This drawing fools the eye into believing the two white lines are bending. A ruler confirms they are parallel straight lines. Can we believe everything we assume about what we see? At first it's unsettling to question our beliefs and assumptions, but after a short while it becomes freeing.
Often we witness an episode in the lives of people and conclude it’s the whole story of who they are. We fail to ask questions that can clarify what's true. Here’s an unfortunate situation that points out how harsh and unkind assumptions can be.
An 18 year-old boy seeing out of the train’s window shouted, “Dad, look the trees are going behind us!”
Dad smiled and a young couple sitting nearby, looked at the 18 year old’s childish behavior with pity.
Suddenly the boy again exclaimed, “Dad, look the clouds are running with us!”
Finally the couple couldn’t resist and asked the father, “Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?”
The father smiled, “I did and we are just coming from the hospital. My son was blind from birth. He just got his vision today.”
Is seeing believing? The elements that catch our attention don’t always include the truth about the circumstances. In spite of knowing that, we see or hear something and make automatic judgments about it. Then we believe our own fabrication without checking the facts.
So when an assumption arises, let's question it. Let's turn our perspective upside down and live in the likelihood that our judgment is wrong, not right. Let's shift our thinking from being closed — to being open, curious, and interested.
When we have a tendency to be judgmental, not only do we judge others, it’s also our habit to judge ourselves. We believe many mistaken conclusions. So let's go one step farther. Let's question the harsh judgments we make about ourselves — assumptions like: “I should be different — smaller, taller, stronger, smarter, funnier."
When these conclusions arise, let's ask: Really? What facts am I missing?
Once we begin to question the validity of our beliefs and assumptions, an amazing change happens. We learn a new way of experiencing the world. Zen Buddhism calls this approach "beginner's mind" — a place of open curiosity and lack of preconceptions — even with subjects we've studied at an advanced level.
Is seeing believing? Can we give up the false comfort of "knowing" for the intrigue of "not knowing?"
Sources: Story by unknown author, Shoshin.