The one thing that has caused the most grief in the world, can arguably be said to be limited thinking. The problem with many seems to be their ability to only see things in black and white. That is most people tend to only see things in one or the other extremes and they fail to realize that such extremes do not exist.
The more that we understand the reality around us, the more that we realize that there is no such things as ultimate extremes. A good example of this is black and white and as a result I call this kind of thinking ‘black and white thinking’. The analogy here is that there is no such thing as true black and in the same token there is no such thing as true white either. What you might considered to be black is actually a grey tone that goes beyond a certain threshold in your visual perception and you therefore consider it to be black, but true black can never exist because you will never be able to find a pure and completely undiluted black tone. Essentially what you are seeing is a shade of gray which you consider black. In the same way there’s no such thing as a true white tone; you might look at something that you consider white but if your eyes were able to perceive in greater detail, you would realize that the white tone that you thought you saw is actually a shade of gray.
Just as there are no absolutes in tonality, there are no absolutes in any part of life either. Everything in the world is made up of shades of gray and the only thing that stops you from seeing this is a lack of perception.
In order to expand yourself and your thinking potential, you must begin by realizing that everything is far more complex than you now imagine. And even though your perception may tell you that something is good or bad, wrong or right, in reality these are just subjective judgments. What is meant by this is that these judgments that you make are based on your internal state, personal perception, and the capability of your senses. If you could see more, change your subjective state, or be aware of more, it is quite possible that you would change your judgment. Any increase in awareness will also change your internal beliefs about things and as such will definitely color how you experience reality.
Since we all occupy different spaces in a 3-D environment, we therefore perceive things from different angles. My perception of the tree is not the same as your perception of that same tree because your perception is in a different space than mine. While we could agree on the similarities and therefore create a reasonable conceptualization of what we have both seen, we can never truly see the same thing. It is also the case that our subjective past experiences and our belief systems affect how we perceive reality and since my beliefs might be quite different from yours, my perception of a tree might also be quite different from yours as a result.
You begin to expand your awareness by realizing that everything is far more complex than you currently imagine. That there is more going on than your senses are telling you. While science has attempted, quite successfully, to expand the possibility of its awareness using instruments to increase its perception, it has hit a dead end in many fields because of the fact that it is not able to expand its belief systems and structures.
This gives us a clue as to why we seem to have great technological advancements and yet our perception and spiritual clarity seem to be quite limited. The answer is that we are creating technological tools that might expand our perception, but that these technological tools are created to try and see what we want to see or expect to see. That is our technological tools are being created by individuals with limited belief systems and because of these limited belief systems, these individuals are creating tools that are only allowing them to see those things which they expect to see.
Religion does no better in that it’s not even willing to create new theories and advancements. Most religions tell you that this is so and that is the way it is. There is no fighting this belief system, you either accept it as fact or you don’t, and these beliefs tend to usually be of an extreme nature; that is they are either black or white, there is nothing in between. And as we have discussed, the most limited kind of thinking possible is black and white thinking.
In order to expand your thinking therefore you must get over any perceptive structure or beliefs that you have that makes you only see something in a black and white perspective. The exercises below are a fun way to try and expand the areas in your life where you know that you are seeing things in only black and white:
1. Look at your subjective experience right now and find something that you believe to be a fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. For example you might believe that evolution is a complete and utter fact. It is also possible that you might believe that creationism is complete fact. You might believe that Coke is the greatest soda pop in the world.
Examine your subjective experience and your subjective beliefs and discover for yourself something that you believe to be utterly true or utterly false, something that is beyond question in your mind. When you have discovered this one thing, ask yourself ‘why’ you believe what you believe. For example if you believe that Coke is the greatest pop on Earth, ask yourself why you believe that. If you answer this question by saying that you know that this is true because it tastes the best. Ask yourself why you believe it taste the best.
This might seem like a kind of a silly line of questions but if you do it with a bunch of different beliefs, you will realize over time that each one of these question-and-answer games is like a funnel were you keep going, sliding into a tighter and tighter squeeze. At the end of it all you always find that there is a part of you that is seen or experienced only so much and is making a judgment call. For example with the Coke questions, it’ll most likely be that it is the greatest tasting pop that you have ever tasted. But have you tasted all pop in the world? Will other people in other places agree with you on your tastes? Do they have a right to their own answers? Is there an ultimate right answer to this question? Do you care? Should you care?
2. Write down something that science believes to be utterly and completely true. In other words find something in the scientific sphere that scientists believe to be true beyond all shadow of doubt. Now this might be a tricky situation because most scientists will always hide under the “theory” qualification. Unfortunately, even though they can always fall back to the, “best theory so far” remark, they will always speak of these theories as if they are fact. Evolution for example is a theory, it is a theory that scientist say that they are very sure about and a theory that has provided some wonderful discoveries and benefits, but it is still a theory. I don’t suggest that you mention this ‘fact’ to the average evolutionary biologist though, unless you like being ostracized and treated like an uneducated idiot.
In the 1800s, scientists believed that it was impossible for stones to fall from the sky (meteor, meteorite). They would go to great lengths to prove their point, even if it meant incarceration. 20 years ago scientists believed that a planet like Earth was incredibly unique and that we were probably the only other planet in the galaxy that existed in perfect relation to its Sun so that it could sustain life. Even though this was essentially a theory, scientists spoke about this as if it were fact and anyone who said otherwise was looked badly upon (if you know anything about the academic field then you will know that being different, or looked down upon, can have some rather harsh consequences). Now scientist have discovered hundreds of planets and they believe that many of these planets could actually support life, possibly even complex life.
Write down one of these great scientific theories that scientists seem to go to great lengths to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. Keep it in your personal papers somewhere and then go back on it in a few years. With the incredibly fast pace of scientific discovery at the moment, it could be that you will not have to wait long until scientists look back upon this theory and talk about how silly they were then but that now they have a theory that is true beyond all doubt.
3. Pick up a copy of the “weekly world news” and read the articles therein believing that they are 100% truth. Pretend, make-believe, or just out and out act as if what you are reading is completely and utterly true. If you don’t believe that Bigfoot gave birth to six human babies, then you might find this exercise rather challenging. It will though allow you to see things from a different perspective.
Next get yourself a copy of “the skeptical Inquirer” and read the articles therein believing that they are 100% truth.
Finally do this with the “Christian science Journal” (I do believe that these magazines now have websites so you won’t have to go out and actually buy them you can just go to the website and read these articles for free).
While you are reading any article you must make sure that you try to believe completely what you’re reading. Try to read an article from each one of the magazines in succession. You will have succeeded when you can read each article believing completely that what you’re reading is true and then seeing and experiencing the difference in your mind as you go from one magazine to the other. The knowledge that you get from this exercise can change your personal beliefs and, at the very least, will allow you to develop incredible perceptive flexibility.
Nothing in life is ever black and white. Anything that you believe to be absolute truth is really a type of sensory focus; where you are allowing yourself to perceive only those things that agree with your beliefs. By changing your beliefs you change your perceptions, and as a result you take a step into a broader and more complex world.