Assumptions

I offer York Liberal Democrats, about every two months, 2 hour sessions on Meditating for Social Action. At these sessions, through meditation, silent reflection, group discussion, we explore a particular theme, such as intentions and effective listening, mostly using a reading. Participants have found the sessions really helpful very much enhancing their Lib Dem activity. By taking time to deeply consider such a theme and discussing it in the group, participants’ motivation to add this good practice to their political activity is very positively affected. For example the person organising our Executive Meeting found he was keener and more focused in getting all the preparation done and had a greater sense of purpose. 

Recently we considered Making Assumptions.

Making assumptions especially when we are in a novel situation is natural and can serve safety issues. For example I might be walking home in the dark along a road without many other people about and I find a drunk person is approaching me. I then might just as a precaution casually cross the road.

However assumptions, that the person then believes and takes action on, are often the root of prejudice, stereotyping and exclusion.

To avoid these negative effects when for example we meet a stranger, perhaps a new Libdem member or a constituent when campaigning, we need to be aware of the immediate assumptions that we form, we all do this, but not to form thoughts and believes around them but be prepared to find out more about the person, find out factual information, which you will be able to do if you take a genuine interest in them, even if it is only for a short time. In this way you are genuinely opening to who they actually are. I find having good eye contact greatly helps with this.

Years ago when I was in Leeds I was approached by a man dressed in an extreme punk outfit which initially for me was a bit frightening. However he was only asking the time and I found by giving good eye contact all my reservations went as in doing this I could see that he came across as rather insecure and shy. Most people find it difficult to lie when giving a gaze. I have recently discovered Politicians use eye contact a lot to exchange information presumably for this reason. However some people will probably be able to blank out and not give much information.

 So if in this way we can: 

  • Be aware of our assumptions when meeting strangers, or even people we know, and hearing ideas about a certain situation.
  • Don’t form thoughts and beliefs based on these assumptions that affect our actions.
  • Be committed to finding out the truth about the person or situation and then act from there. 

If we all follow this in the Lib Dems the flow of our work would be enhanced.

For more on Assumptions read Marcia Sirota’s article.

Quote from the Dalai Lama

Real change in the world will only come from a change of heart.

* Jane Reed is a Liberal Democrat member and activist in York

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.
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