Today I got my hair cut and I told Jennifer (who does an absolutely fabulous job, by the way) that it might not be as artistic, but I wanted my hair either to be bangs or to be long, but none of the blending in between. She honored my request and I now have shorter fringed whispy bangs with everything else growing out. Already I can feel the difference–I don’t have hair in my eyes as most of the growing out stuff does go sort of behind my ears and of course it will only get better.
But this made me think about black and white thinking. In this case I think it is good to have either bangs or long hair, but that is very black and white or Yin and Yang, I guess. Yesterday I read a post from Daily Dharma (http://www.tricycle.com/p/1289) that talked about an open mind and not judging and I realized that of course black and white thinking is a judgement. In fact, I have deemed blended hair as not good. Again, that is ok here, but what about other aspects of my life. Here is the quote:
Zen Master Jizo said that “not knowing is the most intimate thing.” Not knowing means to be open to all eventualities, to not prejudge a person or situation. If your mind is full of preconceived notions, there is no room for an unbiased view. It is like when your hands are full of objects—you cannot pick up anything new. A closed mind causes separation and suspicion. Like an umbrella, a mind is only useful when it is open.
My therapist is really good at helping me see other options and not to think only in black and white, either/or terms and that helps a lot, but I realize that keeping an open and receptive mind and just being present in a situation, seeing what is there without judgement or blame is by far the better but harder road (yep, the judgement has crept back in). The minute I say something is good, then I’ve set up the bad as the flip, and conversely. However, many things just are what they are, neither good nor bad, neither hot nor cold, neither black nor white, and so forth.
There are times when the Yin/Yang of the Taoist symbol does come into play. Being/NotBeing, for instance, is just one example. And certainly the world does have myriad opposites within it. The problem is, as I see it, that in our fear-driven culture, black and white thinking becomes the norm. Anything which is different from our everyday experience is frequently viewed as threatening. Our society is extremely hierarchical, so that differences have to be rated as better or worse. If someone is different from me, that doesn’t mean that either I am better or they are better. It simply means that we are different. I think that might have been what was behind the statement I’m OK, Your OK. We don’t have to be the same in any way, but unfortunately much of our society finds differences hard to handle.
I tutor a number of students who are struggling in various subjects, but most often in math. It isn’t, as the school system keeps trying to tell them, that they can’t do math or that they are stupid. They aren’t at all, and I have yet to have a student I couldn’t help learn math. But the fact is that we don’t all learn in the same way. For some, visual clues are important. Others learn best through hearing. Others need to use several of their senses. Some learn faster, some slower. None of that should matter. None of that should be ranked. Each of our learning styles needs to be addressed and respected.
I myself have a number of issues with learning whenever it requires memorization because my brain is just not wired for that skill. I have, obviously, found many ways around that difficulty which I think is one reason why I can help my students whatever their learning styles might be. I have found ways to think outside the box, problem solve what needs to be done, and learn what I need to learn while working around my so-called learning “handicaps.” I’m sure all of us need to figure this out, but the point is that different learning styles are just that–differences–not to be judged better or worse.
I think that I will try watching much more carefully to how I approach any situation, that I will try to come with an open mind and just be with what is. It is very challenging, and of course much of the time I will not succeed, but I think that if I can just catch myself when I’m in a black/white mode, I can then learn to turn my mind to a more open approach. It’s certainly well worth the try.