Monday, May 14, 2007

People: Residual Opinions

We had quite a few participants (myself included) who realized our challenges with others often came from residual opinions. Residual opinions are opinions we formed about people long ago that have stuck with us. The people have long since changed, but your opinion remains and colors everything they do.

I had an interesting experience in which I was the "victim" of someone’s residual opinion. It was a very mild example, but poignant for me in light of these discussions. My daughter has recently taken up knitting and cross-stitching. I have been doing them with her and thoroughly enjoying myself. As I child I had not been quiet or patient enough to pursue such activities. As an adult who has worked on cultivating quiet in my heart, I now find myself enjoying them immensely and using them as part of my meditational practice. When my sister heard Sierra was doing needle work, she commented that that was ironic and how was I able to stand it? It was a very innocent comment that would have been exactly right a dozen years earlier. I am different now, though, and she hasn’t gotten to know the newer version yet. What the lesson for me was how misunderstood I felt. I wanted to defend my new place, let her know I am not that person anymore. I then realized how it feels for others to be misunderstood.

Here is a quote from Donna Farhi that speaks to this idea:
“We build self-images and construct concepts and paradigms that feed our sense of certainty, and then we defend this edifice by bending every situation to reinforce our certainty. This would be find if life were indeed a homogenous even in which nothing every changed, but life does change, and it demands that we adapt and change with it. The resistance to change, and tenaciously holding on to things, causes great suffering and prevents us from growing and living in a more vital and pleasurable way.”

When we hold on to old opinions and ideas whether they be about people or beliefs or situations, we are only holding ourselves back from growing and feeling joy.