Dealing with different opinions
By Eckart Tolle
Viewpoints, opinions, and mental positions are all thoughts – the thought says “this is how it is”, it is some kind of judgment or perspective on things. To be identified with a mental position is to derive your sense of self from that mental position. It’s a substitute identity, form identity, ego – a substitute for your true identity which is formless and has nothing to do with any thought – but is consciousness itself.
There are many choices, other than negativity. The main thing is mental positions – to withdraw your identification. You can still have your position, but there’s no ‘self’ in it anymore – it does not supply your sense of identity. Then you can allow somebody else to have their mental position. Perhaps you can then discover that beyond both your mental positions – there is something beyond, where you are not in conflict. Beyond their thoughts and your thoughts – maybe you can find that place.
Your first responsibility is not to identify with a position. Everybody has to practice that one way or another. It’s a beautiful practice. It’s expressed in Zen. I don’t remember who said it, some Zen master said, “Don’t seek for the truth – just cease cherishing opinions”. And that’s enough. Many spiritually inclined people look for the ‘truth’ – hopefully at some point within, but first it starts outside. But don’t look for the truth, not even within, just stop cherishing opinions. Cherishing, not having.
It doesn’t say stop having opinions, because that would be difficult – maybe a very advanced practice. Even I have some opinions – but cherishing means to identify with the opinion, to be in the thought. And then it gives you your sense of “I”. Then anybody who has a different or conflicting position becomes a kind of enemy. Then you’re trapped in form. This is a very common human condition. Most humans on the planet derive their identity from their thoughts. So the thought is invested with self. Maybe this is another way of speaking about the essential truth of the Buddha, who discovered that this sense of ‘self’ is an illusion. You derive your sense of self from form – because every thought is a thought-form. It’s an energy field.
If this were your only spiritual practice, it would be enough. If you can try, for example, talking to the questioner, they can then become your spiritual teacher because he can continuously remind you not to be identified with mental positions. Then, you don’t resist the other person’s mental position, because you don’t need to – you allow it to be. You can even allow your own mental position to be. If you resist someone else’s mental position, you only strengthen it. Try arguing with them and you’ll see what I mean.
You may find the miracle that it can happen quite easily, that somebody’s mental position either weakens or it may even dissolve when it’s not resisted – because it needs resistance to strengthen itself, and to gain energy through fighting another. It’s quite miraculous to see how it can happen when it’s not resisted, when it is allowed: “I know that’s what you think, and that’s okay”.
Go within. Use the inner body as a starting point for going deeper and taking your attention away from where it’s usually lodged, in the thinking mind.