There are two types of assumptions: One we could call public assumptions that until we wake up, we all share. These include assumptions like: we are limited to a body and a mind, we are boxed in by a solid world, and we get our happiness from the things that we see.
The other type of assumptions are the ones that we pick up privately. Their signature is more how we react to the situations that we face. They also include our personal likes and dislikes. These assumptions are based on tendencies that we were born with, and ideas that we pick up from the situations that we face in life.
Assumptions: Thoughts That Define & Limit Us
These assumptions are thoughts in the mind that define us and limit us. But the strangest thing about these assumptions is that they are not even there. They are really just groups of thoughts, glued together by our assumption that they are true. And yet they seem to cause so much pain and suffering for us.
Looking through the lens of an assumption, everything seems to make sense. All the rationalizations that you think up seem true, and all your friend agree that this is the way things really are.
Stepping Out of Limiting Assumptions
From the point of view of your direct experience, when you question and then step out of limiting assumptions, everything changes. At the same time you recognize that nothing really changed. Only now you get to see things the way they really are.
What about our private assumptions? Here I can choose one that I saw in play from my own life. When I was young I studied a rougher style of Aikido (a martial art). All my friends agreed that this was the real Aikido because it was effective. We were so strong that we drove everyone else away. Also, I had all the reasons worked out in my mind for why I wanted to get strong. For instance I thought, “How can you have peace, if you don’t have the strength to enforce peace?”
But I ignored one little fact. The real reason behind all of this was my fear of people and my desire to insulate myself from the world. When, in a moment of honesty, I finally recognized this, my whole framework collapsed. I lost my desire to get strong and started enjoying my real connection with the world, which comes out of love.
The point of this story is that when you recognize an assumption that you thought was true, and when you question it, the framework of thoughts that the assumption supported, quickly comes unglued. After all, it is merely the assumption that the framework is true that glues it together.
So how do you recognize these assumptions? Oftentimes they seem so close to you that they feel as if they are just normal, or just the way things are. At first you may think that questioning these assumptions is like questioning the air that you breathe.
But your assumptions do have certain signatures, and it is by these signatures that you can recognize them. The first signature is that they feel limiting. You might pick this up as the feeling that things aren’t quite right, or that something is wrong here, or it just might feel like plain suffering.
If you feel suffering, look for the frameworks that are limiting you. Suffering is God’s way of saying, “Look here and resolve this!”
Questioning What Seems "Normal"
The other way to recognize assumptions is to question the things that you take to be normal, that feel so close to you that they are obviously the way things are.
I was often able to recognize limiting frameworks when I heard these statements going off in my mind:
1) This is just the way I am!
2) This is just the way my mind works!
3) This is just the way the world is!
4) That’s life!
Now when you hear these statements going off in your mind, or any of their variations, it’s time to seek out and destroy an assumption. So ask, “Is that really the way I am?” or “Is that really the way life is?”, etc.
Recognizing Assumptions Without Self-Judgment
What happens next is that you will see all of the little thoughts that play on top of these assumptions. Now if you can look without self-judgment, this part of your practice becomes fascinating. It is like looking at a movie or reading a novel about someone else. But you are the star!
You might see the reason you always had trouble with relationships: You saw the world as a tough place where you had to protect yourself. So you were running towards and away from people, both at the same time.
Or you lied because you were afraid that people would hurt you if you told the truth.
Or you procrastinated because of your fear, “I can’t!” or the concept, “I don’t like to do this!”
Now at times I found this stuff painful to look at. That’s because sometimes I saw that my behavior, based on my assumptions, ended up hurting others.
How Do Assumptions Get Resolved?
So how did these assumptions resolve? My job was to see what was going on in my mind. As soon as I got a clear insight into what I was living by, and what I was taking to be true, the concept would lose its sting.
Inevitably when the same situation arose that in the past would cause me suffering, my reaction and my response to that situation was completely different. Most importantly, I felt like my response came from the place of freedom.
If you can find a way to embrace this form of practice, even if it’s with a little trepidation, you will find your experience and life changing in ways that you could never imagine. You will find that freedom and joy are natural. That they are what you are.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Light Up Your Life. ©2010. www.Light-Up-Your-Life.com.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
Making Your Wisdom Come Alive
by Michael Gluckman.
In the fully revised second edition of “Making Your Wisdom Come Alive,” Michael Gluckman reveals the secret teachings passed down from antiquity. He shows how these teachings are genuine, because they are reasonable and because you can experience them. Although they help with stress, depression and anxiety, Michael shows how life is more than just getting rid of problems. In fact you will be astonished by how much peace and joy you can experience. In the same way that the sages of old discovered this indescribable freedom, you can discover it too. Indeed, you will find that the source of wisdom and happiness is the center of your experience.
About the Author
Michael Gluckman’s interest in meditation started in 1965 when he was introduced to the Quakers. The Quaker’s belief is that God is within you. This was a revelation, an “aha” moment that struck a deep cord. Within pointed to a place where Michael felt that he could experience God directly. However, it was 25 years before he actually discovered the blissful freedom that comes from within.That’s why he wrote Making Your Wisdom Come Alive; so that you can take the direct path to this freedom, which turns out to be your own Self-Nature. Although he doesn’t consider himself to be a teacher, he does allow people who want to deepen their spiritual practice to ask questions, and he takes the time to answer the questions sent to him; see www.Light-Up-Your-Life.com.