As our world becomes increasingly interconnected through technology, seemingly, humanity is being driven apart by this giant wedge we hoped would bring all beings together. Positively leveraging this brainchild has become a task requiring as much ingenuity as it took to create the digital world. Walking through crowded afternoon streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia where people of all ages gather in order to exercise in groups, play soccer on makeshift miniature concrete fields, or gossip with your friends, one can see saffron robed young men as technologically up to date as their civilian counterparts. Why is the sight of monks talking on cell phones while relaxing at the local mall or seeing the bluish tint of their tablet radiating off their face in a darkened room awestriking to us?
Because of the way everyday life unfolds, we are conditioned to interpret similar events as being identical in every facet of life- a continuous, flat representation of the global community, if you will. Is the way I collect water and prepare a fire in order to boil potatoes the same as how a Mongolian herder prepares the same dish? Some people might believe so. Even within our own community, we create this food with the same end goal in mind – flavorful, creamy, buttery goodness; but getting there varies.
If you are so encapsulated with your routine, rarely stepping off the previous day’s footsteps and looking to wake up tomorrow with eyes afresh, here are five ways to rejuvenate your vision:
Travel- What appears as straightforward advice, “It’s different out there, go travel and experience it,” is easier said than done. Everyone’s initial response when I say I like to travel is, “How cool! I wish I could do that.” People assume that a requirement for travel is to spend large sums of money and an absurd amount of time reaching for the farthest masses of land possible. These challenges are ideal and possible for some. For the rest, we need to help them understand that there are local opportunities to see the community in new ways- take a random right turn to discover a coffee shop you never knew existed, look into your local conservation district and discover new parks to enjoy. With a little research, new worlds in your backyard will have you seeing your home with new eyes.
Have a dialogue with someone outside of your circle- The thought of engaging a foreigner scares me: “That dude looks like a freak.” “She will panic and think I am a creeper just for saying hello.” “That person’s views must be skewed radically to the edges.” Often, we judge people’s heart based on their superficial appearance. This practice prevents us from engaging new people and expanding our understanding of the world. For every time I have the courage to say hello, I open the door for an engaging conversation; and all the times I pass up the opportunity, I miss the chance to learn something new.
It takes courage to instigate a conversation and a willing desire of the recipient to accept the invitation. While this seems like the greatest challenge, the encounter can turn dreadful if a few bits of advice are neglected: Do not be a conversational narcissist. Share your accomplishments without sounding like a jerk.
Next time you talk with someone, concentrate on how interested they are in your story and vice versa. Is the person asking you questions? Does his body language insinuate interest or is he reserved with arms crossed? Do you funnel all the attention towards your aspirations or accomplishments? People love talking about themselves and being heard. On the contrary, they hate listening to others. Conversations can quickly turn into a competition if each person is more interested in themselves. Be willing to initiate and accept pleasantries even if time is a constraint. But, do so with the intention of learning and adding a new contact to your network.
Be open to the opposite viewpoint- So you have taken a leap of faith. Someone approaches you hoping to engage your opinion. You figure, “Why not, I want to expand my horizons and have a dialogue with someone new.” Immediately you come to understand that she is positioned on the right and you on the left; your views could not be further disconnected. Your first thought might be to run in the opposite direction.
"In general I’m in favor of skepticism, but only the well-informed, intellectually curious kind, not the knee-jerk “it doesn’t sound intuitively realistic so I’ll disbelieve it without bothering to check” kind," Baba Brinkman states in his blog. Adding to the idea of positive skepticism he continues, "When our views are self-correcting and open to revision based on new evidence, they will continue to hone in on increasingly accurate representations of the real world. That’s good honest skepticism, and when it wins over bad, knee-jerk, “it’s hard to imagine” skepticism, that’s a beautiful thing."
Instead of abandoning this apparent nightmare of a conversation, turn it into an enlightening experience. Challenge yourself to hear what the other is saying. Ask questions that help you further understand where your counterpart’s mind is. You may not be able to add valuable input, but after exchanging contact information, you can follow up with real evidence to help stabilize the person’s standpoint or learn that your initial thought needed tweaking.
Vipassana mediation- Often, we turn to others in times of grief for comfort, or family and friends during our happiest moments to celebrate. Some people turn to drugs, alcohol or even food to cope with stress. What if there was another way? Perhaps there is a more effective technique to understand where feelings of contentment and unhappiness are rooted? What if we were to interpret these origins as being caused by our own selves? When this conclusion is made, being equanimous becomes wanton.
If so, you would likely find yourself attending a Vipassana Meditation course. With diligent, hard work, at the end of ten days one feels refreshed. The mind is calm. You begin to see things the way they really are and each sensation that arises will be met equally, allowing you to make more thoughtful decisions without being affected by the positive of negative stimulus.
Be yourself- Sometimes the hardest thing to be in this world is yourself. When we allow the negative pressures of cultural ideology determine our way of thinking, behaving or speaking, the world remains a powerfully unbearable mass of meaningless life. By traveling, we learn about the world and our place within it. Speaking to others and listening to viewpoints that differ from our own allows us to grow in unpredictable ways. With continued practice, Vipassana meditation helps us to step away from and react to the inevitable ebbs and flows of everyday life with grace. Doing all these in conjunction with the other gives us unprecedented access to the moral imagination; allowing us to more easily place ourselves in another person’s shoes.
The Art of Manliness is a blog that features articles on helping men become better husbands, fathers and men.