The Training Wheels Have Got to Come Off

It would appear that we, as humans, have a tendency to ostracize others. We have harassed and oppressed those we consider different: Native Americans, African Americans, Japanese, Vietnamese, and many others. Recently, we've been told to shun Muslims and gays. Everyone from politicians to religious leaders carry out these exclusionary schemes. Even children aren't exempt from the phenomenon, as evidenced by the recent spate of bullying.

We rely on the beliefs we were taught as children. Racism, homophobia, and sexism are some examples of learned behaviors that often prevail, even when our hearts beckon otherwise. Our minds accept the beliefs of others, and we claim that they're our own truths. We rarely question why we harbor disgust for others whom we know so little about, even when our learned behaviors contradict our own natural impulses and innate viewpoints.

We've come to accept these behaviors as the norm, and we cope with rejection by rejecting others. Paradoxically, we reject others for being who they are, yet we demand to be accepted as we are. We can desire peace, but easily be provoked to fight. We can say that we love, all while justifying our hate and hostility. We can encourage fidelity and honesty in others, all the while fornicating and cheating on our spouses.

We cannot use our own piousness -- or anything else -- as an excuse to condemn others we deem "different." Our judgmental tendencies have led us to obsess over minding the lives of others, while our own lives stay un-minded, straying further and further away from the love and acceptance that we desire. We must exhibit the love that we seek from others if we're to enjoy a more blissful human experience.

The bottom line is that no matter what our beliefs are, they are often based largely on interpretations handed to us by others. Sometimes those beliefs resonate with our own internal truth, and sometimes they don't. Regrettably, we often hold beliefs that we ourselves don't believe at the core. It's important to remember first and foremost that, regardless of others' opinions and teachings, we have a far superior compass at our disposal -- our hearts. It would be tragic to disregard our innate awareness, substituting it for another's opinion. We mustn't allow others to control our minds. We must learn to think for ourselves so we can enjoy the benefits of our mind, our most sacred birthright.

It takes courage to think for one's self. It takes courage to consciously imagine and visualize one's own life. The views of society may not always align with one's own. We should, however, take comfort in this. The resistance that society gives us can indicate that we are not merely walking in lockstep with the crowd. We should come to accept a form of resistance as an indicator that we are, in fact, minding our own lives.

We are fortunate to be born in a country that gives us opportunity to start from scratch and realize the dreams that others fantasize about. Those who wish to can pursue advanced training in any field they choose. We are free to pursue the American Dream of having a home, job, and comfortable retirement.

This American Dream is a great example of our tendency to follow the crowd. Unfortunately, many who aspire to this dream (which was proposed by others) have recently found it to be a nightmare. They've wound up under- or un-employed, with homes of little value, and with insufficient resources for a dignified retirement. It leads them to wonder, "Whose dream was this, anyway?" Many will concede that they'd have been better off had they not embraced another person's "dream" to begin with.

It might be easier to walk in lockstep with the crowd, to laugh at their jokes, to nod "yes" even when we don't agree, but there's no reason for us to all march toward the same goals and aspirations. Given that we are all so unique, both physically and mentally, wanting our experience to be like that of everyone else isn't just unfortunate, it's truly undesirable.

We mustn't risk squandering the use of our own mind; we mustn't continue to walk in lockstep with the crowd. Inheriting and owning bigotries, prejudices, and hatred is a most irreverent betrayal of our calling as self-thinkers. Now is an opportunity to question the rhetoric in our lives, to seek and find our own truths, using our own minds. The training wheels have got to come off; we need to apply the lessons we've learned. We can begin by asking ourselves, "Am I living in the place I would choose, if I could live anywhere? Is the person I'm married to the person of my dreams? Is my job or profession one I would choose above any other?" From this perspective, we can assess what's really important, so we can sustain a meaningful existence in the universe.

Let me remind you that life is, and very well should be, beautiful and blissful right here and now. I cannot overstate the importance of creating your world with your own mind, and not living in a world that someone else built to contain you. The power of your mind belongs to you and you alone. I beg you not to squander it. Don't let others seize the gift uniquely given to you to treasure.

The first step forward is to recognize what got us here in the first place: the trivialization and outsourcing of our minds, our most valuable asset. We must unlearn the "truths" of others if we are ever to experience the bliss of minding our own lives. We can discover our own truths within the universe.

It's true that you expose a tender, vulnerable part of yourself when you dare to be individual. You must practice accepting that vulnerable place within you, and allowing others to see it as well. It's up to you to surrender to yourself and let your free will flourish. If you don't get the steps right at first, just continue the dance. Soon you will be moving gracefully to the rhythm of life and love.