Opening to Truth

Photo by Anthony Rossbach

Someone recently told me about the profound shift in perspective they experienced when a college teacher taught them there are “many truths”. This isn’t a popular view in our culture – we are encouraged to believe there is one truth with a capital T. In fact, civilization has a long history of people misguidedly harming others in their passionate efforts to uphold their version of the truth.

One of the most difficult practices we can undertake is acceptance of what’s unwanted or unpleasant. Acceptance is allowing what’s already here, into our awareness, as it is, without filters, without grasping, clinging or pushing away. But, mainstream US culture pressures us to look at the bright side and think positively, which can cause us to reject some parts of our experience.

Like a tailor makes a “bespoke suit” for a particular customer, our unexamined minds have a tendency tailor our own “bespoke truth” that satisfies our preferences. The problem with this is that when we ignore or exclude aspects of reality that we don’t prefer, we miss out on important information that could be helpful in making wise choices. When we rigidly cling to our preferred truths, we fail to consider other possibilities.

The practice of acceptance helps us hold many truths in loving awareness. Mindfulness embraces the both/and rather than insisting on either/or, elevating one thing above another, picking and choosing what is seen and what is ignored, or creating a truth that suits us. We take a more balanced approach, allowing truth to emerge in its own time, unimpeded.

The world is impermanent. But the world is also a sacred blessing. To hold both of those truths in our hearts at the same time is the razor’s edge of practice. – Anne Cushman

One definition of truth is the revealing of what once was hidden. I like this definition because it means that truth is dynamic and evolving. It’s a very humbling perspective, suggesting none of us can be the ultimate possessor of truth. With practice, we discover that when we can let it all in with a beginner’s mind, there are often lessons to be learned that open the door to greater wisdom. 

But what about when the truth is exquisitely painful? As Anne Cushman says in her article A Love Not Bound by Time or Space, maybe the best thing we can do when we are confronted with difficulty is to: “..turn everything that comes, into love and awakening… be an alchemist, turning [pain] into awakening and love”. Instead of building walls and hardening ourselves to painful realities, we can choose to remain receptive and open, with kindness and self-compassion – after all, the truth is already here, just waiting to be discovered.

I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess. ― Walt Whitman

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