As we get skilled at self-observation, we may discover how utterly opinionated we are. We see the prevalence of opinions in our lives and how they justify our behavior. If I can see my opinions for what they are, I have a chance to work with them. I begin to make the effort to detach from that opinion since I now see it as just that: an opinion.
Opinion is based on our likes and dislikes but is a more cemented version that has developed into a belief. We seem very attached to our opinions because they have formed over time through trial and error, experience, and the avoidance of pain and suffering.
Our ego fully resides in our opinions, so if we can question our own opinions even for a short finite period, we have the chance of touching upon something outside of our ego-driven world.
We open ourselves to seeing who we truly are outside of our opinions.
It is for this reason that at the Awareness School, we do not encourage the sharing of opinions at our group meetings. It can be offensive to some people because they feel they are not being heard. We are so identified with our opinions, especially when someone doesn’t agree, so there is a push to validate the opinion. Opinions become who we are. They are a hindrance to our progress toward egolessness.
Discussing different opinions has no place in a spiritual school.
Every effort we make in the spiritual realm strives toward egolessness. This is a large category of study not just in the Fourthway, but in most schools of Buddhism and other religions. If we make the effort to observe how we are lodged in our identity, we see the workings of our ego. We can begin to make the connection between opinions, like and dislike, and false conscience.
We may form the opinion that doing good deeds for others is the right thing for us to do. We form an opinion of ourselves as “a good citizen”. However, those actions may not be seeded in true generosity, but instead, thrive for the purpose of filling our egos with how good we are. That in itself may stem from very low self esteem or chronic guilt. The good deeds then become the compensation to make up for this lack.
This is how the ego works.
If you are interested in knowing more about false conscience, read my blog: False Conscience, Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason.
The practice of noticing how we have opinions on this or that and how attached we are to those opinions will give us a clue as to how strongly the ego is operating.
(If you read my writings, you may notice that I don’t use the word ego very much. I refer to the personality or false personality as opposed to using ego. All of these terms imply the mechanism operating other than our true authentic essence.)
These opinions of ours shore up our false sense of self. God forbid we question our opinion for a moment. It feels too threatening.
If, even for a moment, we see that what we are experiencing is simply an opinion, that in itself gives us wiggle room to see our ego in action. To remain neutral in the sight of the opinion, meaning we don’t start berating ourselves for having an opinion, gives us a chance to see something about ourselves.
Noticing opinion can manifest in many scenarios.
If we are in an argument or have strong opinions about what to do, where to go, where to eat when the group doesn’t go our direction, we become offended.
If our opinion is not sought after, we feel slighted and unrecognized.
If no one agrees with us, we feel isolated.
If we believe someone else is doing it the wrong way, we are filled with judgement…meaning we believe our way is better.
Perhaps some of these statements ring true. Feeling isolated, offended, slighted or better than are products of states of identification or “attachment to ego”.
Our work is not to get rid of opinions, but to recognize when we have them. Notice how attached we are to them. However strongly we believe that our opinion should apply to everyone is just how attached we are to them. Vegetarians feel no one should eat meat. Democrats disagree with Republicans and vice versa because of their outlook on how things should be run.
There will always be opinions, but we have to understand that that is what they are and try to remember the nature of opinion. This may help us to externally consider, meaning we ease our grip on our own beliefs so that we can understand how someone else can believe something different. There is respect and acceptance of one another instead of feeling threatened or dismissed.
Finally, to work with opinions is some of the finest work we can do to remember ourselves.
Try not stating your opinion when it is possible. How do you feel? What happens to your sense of self?
Notice how many inner opinions you have about yourself. How often are you berating yourself or punishing yourself for some false sense of not having done the right thing according to your “opinion”? That opinion of self is usually very distorted. Taken to an extreme, we are unable to stop ourselves from self-punishment in whatever form that may take, whether it be bad health choices to deprivation of multiple sorts from food to downtime.
Through self-observation development, a way to see oneself objectively, we start to see opinion for what it is and that is huge. We see our attachment to what we think should be. We allow space from opinion and get closer to seeing what is behind it.