by Michael W. Taft
I often give out meditation advice on this blog, but today I’m going to do something very unusual: I’m going to give some life advice. And you might ask, “Who are you to give me life advice?” Good question.
My answer is that it’s not about me knowing more than anybody else, or being a big-shot billionaire, or having some special qualification. It’s about sharing with you, from my heart, something that I have found to be incredibly important. Something that I feel is the best advice I can give you.
My life advice is this: Never believe anything.
That’s it. It’s really simple. Just don’t believe anything. Ever.
Over the years, however, I’ve found that people seem to misunderstand my meaning. So here’s what I mean:
1. Ideas are just sounds and pictures in your head. We use them to make approximate models of reality, and those are helpful for staying alive, eating, etc. However, don’t mistake an idea in your head for anything real. Never believe any idea. Ever. Thoughts are just thoughts. The menu is not the meal. The thought is not the reality.
2. Some people think that this makes me an atheist, but I don’t believe in atheism either. It’s just another idea; just another prison. Never believe any idea. If there is a god, it’s probably not a mental concept of god.
3. The ideas people want to believe the most are the ones that cause a big emotional reaction inside them. But emotional reactions are just feelings in your body. They don’t make anything true or real. Never believe any emotion when it’s attached to an idea. Feelings are just feelings.
Please don’t believe anything that I’m saying. This isn’t some kind of meta-truth. It’s just another idea to play with. All ideas are useful or not. You can play with them or not. That’s what they’re there for. I’m not against ideas or thoughts. The brain very naturally generates thoughts all the time. No problem. There is (probably) a reality out there, but it’s not the content of a thought or a feeling.
Not believing anything gets you something—a real sense of freedom. Getting stuck to ideas is a bummer, because they don’t correspond to reality and they are notoriously fickle objects. Letting go of believing them means you can use them without getting burned by them.
Try noticing the next time you really believe a thought. This is a great mindfulness practice. Can you let go of thinking it is somehow pointing to reality? Can you still play with it without getting caught again? This is a game that can change your life.
What belief do you have that you can let go of?