We really are drowning in information. What is most confusing is that this abundance of opinions backed by ?research? is not making us smarter. Nor healthier. If we want to be honest with ourselves, the truth is we are getting more and more confused, in those rare moments we venture to explore a world beyond our limited view of the universe. And so we become defensive, and in the process lose our voice from all the yelling to be heard.
I first learned about ?confirmation bias? from my very opinionated brother. This was over a year ago, in an exciting ?and frustrating? conversation unfolding over coffee and plant-based labaneh at my kitchen counter (click here for the labaneh recipe! Just kidding.) If only my kitchen counter could speak. It would fill volumes on subjects ranging from the demise of education as we knew it to bowel movements and handstands. I cannot recall what we were talking about. It is not important. I probably thought I was right, as always. He thought the same. We left the counter smug and full ?mostly of c*$%? but not a whole lot smarter or wiser.
Maybe a little. Because I am still thinking about confirmation bias today. And oh-so-aware of what continues to keep me smug and full ?mostly of c*$%.
The ?Encyclopedia Britannica” defines confirmation bias as
?the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one?s existing beliefs. This biased approach to decision-making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information. Existing beliefs can include one?s expectations in a given situation and predictions about a particular outcome. People are especially likely to process information to support their own beliefs when the issue is highly important or self-relevant.?
An integral part of the journey of self growth and development is a heightened awareness of one?s own vibrational frequency and its influence on the world surrounding it. I am sure you have come across teachings ?often in inspirational social media quotes? talking about your ?vibe? attracting your ?tribe? and everything with it. Eventually, your entire world is a reflection of you: your belief system, your habits, and your education. It also ensures you are kept smug and full ?mostly of c*$%.
But growth is dynamic. Eventually, you will be forced to move on. You will begin to notice there is an alternate universe to yours, and it is alive and well. Noisy and loud. And smug and full ?mostly of c*$%.
There is so much noise around us, we can barely hear our own thoughts anymore. The louder it gets, the more deafening it becomes. And so we retreat onto our own. We stop listening and instead speak very loudly. All the time. Until our noise matches the volume of the noise around us.
I managed to stay quiet for close to four hours recently, while I tuned into the ?Great Debate??on nutrition between two leading, respectable doctors. Both made great arguments. Both left me hopeless and disillusioned, for days. Thankfully, I have developed over the years some helpful practices to pull me out of the inevitable gutter of noise. These are in fact the reason I am writing this blog. I want you to know that there are some effective tools to quiet the noise.
One such practice I like to aptly call ?quiet time.? Carving out some time as soon as you wake up in the morning to absolute and complete stillness. I do not want to call it meditation because I notice it may put you off. Most people believe meditation is not for them because their minds are ?uniquely? busy and too loud. Maybe ?quiet time? can help you soften towards the possibility of giving it a try. Start with 10 minutes every morning. Sit comfortably still. Breathe. And don?t focus on anything. Just allow your mind to wander, your thoughts to scramble and scream. While you sit. In silence. Eventually, the noise will soften too. You will experience a few moments of not only stillness, but bliss. In this bliss, you will start to hear whispers. In those whispers, you will experience wisdom.
Those whispers told me to look for common ground. Instead of my hyper focus on points of disagreement, they invited me to shift my focus to the points of agreement. And they were many. In that particular debate on nutrition, they agreed that whole plants should make up the majority of our plate.
You will crave more??quiet time and common ground.
We have evolved as a human species, yet are still living in a chronic state of fight-or-flight, mostly of our choosing. This state chains our ability to think clearly and wisely from the prefrontal cortex of our brain, the seat of wisdom. This part of our brain requires calm, silence, and steady breath. Quiet time. In a world that only shouts.
Next time you are sitting at your friend?s kitchen counter, try to notice the following:
- Volume of conversation.
- How much you are speaking.
- How much you are listening.
- Most importantly, notice if you are listening to fire back or listening to understand.
- stop speaking.
- Remind yourself that the person sitting across from you is as human as you: with anxieties, bowel movements, and a deep desire to be heard.
- Go home and sit quietly for ten minutes.
- Soften to the common ground.