offer guidance.

Dangers arise when more labels and judgements come in to play. My God is better than yours. God is punishing us. Infidel!

The cause of war is humans using religion to support their own self-righteous cause or agenda.

“When you have the choice between being right and being kind just choose kind.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Islamic State is the perfect example of this. The perpetrators were maybe once decent human beings until something went very wrong in their heads.  To coin a Star Wars phrase, they became seduced by the ‘dark side’. They subscribed to a virulent, hateful and evil doctrine stemming from a twisted, puritanical interpretation of Islam, turning it to suit their own ends: power and control.

The sanctity of life means nothing to them. They do not view anyone who holds a different belief to them as being worthy of keeping their head and seem to take pleasure in torturing others. It disgusts me. There is no tolerance, no love and their sick ideology seems to infect weak minded individuals who are angry. It gives them a way to vent their spleen and to feel important.

It’s the same with any religion. Christianity has done its fair share of torture, rape, pillage and plunder in the name of the Lord.

Dalai Lama - love-is-the-absence-of-judgementCatholic priests tend to get a bad rap these days, due to the terrible acts of abuse by some; but back in the days of my ‘black dog’ I was fortunate to meet a ‘good’ Father who helped me. He listened to me and didn’t judge me. I didn’t view his faith as a barrier to our discussions, and he didn’t use it to put me on a guilt trip over the mess my life was in, he just accepted me. I will always be grateful to him.

You can’t tar everyone and every religion with the same brush!

Over the centuries civilised people all over the world have been fighting against narcissistic despots, dictators, slavery, ignorance and exploitation. And it all started with what seemed like an innocent label.

We need to look past people’s appearance, sex, beliefs, religion and circumstances and see the being beneath. Removing these labels and judgements enables us to communicate from heart to heart and not head to head. Of course, as a species we are drawn to those individuals we feel a natural affinity with, but it would certainly facilitate more understanding.

I know that I have many flaws, but one thing I won’t do is care if someone is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, aetheist, agnostic or any other denomination. I will try and interact with them how I would want to treated: with common human decency, not with bigoted views and labels.

Labelling has its place – but that’s only on clothing and consumer goods. We should not let it define who we are: ineffable, eternal, powerful beings.

Advaita/Nonduality

I love this easy to understand explanation of Advaita/Nonduality.

If we could all see ourselves as one big family, born of the same parent, as spiritual siblings, the world would have more compassion, less war, less racism, less ageism, sexism or any other ism!

A very interesting and down to earth lecture by scientist David Bohm about the effects of thought and fragmentation:

Our daily challenge is to get our mind out of the way; to look, listen and interact with our hearts. The mind will then do our bidding and not the other way around.

“A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.” – Wayne Dyer

A K.O. for Boxing – What can we Learn from ‘The Greatest’?

Having witnessed the recent media hysteria surrounding the big Saturday night fight between Welterweight boxing greats, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, it made me ponder (albeit briefly), what it was that attracted such incredible global hype and scrutiny over a single sporting event in world history.

In a gathering of who’s who of living boxing champions and sporting legends speculating on which fighter will emerge victorious, with commentators going into a total frenzy over this much awaited ‘clash of the titans’, and sports fans all over the world tuned in to their TV’s clutching their remote controls, cold beers on hand to stop them overheating; all in anticipation of seeing these top sports men in action in the ring in Las Vegas.

The build-up for boxing fans:

Millions of viewers worldwide tuned in to watch this much awaited fight between these two impressive opponents.

Why? What is it about two ripped men almost dancing round the ring, swift in their movements, yet strong on contact, that appeals to so many people?

As ‘the greatest’ Cassius Clay, aka Muhammed Ali himself famously said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Muhummad Ali quote

I could be somewhat cynical and say that the biggest motivating factor is money. Huge sums at stake for the boxers themselves, the promoters and broadcasters, not to mention the kudos and profile of being part of such a hotly billed occasion.

I suspect for Mayweather and Pacquiao it’s the satisfaction of going down in history being dubbed as ‘the greatest’ that floats their boats, but for the rest of us it’s the chance to speculate and admire. There are lots of egos on the line!

Bookies will have raked in a small fortune over the outcome, and UK viewers had to fork out up to £24.95 on pay-per-view over and above their normal subscriptions for the privilege of watching it. I love most sports, but I’m not a boxing fan. I don’t see the fun in two men punching seven bells out of each other; I find it too violent.

I can however, appreciate the fitness level, skill, determination and mental acuity of the participants.

Impressive as the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao (#MayPac) bout may have been, it wasn’t as iconic as the ‘rumble in the jungle’.

Mayweather may have given a masterclass in boxing technique and officially won the fight, but for me he’s not ‘the greatest’ boxer ever to have lived. He’s a close contender, but Ali will always wear that belt and hold that title. He invented the mental game.

It’s not so much the physical prowess of Muhammad Ali that I admire, as more his mental strength. He may have come across as arrogant, supremely overconfident, and a master at psyching out and knocking out his opponents, but deep down he really believed in himself, and knew how powerful beliefs are.

Mahatma Gandhi understood this too:

His mental strength equalled his physical strength, and that’s why he’s ‘the greatest’.  He harnessed the power of purpose, vision and self-belief. It’s a principle that can be applied to any endeavour in life, it’s at the core of whatever you want to achieve.

Sages throughout the ages have known this. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  We create outcomes at their most fundamental levels by what is in our minds.

We’ve all doubted ourselves at some point or other, but as long as we are aware of our inner voice and don’t take heed of the one that’s less than positive we can win our own internal battles. In boxing, there can be only one winner. But in life we can all be winners, it’s simply a state of mind…

If the sun and moon should doubt,

They’d immediately go out.

~ William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

So going back to my question of why this particular fight was so popular, I think it’s because many people rated the individual skills and confidence of these two men and wanted to see who would reign supreme. They remind us of the greatness of the likes of Ali, and indeed of ourselves, of what we can achieve in our own unique way.

Everyone loves a winner. But if you don’t step into the ring, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.

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We are the ones who sometimes have to get out of our own way, we are our own biggest opponents; the ones who decide whether or not we will be the champions of our lives.

Like me, you may not be a world class boxer, but how hard are you prepared to train? Do you believe in your chosen path and ability?

Claim your victory, make it so. Your fans will be cheering you on.

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’ I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!” ~ Lewis Carroll