Tools, Not Truth

A long time ago, in a land far away…

College does feel like that sometimes.

I studied philosophy at the University of Michigan.  During my final semester, one of my professors — who did double duty as an assistant Dean — called me to his office and asked me to stay on for my Master’s degree.

I remember that I told him, succinctly, that I would not, because philosophy had not found the final truth, that it was merely a game and a puzzle for the mind.

Now, twenty plus years later, I wonder how he managed to keep a straight face.

Like many of us, I have searched for truth in both library stacks and sweat lodges.  I have traveled widely, learning about different cultures’ ideas of truth.  There is something in us humans that longs to believe, to have solid ground on which to make a stand or to simply sit and have a picnic. We latch onto ideas and hold them up as a shield against the world.

I see this often in the holistic community — people dogmatically believing in Ayurveda or TCM, only doing homeopathy, or making every decision based on their horoscope.  I was once at a party with a woman who kept a pendulum in her hand and used it to choose every thought for conversation.  I kid you not.

Twenty years later, what I have learned is that there is no sole truth.  Instead there is something more glorious and fascinating:  many different lenses with which to look at your life (and your body!). I find the trick is not to get stuck and think that you, or the world around you, is “one thing.”

Sometimes when I am working with a client, and something feels stuck, I change my lens. So for instance, if I was working with someone through the lens of western physiology, and that wasn’t enlightening, then I might switch to looking at them through the lens of 5 Element theory. I can look at the same person through a myriad of lenses.

Each lens is about an identifiable pattern within that particular system. That’s what I am seeking — patterns.

Students often get confused when they try to take piece of the pattern and apply it in a different system.  They say something like “I don’t get it.  My Ayurvedic constitution is Kappa (earth and water) but my astrological sign is Libra (air).”

It’s kind of like taking a piece from a puzzle and trying to make it fit in a completely different puzzle. Sure, they are both puzzles, but the pictures they make are vastly different and so each piece is different.

Instead of either staying dogmatically in one paradigm (for instance, thinking only pharmaceutical medicine has the answer) or mashing them all together (which leaves you the confusion of the example above), the trick is to hold each of these systems up as a tool, not a truth.

In the end, it’s a puzzle and a mind game… one that allows for a good deal of creativity, exploration, and sideways solutions that get things unstuck.

So, what if you changed your lens?

If you have been going to your doctor for years for fatigue and feel no better, why not work with a life coach and see how fatigue looks through that lens?

If you believe that your menstrual irregularities are caused by your Vata constitution but every thing you have tried Ayurvedically doesn’t work, why not try acupuncture?

If you have always believed that the truth is one thing, and yet you find you are not so very happy in your life, why don’t you try on another truth?

Perhaps the answers you seek are right before your eyes, if you simply switch your lens.

Share with us if you have had the experience of changing lenses and watching things come into better focus — or if you are going to give it a try now!