The Hand that Points

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that a leader, a sage, a teacher, or a dogma can show you the path to happiness and fulfillment, but all a leader can do is suggest to you possibilities that will open your own mind to experience. All a dogma can do is give you a framework to improvise on. Ultimately, self-fulfilment has unique demands, because it is a unique journey for all. It’s the teachings we follow. As Alan Watts put it: “don’t look at the hand, look at what it’s pointing at.”

This reminds us we cannot become holier-than-thou in our search for knowledge and contentment. When we assume we are “more evolved” or “elevated” than those around us, we miss opportunities to learn. When we assume we are the teacher, and others are the students, we may find ourselves shamed at our impetuousness. Approach everything with an open curiosity, as best as you’re able. Instead of thinking of yourself as an initiate along a path of learning or a mode of experience, think of yourself as an investigator, and an impartial one at that: you don’t have a dog in this fight. You just want the full story, with as many viewpoints as you can gather. The truth will come out. It is yours. The opinions are for others to offer. They are theirs. Both are real.

Remember to be humble in your learning. Everyone is here to teach each other. Find a middle way of exploration: neither worshiping a icon who represents an idea nor dismissing the idea when it comes from the mouth of a beggar or enemy. Question the information you receive and your flexibility in processing it. It’s easy to get caught in recursive loops. The way out is silence and stillness. If you find yourself caught in a trap of thought hypocrisy, that is your consciousness asking you to gather more perspectives.

Each time we learn something, regardless of the field of study, we often find simultaneously we have seven or eight things we haven’t learned. This is the nature of knowledge and the universe. It expands. In this way, we are all novices, always. Approaching life in this way is the way of children, for whom “the Kingdom of Heaven,” easy acceptance of life and peaceful experience, is a natural state.