Friday, May 1, 2015


Many years ago I was lucky enough to attend a couple of classes taught by a most exceptional man. He was a writer, a teacher, and a philosopher of sorts. 

One thing this man was damn good at was shattering the illusions of his listeners, removing their psychological props, and puncturing holes in their pomposity. His sole concern was to set those people unconditionally free, but first they had to acknowledge that that their best thinking and endeavors had failed them miserably. Ego deflation at great depth was the man's modus operandi.

The man was Vernon Howard [pictured right], and his psychological and spiritual teachings literally saved the lives of a number of famous people including the actor and musician Desi Arnaz Jr, his late wife Amy, who was an acclaimed ballerina and ballet school owner, and the self-help writer and philosopher Guy Finley, not to mention the lives of thousands of other persons as well from all walks of life. 

Vernon Howard's ideas and teachings have had a big impact on my own life, and on my approach to helping others. 

Here’s a wonderful piece of wisdom from Vernon Howard. It’s from his book Esoteric Mind Power:

If two of your friends are on the other side of a thick wall, you may not be able to recognize them by their voices. The wall prevents clear hearing. If you wish to recognize them, the wall must not remain between you and them. This is what we are now doing. In order to recognize the voice of truth, we are removing our psychological wall. For example, by removing traditional but false beliefs, we are able to hear the pure messages of our original nature.

It’s a great analogy, isn’t it? Beliefs distort truth (that is, reality). How do they do that, you may ask? I will tell you. Beliefs, which tend to set like concrete over time, are a brick wall between you and reality. Surely you can understand that? Everything ends up getting filtered through your belief-system such that you can no longer see and experience things-as-they-really-are. And where there is filtering, there is inevitably distortion. It’s as simple as that.

I held onto a number of belief-systems for many decades in the mistaken belief (ha!) that I needed them---that without them I could not survive. When I came to realize that none of those belief-systems had actually helped me---and, worse still, that that they had actually held me in bondage---I made a decision to chuck the lot of them out the window, so to speak. I have never looked back.

The Buddha is quoted as having said, ‘Do not believe, for if you believe, you will never know. If you really want to know, don’t believe.’ Beliefs fetter and cage the mind. They prevent us from knowing and understanding reality as it unfolds from one moment to the next. Beliefs, by their very nature, take the form of second or third-hand prejudices, or biases, of various kinds. Buddha referred to beliefs as being in the nature of thought coverings or veils.

You see, each one of us is in direct and immediate contact with reality, both internal and external, unless we choose to put a barrier---a thick wall or veil---between ourselves and reality. When we believe something about some aspect of reality, a wall or veil is placed between us and reality, effectively blocking off the latter. Using a different metaphor, beliefs are like distorting lenses which filter and distort reality as it tries to pass through the lens. 

So, if you want to see, know and understand things-as-they-really-are, discard your beliefs. One excellent way of discarding your beliefs is to practise mindfulness, for when we practise mindfulness we gain insight into ourselves, other people, and our world. Insight is a wonderful thing. It is like a chisel, serving to chip, carve, and cut into our beliefs. To quote Vernon Howard again (from the above mentioned book of his):

As insight chips away our hardened opinions and beliefs, we begin to see things as they are, not as we are.

Nor as we would like things to be.

Are you brave enough to discard your beliefs? All of them? I dare you.

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