‘The Way We Label Things’

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photoI write a lot about mindsets – what informs them, how they limit us, and how transformative learning experiences can help us expand them. Pema Chodron, in one of her recent books, gets at this concept – the concept of how our mindsets limit us – in such a powerful way that I wanted to share it in this post:

Reality is wherever we find ourselves in the moment, and it’s not as solid, not as certain, as we think.

     One of the astronauts who went to the moon later described his experience looking back at Earth from that perspective. Earth looked so small, he said. Just a single sphere hanging in space. It made him very sad to realize that we have divided the world arbitrarily into countries that we’re fiercely attached to, with borders we keep waging wars to protect. What we do just doesn’t make sense, he realized. We have just this one Earth with one people to take care of it, and the way we’re going about it is crazy.

The way we label things is the way they will appear to us. When we label a piece of the earth China or Brazil or the United States, it becomes an entity that carries strong emotional baggage. When we label something good, we see it as good. When we label something bad, we see it as bad. We get so hung up on like and dislike, on who’s right and who’s wrong, as if these labels were ultimately real. Yet the human experience is an experience of nothing to hang on to, nothing that’s set once and for all. Reality is always falling apart. In this fleeting situation, the only thing that makes sense is for us to reach out to one another.

As we move in the direction of seeing more space around our fixed ideas, around our limited sense of self, around our notions of right and wrong, around the labels we’re so invested in, the crack in our conventional way of experiencing life will get wider and wider. At that point it may start to dawn on us that if we want to change the movie of our life, we will have to change our mind.

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