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People often ask,
"Does being mindful mean I can't have opinions or preferences?"
Does it dictate that I can't like Mexican food better than Chinese food? Or, that I can't enjoy this movie more than that movie?
No. Opinions and preferences aren't a problem. The problem is, we become attached to our opinions and preferences. We turn them into stories, and build our identities around them.
I prefer not to eat Chinese food. If I get agitated when I'm presented with Chinese food, I create a problem. I'm holding up my opinion, and making those around me suffer because they don't share it. Or, I make myself suffer because I want things to be different than they are (I want my friends to stop wanting Chinese food!).
This can easily lead to me feeling so strongly about my opinion that I start thinking it's the only legitimate view. Everyone else is wrong, and I refuse to even entertain what they think. It's not hard to imagine that, at this point, I may consider anyone who feels different to be "my enemy."
Do you see what my aversion to Chinese food has led to? Suffering. Conflict. That sounds a bit silly, right? But, what about attachment to opinions over religion, culture, or sexual preference?
People are oppressed and wars are fought over strongly held opinions and the deep-seated beliefs they create. We inherit them from our ancestors. We pass them to our children. And, we constantly reinforce and strengthen them in our groups and social circles.
Attachment to opinions and preferences closes our minds. It prevents us from seeing that we are all connected and entitled to respect, compassion, and equal rights. It divides us into groups, and fosters the mentality of "me vs. you," and "us vs. them."
Mindfulness, on the other hand, helps us drop those attachments. It helps us see that we are all connected. It allows us to have a preference without closing our minds.
And, it doesn't stop you from liking Mexican food better!
The root cause.
You spend most of your time lost in thought.
You go through your days held hostage by an inner narrative that comments on and judges everything - including you.
The rest of us are the same way, so don't take it personally. The bigger problem is, we usually go our entire lives without realizing it.
But, if you're reading this, you probably do realize it. And, you're probably wondering what you can do about it.