“When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything. When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind …
Most of us do not give ourselves enough credit; we are all smarter, and much more capable, than we tend to think. Yet we often limit our abilities, and ourselves–ignoring our talents and skills or claiming others are much more capable. For many of us, this tendency comes from the ways in which we look at our own ignorance–we are each ignorant of almost everything in this world except our tiny field of personal knowledge, yet somehow we think that others understand better than we do.
What Shunryu suggests here is that we seek for understanding within ourselves first, for it is there that we will find our relationship and feelings towards all else, and it is there that we will find knowledge and come to understand the world and everything in it. If we take the time to figure out who we are–our motivations, our fears and desires, our hopes and dreams, the purposes for our actions–we will come to learn and understand all of life. In truth, we are all quite similar beings–we all are unique spiritual souls on a physical journey through life, with similar experiences, and similar feelings. If I understand my own fears, I can recognize those in others as well, and perhaps help them. And similarly, by recognizing my own prejudices and judgmental tendencies, I can work to be more tolerant of others, and perhaps help others to deal with their own similar tendencies.
Because this world is so immense, when we try to understand too many things, we often times become overwhelmed. However, we will always know the truth about ourselves, whether we admit that or not. And when we take the time to understand ourselves with more clarity, we will see more clearly–and understand more completely–everything that exists in life.
Take some time today to connect with yourself–to understand your needs and wants, your dreams and potentials.
Questions to consider:
Why do we tend to want to understand everything?
How hard does it get sometimes to see what truly matters and what seems to matter, but really does not? Why do we have this difficulty?
Do you know yourself? Do you admit to yourself what you know about yourself?
For further thought:
“Each heart is a world. . . . You find all within yourself that you can find without: the number and character of your friends within, bear an exact resemblance to your external ones; and your internal enemies are just as many, as inveterate, as irreconcilable, as those without; the world that surrounds you is the magic glass of the world, and of its forms within you; the brighter you are yourself, so much brighter are your friends; so much more polluted your enemies. Be assured then, that to know yourself perfectly, you have only to set down a true statement of those that have ever loved or hated you.” ~ Johann Kasper Lavater