Unquestioned Assumptions And Holistic Change

The following reflection was inspired by the first session of Nurturing the Fields of Change.

When I reflect on change, the first and most obvious question I ask myself is, “Why do we need to change?” What has led to this mess we are in and, even better, what is going on that keeps this mess alive that most of us apparently agree needs changing?

All change that doesn’t address these questions is cosmetic – it might seem like things have changed, but if the underlying worldview has not shifted, we are bound to revert to our old ways. Therefore, a key aspect of holistic change (=change on all levels of our experience) is an ongoing inquiry, often referred to as inner work.

Usually, it’s not enough to ask myself a few questions once and then be done with it. If we want to get to the ground of any issue, it might be useful to adopt a mantra – further. The moment we have reached an insight into the nature of things or why things seem to be the way they are, it’s almost instantly obsolete. Insights are not trophies we carry around but tools that help us remove layers of wrong thinking.

As I remove these layers of false beliefs, I’m reminded of my utter ignorance. This utter ignorance is not a gaping void that needs to be filled with facts and knowledge; instead, it’s an invitation to allow myself to not-know. We are all submerged in the ocean of not-knowing, whether we know it or not, simply because everything we claim to know is based on unquestioned beliefs.

And the most obvious but most easily missed aspect about beliefs is that no belief is true. If beliefs were true, they wouldn’t be called beliefs.

Naturally, we can ask ourselves if there is anything we can know. And the answer as far as I’m concerned is yes and no. The only thing that I or anyone else for that matter ever seems to be able to know is knowing itself which is synonymous with ‘I’ or ‘Consciousness’. It is knowing without an object to be known. It is undivided experiencing. This is the unmistakable truth of my being and is obvious when I have the courage to look.

From this ground zero – a clear, open space – I can start to envision something. Perhaps a better world – a world more aligned with the values many of us hold. But I mustn’t skip steps and convince myself that I understand something I don’t.

So, here we come back to the initial invitation – questioning our unquestioned assumptions. Unquestioned assumptions can influence the trajectory of our individual lives and planetary development in ways we’re not aware of. Looking at the state of the world, we can see that this is what is happening.

Seeing suffering, ecological destruction, and the decline in mental health triggers a sense of urgency. Of course, most of us would agree that we don’t want to push our dear home planet beyond the event horizon where environmental and social damage leads us down a road we never intended to travel on. Nonetheless, I realized that if I’m too quick in trying to change things without ever having questioned my assumptions, I’m meddling with something I don’t understand, which could have more unintended consequences.

In reflecting on my experiences, I’ve seen that good intentions have led to negative outcomes, and bad intentions have led to positive outcomes. A good intention in itself isn’t worth much when it’s not accompanied by the willingness to question, be honest, look more closely, and start from a common ground – not-knowing. This requires setting aside egoic motivations and admitting that we don’t know.

Although most of us would agree that we want to care for our planet and thus improve our way in the world, I found that I don’t have a natural predisposition for activism, humanitarianism, and environmentalism. And I’m convinced that not everyone has to. But I also feel that the few of us who experience this as a calling and take this subject seriously, have to be honest, perhaps more than others.

Every one of us, whether we care or not, is an integral part of our ecosystem and thus makes an impact. So, how do the ones of us who do care convince the ones who don’t care that much to care more? The simple answer is we don’t. We don’t try to convince anyone because in the act of trying to convince someone we’re not considering their experience – what they want, care about, and try to achieve.

I don’t want to be convinced. But I’m always more than willing to question my assumptions.

And here is the magic in questioning my assumptions. No matter what I care about, or what I want to achieve, questioning my beliefs has proven to be useful for any endeavor (except perhaps living a life of unconsciousness). If we are thorough in our inquiry, we’ll naturally question our attitude towards the things we don’t care about, which may change our attitude from one of not caring to one of caring.

Personally, I’ve discovered that I do love this planet and have a great appreciation for humanity. Therefore, I am willing to treat the planet and its inhabitants with patience and compassion. If that means changing my ways to make sure things are moving in a holistically beneficial direction, then that’s what I am willing to do. But what I am unwilling to do is blindly swallow ideas and charter a course of action that is uninformed by honest inquiry.

Regardless of our goals and values, questioning our belief structure can be highly rewarding. Whether it comes with recognizing a path to our goals or a complete reorientation of our goals and values to be more in alignment with our authentic expression, if done with honesty and focus, inquiry always leads to the same destination.

And thus, we are all united at the starting line.

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