“Opening your eyes is all that is needing. The heart lies and the head plays tricks with us, but the eyes see true. Look with your eyes. Hear with your ears. Taste with your mouth. Smell with your nose. Feel with your skin. Then comes the thinking, afterward, and and in that way knowing the truth.” – Syrio Forel to Arya Stark in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Although the above is instruction given by a Braavosi swordsman to the young daughter of one of the protagonist in Martin’s bestseller, it is just as much a commentary on what it takes to truly be present to the truth of every single moment of life.
One of the fundamental distinctions from Buddhist psychology is the notion that our suffering is caused, not by phenomena themselves, but by our experiences of them. It’s not that someone said something that made us angry; it’s our story of what they said that gives rise to our anger. It’s not that the music is inherently sad; rather, it is the memories and feelings evoked that give rise to the sadness. As human beings, there is the tiniest of gaps between our experience of things just as they are and our interpretation of those things based on memories, values, etc. It is in this gap that we discover that we can consciously make choices that honor the truth of our experiences, rather than are conditioned reactions to them.
The Braavosi wasn’t just giving instruction on how to stay alive: He was giving instruction on how to be alive. The first step in truly being alive is to experience it fully with all of our senses, unfiltered. …