Benji was resting in the garden, mulling about life and such. He was just lounging on the patio deck, absorbing the gentle warmth of the sun. Unbeknownst to him, his little sister (from another mother) was lying in his comfy bed that he usually guards religiously, wrapping herself in his favourite blanket and busy tearing up his favourite toy. If he had known that, she would not be alive! In doing so, she cast her eye on him, still lying in the sun, unaware of the mayhem she was causing to his belongings.
As Benji was not aware, he had not the chance to assimilate the information, much less to have a reaction. As a result, he lies peacefully in the sun.
Here’s a funny exercise: think about all the upsetting things you do not know about – stuff that people may have said behind your back, mistakes that you might have made that never came to your attention, things you dropped or lost without even realizing it. What’s your reaction? You don’t have one because you don’t know about it.
In other words, it is possible to hold no opinion about a negative thing, or anything for that matter. You just need to cultivate that power instead of wielding it accidentally. There are two distinct advantages to doing so (holding no opinions).
The first advantage is when having that opinion is likely to make us aggravated. You were perfectly fine and doing what you were doing before receiving the knowledge (whether passively or actively) about the event or the situation. When you registered the existence of the event or situation, you had thoughts about it and invariably developed an opinion. In doing so, that particular opinion may not agree with your personal rules or expectations of how things should be, causing you to be upset. Practice the ability to have absolutely no thoughts about something – act as if you had no idea it ever occurred. Or that you’ve never heard of it before. Let it become irrelevant or non-existent to you. It’ll be a lot less powerful this way. Remember it is only an event or circumstance that carries no meaning in itself unless you give it meaning. The meaning you give to an experience becomes the experience itself. Be careful about the meaning you attach to your experiences. If you have no opinion, you are likely not to attach any meaning to that experience and not be upset by it.
The second advantage is that when you harbour no opinion, you are in a position to learn from it, rather than being emotionally affected by it. This is not referring to becoming a robot and not feeling. This is acknowledging that you cannot learn effectively if you are too emotionally distraught. When you develop an opinion about any matter, your brain automatically switches off to new learning. It is hard to take anything in when your cup is full. A cup is only useful when it is empty. Instead of developing an opinion and getting upset, you may want to train yourself to empty your mind and ask yourself, “What lesson is the universe trying to teach me here?” You may find it more useful in the long run as you will be growing and not just reacting to circumstances that life throws at you.
So, should you always harbour no opinions? Is having opinions always bad? As you may have guessed, that is not true at all. I am fully aware that by writing this musing, I am airing my opinion as well! Having opinions can be useful, important and needed in many circumstances. The difference is asking yourself a fundamental question, “Is my opinion going to help and/or empower others and/or myself?” If the answer is a (resounding) ‘yes’, you should apply your mind, thoughts and views to good use and share them.
In the world of social media and the internet, you can see so many people (with truly their best intention to help) giving so many opinions. The need to air their thoughts is huge and with the technology and platform, it is possible to extend that reach and spread their thoughts even further than ever. Is it actually helpful? You may find that most of them are not. Can you think of someone in your life with many opinions? They seem to have an opinion about everything, the weather, politics, sports, Brexit, COVID, raising children, employment and the list goes on. Whatever the topic, they have an opinion. It is almost amazing. However, are they successful? Are they living the lives they desire? Are they achieving what they want to achieve? You may find an inverse relationship between the number of opinions to the level of success, i.e. the more opinions one has, the less successful he is likely to be. After all, how can one learn with a cup so full?
It is similar for people who are often upset or angry. Somewhere along the way, an opinion was developed. Unfortunately, that opinion went against their rules to be happy and negative feelings were developed.
So by all means, develop, apply and share your opinions. They can greatly help you. But only do so if you are sure they will help and empower you or others. If not, you may want to consider holding a neutral view, having no opinions and either learn from the event, situation or circumstances or at least, not get upset by it.
Benji was able to lie peacefully in the sun because he was not aware of what his sister doing in the house and thus, harboured no opinion, preserving his tranquillity. What opinions do you need NOT to have so you stay in peace and possibly even learn more?
‘We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind – for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.’ – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.52