Social Pressure

Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate between what is generally accepted and what is true. Peer pressure is real and it’s often painful to stand alone. We don’t always have the luxury to just evaluate what is right or wrong, true or false, important or unimportant without worrying about how other people will respond to our choices. This is what the game of politics is all about. People learn how to say things so they can be interpreted in one way by one group and another way by another group. Sometimes the stakes can be as high as your financial security, the support of your family, or even your life.

It doesn’t take long to look through the history books to discover actions that were completely wrong but I don’t want to be so dramatic. Lets return to middle school for a moment and talk about bullies and clicks. From a young age we are driven to find our social pecking order.  We want to belong and sometimes we do stupid things to be accepted. Welcome to fraternity hazing. Why do we care so much about fitting in? What’s so bad about being along? It seems like everyone needs to find their place or they will feel lost. It’s interesting that we all change who we are to fit in but that we can only be truly happy when we love ourselves for who we are.

One of the great powers of Vipassana is it chiseled through these societal truths. A small crack in one sitting will become a pile of rubble in a month. I don’t understand how this works but I’ve experienced that it does work. As I’ve meditated more I’ve ebbed and flowed through period of having old belief systems torn down to be replaced by stronger and more accurate ones. There’s something about knowledge gained through the observation of sensations that leaves little room for doubt. With time your entire body resonates with this truth and all of the other possibilities dissolve away. It becomes easier to follow your own truth while pushing aside societal truths. Instead of being a follower you start gaining the confidence to be a leader.

Yet no matter how confident you become in your personal truth, dhamma always seems to find a way to humble you. It’s this constant returning to truth and recalibrating to truth that keeps meditator from veering too far off the course of being loving to all beings. It’s hard to have your beliefs constantly under question but it’s also the best way to contribute to a happier more peaceful world. It’s hard to sit for 2 hours every day but it’s worth it.

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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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