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Tuesday Tip: Use “Insight” to Question Your Assumptions

By The Healthy Minds Team

This week’s Tuesday Well-Being Tip helps you notice your thoughts about others.

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

During our live, guided meditations and on this blog, we’ve been highlighting the practice of kindness, and the benefits of sending compassion to individuals who may not be within your inner circle. But as divisiveness and “otherness” continues to reach all-time highs, this can sometimes feel like a tall order. The barriers in our minds can be challenging if there are walls up when we consider individuals “on the other side.” In this case, can you use “Insight,” the third pillar in the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being, to help you move past this block and question your internal biases?

In this week’s Tuesday Tip, we’ll consider how we view the world, and question our assumptions through the use of “Insight.”

We all place labels and assumptions on what we perceive as a “threat” or not, based on years of personally collected “data”. 

Think about the area you live in. Is there some part of town or a specific neighborhood that you tend to avoid? Or maybe you live in a smaller town and there’s a big city nearby that feels unsafe? Think of a place that you wouldn’t choose to visit unless you absolutely had to. The kind of place that, if you were walking through that area, you might feel a bit of fear or uncertainty.

Someone who’s lived in that area for decades might have a completely different experience. And what if a child walked that path? They might walk through that same part of town and have a radically different experience. Where you saw threats around every corner, they might see beauty and wonder. Their perspective and expectations would create an entirely different experience than the one you had. Is one of you more “right” than the other?

Of course not. So much of our experience of life is dictated by what we want to happen, or what we’re afraid might happen. All of this is based on our memory. It’s just the brain making predictions. Different individuals walk the same path and have wildly different experiences. We each pay attention to different things and respond differently based on our own thoughts and preconceptions.

When we start to understand how all of this works – when we see how our beliefs and predictions are shaping our perspective – we can shift the reality we’re living in. It’s like waking up in a dream. We might still be seeing the same things, but we don’t invest our perspective with so much weight. Our mind is more flexible. We can adapt more easily when things change. 

Let’s take this idea, and expand it to individuals whom we have “othered” (a concept of treating people from another group as essentially different from and generally inferior to the group you belong to) in our mind.

Today, try to examine your assumptions about the people you interact with. 

If you watch your mind in action, you’ll probably notice that it tends to classify people and then make assumptions based on these classifications. We even do this about people we don’t know. Gender, race, culture, personality – we take in a little shred of information and then start making all sorts of assumptions.

If you stop to observe what’s happening in your own mind, you’ll be shocked by how quickly this happens. It’s going on all the time.

Remember that the point isn’t to try and stop this from happening. What we’re learning here is to see beyond these assumptions. To realize they’re just convenient tools to help us navigate a complex world, but they aren’t always accurate. Sometimes these assumptions can prevent us from connecting to others… at times they can even cause harm.

Can you try and do this for yourself? See what assumptions you’re making throughout your day, and just notice? Can you question your assumptions and approach this with a sense of curiosity?

If you’d like some guidance, try out this seated meditation which will help you notice the different parts of experiencing the external world with curiosity. 

Get more practices and tips by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps.

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