A slight change in perspective can get rid of fixations

Zen Practice


This may seem a rather unexpected question, but what do you think when you see a pencil? For most people, a pencil is a tool to write with. However, when you change your perspective, it is no longer something to write with, but something totally different.

For example, for a business person who sells pencils, they are “merchandises”. For people who make pencils, they are a “job”. Thus, your judgment and conclusions vary with your standpoint.

Another example: when you argue with people about something, everyone insists upon their own opinion. It goes without saying that as long as standpoints are different, the dispute will never be resolved.

    Here is one family’s conversation.

    Child: I want to go skiing with my friends.
    Father: No. Don’t go. I don’t want you to get hurt skiing.
    Mother: A ski trip is expensive. Why don’t you take a one-day trip to a hot spring?
    Child: Oh, please let me go skiing.

This may seem like a typical family conversation, which can be found anywhere, but in this conversation, everyone is talking about a totally different thing. The child wants to go skiing, the father is worried about his child’s safety, and the mother is talking about family expenses.

All three have a different sense of the problem, so the conversation remains unsettled. In a situation like this, or when a human relationship becomes tangled because of differences of opinion, people are not ready to understand the other party. They only work at getting the other party to understand their perspective.

As you see in this case, the point and focus of your opinion might change depending on your viewpoint and standpoint. It is like, when you are happy, a scene looks beautiful, but when you are troubled, the same scene looks sad.


The best way to smoothly move a conversation forward is to listen to the other party’s opinion and not insist only on your own. Then they will listen to your opinion.
In the Zen book, “Mumonseki” (No Barriers), there is a story, “Not a wind, not a flag”.

    On a windy day, flags are flapping and two priests are arguing.
    One says, “The flag is moving,” and the other says, “No, the wind is blowing.” They repeatedly insist on their opinions, and the dispute seems endless. Their master comes along and says loudly,
    “Not the wind, nor the flag. Your minds are moving.” At that moment, the two priests were startled and came to their senses.

It was quite impressive that not only did the master priest end the two priests’ dispute in an instant but also that the two priests realized their fault in clinging to their own thinking without listening to the opinion of the other.


What we should learn from this story is that all people have their own opinion and thinking, and that your own opinion is not necessarily right for others.

When someone opposes your opinion, your mind will be shaken for a moment. You may want to argue and try to justify your opinion by rejecting theirs. The same goes for them. Thus endless arguing begins. If it escalates, it could ruin the relationship.


There are various interpretations to solve this kind of situation. One is to put yourself in the other party’s position, and then you may see that the other party has a point. It is rather difficult to affirm the other person’s opposition, however, it gives an opportunity to think about your idea objectively even if you try to understand the reason of the other person’s opposition. You may find common ground, which satisfies both parties, building healthier human relationships between them.

Zen preaches, “Don’t be obsessive”. If your mind is obsessed about something, you are the one who will suffer. If you get rid of your fixations and change your perspective a little, the stubborn way that you look at things will naturally melt away.