When we change the way we view the world, we change our experience

I had an interesting experience recently that was worth writing down…

I had the tv on in the background while I was doing a few other things, and I could feel a sense of oppression, and despair, like a weight, on account of all the problems in the world. I could also see how everything appeared disconnected from everything else.

Then I remembered one teaching from Tibetan Buddhism that says,

When you change your thinking, you change your experience

but actually the meaning is more like

When you change your way of seeing, you change your experience.

They also express it as,

Change your angle of vision…

I have just started a book by Matthieu Ricard, on Altruism, and he has a passage where he says,

Altruism seems to be a determining factor of the quality of our existence, now and to come, and should not be relegated to the realm of noble utopian thinking maintained by a few big-hearted, naïve people. We must have the perspicacity to acknowledge this and the audacity to say it.

Altruism, or selflessness can be an entire way of life that includes how view ourselves, and our motivations in the world.

The great saint Shantideva said,

All suffering comes from wanting happiness for myself alone,
while all happiness comes from wanting the happiness of others
Therefore let me exchange my self seeking attitude,
for the intention to truly care for others…

Putting these two together, suddenly, everything changed.

I could see that

every story has a larger story behind it (every story)

and that,

when we change the larger story (the meta-narrative), the way we experience every smaller story (or the demi-narratives) changes as well.

Looking now at people’s priorities; the waste of time and resources here, the immaturity, or indulgence, or indifference, and the celebration here of all the wrong things, my experience is different.

I see that people all have their larger stories behind everything they think and say and do, even if they are mistaken, or deluded (people thinking, for example that what they do has on effect on others, or that they have no responsibility for anyone other than themselves)

I also saw that I can hold all these with compassion, and with an altruistic motivation – the feeling that I just want to do as much good here as I can, for as long as I can. It can be an inclusive view, accommodating every person and situation.

In Mahayana Buddhism, they call this

the sole thought on everybody’s side

I’ve been thinking in various ways about the need to change people’s hearts and minds when working for social justice, to end suffering and to bring peace. This is another way of expressing exactly that.

We need to change the way that we see the world, then everything we would accomplish follows naturally.