As human beings, we live in the realm of perception
If you’ve ever played that childhood game where a message is whispered from one person to the next, you’ll know that human understanding is always tinged by the filters and perceptions of our life experiences and understanding.
Human perception is limited by our human senses, which are different from say the senses of other creatures. For example, we know that whales, dolphins and birds hear and see and feel in ways that we do not.
We also know that human perception is coloured by our life experiences, which are unique to each human being.
Sometimes the outcome of varied perceptions can be amusing. But differences in perception can be anything from heartbreaking (i.e. relationship breakdowns), to tragic (such as wars).
There’s a beautiful Sanskrit prayer called Shanti Path
It’s a peace mantra, which begins with these two lines:
asato mā sadgamaya (From ignorance, lead me to truth)
tamasomā jyotir gamaya (From darkness, lead me to light)
Which is useful to keep in mind when you’re learning and practicing discernment. By the way, the words “lead me” are not asking anyone except YOU, to lead you to the truth!
From ignorance, lead me to truth…
Figuring out what’s real vs unreal.
In the same way that when you’re sorting what’s junk vs not junk in your personal belongings… the obvious stuff stands out. The objects you attach emotion and sentiment to, you’ll often keep, even though they might be junk in someone else’s eyes!
The more junk you clear out, the more spacious your environment becomes. However, on your journey to understand truth, there’ll always be more to clarify. Especially as you grow, learn and live more years on this planet.
From darkness, lead me to light…
If you’re looking for something and walk into an unlit room, it can be much more difficult to find what you’re looking for without turning the lights on!
Light illuminates and clarifies. Of course, it also casts shadows. So it’s important to be mindful of that, and learn to understand what’s in your shadow, too.
As children, our conditioning is to absorb what we’re taught
We’re asked to listen and learn, so that we understand “how to human”. Which we do via being completely dependent on those around us – parents, extended family, school teachers.
Our initial learning might include such tasks how to get dressed, when and what to eat, learning to tie your shoe laces, when wake up and go to bed, and learning subjects that the school curriculum deems important.
We are a “student of life” from the moment we’re born. So it becomes natural to trust those in the role of teacher, because that’s what we’ve always done.
This learning style continues from primary to high school, and perhaps into university and then into our working lives.
But as a part of growing up and maturing, it’s useful to decondition yourself from this mindset.
Most of us aren’t taught critical thinking, aka discernment
I like to think of this as the dance of balancing inner vs outer wisdom.
Which means understanding what you know, learning how to evaluate new information sources, keeping what works for you and discarding what doesn’t.
Instead of simply relying on other people to teach you and assuming they know better… it’s a good idea to connect to and evolve, your own inner wisdom.
Why is critical thinking/discernment important?
- So that when you’re seeking new information, learnings and a reliable teacher, you have the ability to assess what’s on offer.
- So that you stand in your power and truth, and don’t allow anyone else to over-ride what you think and feel.
- So that you learn to trust yourself, your own judgement and capacity for understanding the world around you. You’ve got your own back, and know your own mind!
I like this article on critical thinking – have a read!
Discernment is accessing the wisdom of our intuition to discover what is essential and true. Detaching from our desire to rush decisions, we seek to distinguish the true from the false, the facts from our assumptions, and then choose the best path. Reflecting in silence creates space for our deepest perceptions. With contemplative vigilance, we open ourselves to clarity. We listen deeply for the true questions, trusting that the answer will unfold and reveal itself when the time is right. We become alert to the messages that come in subtle and surprising ways. We hold decisions lightly until the truth emerges. Discernment empowers us to be guided by Grace.
– From The Virtues Project
Some additional thoughts…
One person’s use of the word “fact” or “truth” may differ from someone else’s
Beware of charismatic leaders or teachers who demand that their truth is “more true” than anyone else’s.
Desire, lust and craving can impact your ability to know the truth versus your preferred version of events
If there’s something you want – for example a new “thing” you’d like to purchase – then you’ve got the ability to talk yourself into the “truth” of why that Thing is necessary.
This can be true for relationships, validation of our stories and beliefs and so on. Say for example, you’ve got a strong desire to meet your “soul mate”.
While that desire drives your actions, it’s possible to find yourself being vulnerable to someone who does a very good job of matching your desires without really being an appropriate match for you!
Revealing the truth is an ever-unfolding task
Knowing what’s real and true, and being able to comprehend with clarity are helpful tools to assist in discernment/knowing what’s right for you.
As we grow and change, so do our needs, and our truth. For example, my current version of “the truth” is very different to what it was as a teenager, or even this time last year!
So how can you process and understand your truth objectively?
By asking yourself questions – also known as personal inquiry – which allows you to examine your assumptions, beliefs and perceptions. The questions I’m referring to are those ones you might prefer not to look at.
Like… “Is what I believe about this person/situation a convenient assumption?”
Asking the so-called “hard questions” instead of simply accepting everything that’s presented to you as “true”, is a hallmark of self-care and managing the integrity of your boundaries.
It’s important to investigate life experiences, opinions, ideas and what you learn from others… from many different angles.
So that you’re not solely being influenced by other people’s opinions and ideas at the expense of your own.
Any and all theories, concepts and beliefs – yours and other people’s – must be able to hold integrity no matter how we look at them.
Especially when it comes to spiritual teachings and appropriate spiritual teachers.
Useful tools for developing discernment include…
- Meditation – stillness, quiet, and space to simply “be” can offer swift access to your inner wisdom.
I’ll always remember sitting in meditation and hearing very specific and clear advice about a relationship that needed to end. I received that advice well before I was ready to take action on it!
- Journaling – letting your thoughts and feelings escape the confines of your physical self can be a very helpful reflection tool.
- Developing your intuition – is about honing your senses. The more you listen to your intuition, the more accurate it becomes.
- Working with a practitioner or teacher you trust – or a handful of practitioners, to ensure your perspective is not skewed by one person’s version of life! This can be really helpful when you’re wanting to unwind old perceptions and/or emotional wounds.
- ALWAYS check back in with yourself – no matter what you learn in the world or who you learn it from, you’re the expert in you. Don’t give that job to anyone else. Period.
- Revise your growth and learning paths regularly – QUESTION… is this still the best teacher/path for you? Check, revise and be true to you, rather than worrying about how others will feel if you change direction.
- Friends who’ll tell it like it is – such peeps are worth their weight in gold. They’re in your life, they can often seen what you don’t want to see. I adore and treasure my besties. They’ve saved my butt numerous times with their honesty and support!
Need a hand gaining some clarity?
One of my super-powers is that with love, I don’t pull punches. As a truth-seeker myself, I want you to have truth in your life. Your truth, not mine.
Ambha Amanda Roberts is a Kinesiologist, Intuitive Healer, educator and facilitator based on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. She offers Kinesiology sessions both in-person and via Skype/Zoom all over the world.
Ambha Amanda is the co-creator of Adventures of Staria, which includes a series of Staria cards, and an upcoming book for children (including inner children).