Practicality and expediency often merge, with unfortunate side effects. The best solution is not always the tried and true one. There’s a good reason why.
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Most of us live in a great amount of uncertainty. That’s why we’re vulnerable to con artists with big plans. Whether they be politicians peddling impossible “too easy and too good to be true” solutions, entrepreneurs wanting money for the next sure thing, or the Home Shopping Channel guru with an incredible offer, we live in hope that we can solve our problems and feel better, courtesy of someone else’s brilliance… just by paying them to bail us out.
“Who gets conned? Ironically, those who feel immune. Pride, like most emotions, is part of human nature. But because it’s often treated as a favorable trait (taking pride in your work, etc.), it opens us up to being conned—first by ourselves, followed by other people.”
And how do we combat that? The blogger I just quoted continues: “Admit you might be wrong. In his famous autobiography, Benjamin Franklin writes of his decision to start admitting that he could be wrong when he put forth arguments.”
If Benjamin Franklin could do it, maybe we could too. Franklin simply substituted humility for arrogance. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. Being stubborn is a powerful habit, one that we tend to cling to… stubbornly!
We may believe we are being practical, but there’s often a deception in play. I’m reminded of the story about a young girl helping her mother in the kitchen. Mother was preparing to bake a ham. Her daughter asked, “Mother, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?”
Mother thought for a moment. “You know, I’m not sure. My mother always did it. Let’s ask her.”
Grandma was puzzled. “You know, that’s a very good question. My mother always did it.” Great grandmother was still around so they asked her.
She answered in a heartbeat. “Oh, the pan was too small.”
Here’s a perfect example of how being practical – blindly following a tradition without question – turns out to be ridiculous. On the other hand, there are many good news stories these days where innovators thought outside the box to solve a problem or create a new wonder product.
“A German college student has created a completely biodegradable packaging material made entirely out of seagrass, which simply washes up in heaps on the beach…“2 Here’s someone capable of original thinking, which we certainly need a whole lot more of in this world of quick fixes that don’t last.
The student explained, “It’s a natural waste material, and past research showed that it is highly resistant against mold… I’m only using the dead seagrass fibers that appear on the beaches of the Mediterranean coast, so there is no industrial harvesting process to harm the population of the seagrass or any living being.”
We tend to suppress innovation when it threatens the status quo, or when what’s being proposed doesn’t provide instant gratification. “Don’t just stand there, do something,” one of those old sayings many people live by, turns out to be problematic in many instances. In fact, we could easily reverse it and be just as practical. “Don’t just do something, stand there.”
In this action-oriented world, it can prove difficult to take a moment, to look before we leap, to give ourselves time to fully assess a situation. One simple way to cultivate this habit is to meditate every day, even for a brief period of time. I’ve been teaching meditation for decades now and, as I tell my students, it’s meant to become a way of life, not remain just a technique. Ideally, the practice of meditation develops into the meditation lifestyle, a sustained experience of inner peace and outer effectiveness.
Research has shown the significant health benefits of meditation but there’s much more to it. Through cultivating stillness, we can learn to live in the gap between “things,” sometimes described as “witness consciousness.” This is a place of calm certainty, more lasting and pleasurable than anything we can get from the outside.
So, paradoxical as it may seem, probably the most practical thing we can do in our busy lives, a habit that can make us healthier, happier, and more successful, is to adopt a daily meditation practice. Everyone is different so if you are just beginning experiment with mornings, afternoons, evenings, until you find your perfect time for a nourishing time out.
It’s quite a feeling, coming to know that the most valuable thing in your life is not a thing at all, it’s a state of being… and it’s free.
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