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November 30, 2023 7 mins

When you can't understand why people do what they do (whether it's someone you know or atrocities on the news), try this shift in outlook, and I bet you'll immediately see yourself in everyone else. Don't try to use your logic, use your heart instead!

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the Buddhist Boot Camp Podcast.
Our intention is to awaken, enlighten, enrich, and inspire a simple and uncomplicated life.
Discover the benefits of mindful living with your host, Timber Hawkeye.

Let's pretend you have a friend named Carrie.
She is gentle, loving, peaceful, responsible, quiet, kind, and sweet.
Now, imagine getting a phone call from her in the middle of the night, asking you to
bail her out of jail because she got caught with a knife and a baseball bat, arrested for
destruction of property and possible charges for attempted assault with a deadly weapon.

This is obviously surprising and confusing, so you immediately wonder,
What was she thinking?
And if Carrie was your daughter, you might even shout on the phone,

There's a song by Carrie Underwood in which she belts out (00:59):
I dug my key into the side of his
pretty little souped-up four wheel drive, and I carved my name into his leather seats.
I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights, and I slashed a hole in all four tires.
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats!
Now we have a little more context, so we no longer wonder what Carrie was THINKING,

we understand what Carrie was FEELING.
Instead of trying to wrap our heads around other people's thought process,
or trying to understand their logic, we can open our hearts to
compassionately relate to their feelings and emotions, irrational as they may be.
It doesn't mean that what this man did to Carrie wasn't wrong,
and it doesn't make it right for Carrie to have reacted the way she did,

but the moment we relate to her pain from the betrayal, heartache, and disappointment,
we understand why she behaved like that. We may not like it or agree with it,
but we understand that Carrie wasn't doing a lot of thinking in that parking lot,
she was acting out her feelings, and we have all been-there, done-that!
Getting that call from jail in the middle of the night, your response wouldn't be judgment

and condemnation, perhaps especially if this was your child, it would be empathy, patience,
and unconditional love. It would be a shift from OH, CARRIE!!! 😡 to Awww... Carrie 🥺
If I'm not making any sense, don't worry, it's not your inability to understand, I'm just
having a difficult time articulating what I mean. And I warn you, it's about to get
stranger from here because I'm inviting you to take a short trip into my heart and mind,

a journey that will be more enjoyable if you drop the heavy burden of needing answers or
thinking you already have them.
And this uphill climb to clarity will be easier if you leave all your
preconceived notions behind. If you wish, you can pick them up again on your way out.
Whenever I experience confusion when it comes to other people's behavior, I remind

myself of the following (02:47):
there's an issue with Moral Absolutes and Ultimate Reality.
Thinking in absolutes, such as Good vs. Evil, All or Nothing, Right and Wrong, is problematic.

The word Absolute means (02:59):
regarding something as valid without it being
dependent on anything else. Yet, according to the Buddha, everything in the universe
is interdependent on everything else, from the microscopic to the galactic,
nothing is ever absolute, nothing is ever as simple as black and white, so our
thoughts and opinions must not be, either.

Absolute thinking is a process that zooms in and focuses on one perspective,
and we can only do that if we ignore the big picture in order to avoid being exposed to
information that might challenge our viewpoint. This is called a Confirmation Bias,
and ignorance is bliss. I mean, being "right" just feels too good to pass up, I get it!
But, the short term and long term side effects of thinking in absolutes

are devastating. That's exactly why the Buddha talked about how much
suffering is caused by ignorance, and how the path out of it involves letting go of
our attachment to preconceived notions, judgments, biases, desires, aversion, and ego.
It's not an easy path, and it goes against everything we've been programmed to chase

since childhood (04:00):
acceptance and praise for doing the "right" thing.
Well, how can we possibly do the "right" thing if we let go of absolutes?

Rumi said (04:08):
beyond wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field, I will meet you there.
He spoke of a space consisting of unconditional love and compassion
without judgment. Imagine being in that space, in that field beyond right and wrong,
when you get that call from Carrie in the middle of the night.
Even without hearing the full story, you answer the phone with empathy already in

the forefront of your heart, not because it's Carrie Underwood and
you are hypothetically friends with a celebrity,
but because unconditional kindness is part of who you already are.
In reality, Carrie never actually did those things or even wrote that song,
but when we hear someone's pain and anguish, we feel a connection to them.
But you already know this episode is not about an old song, of course,

it's an invitation for all of us to take a moment whenever we hear what's going on in
the world, and we take a pause just long enough to step out of our headspace,
where we try to rationalize and understand what someone else is THINKING when they
are doing something, and, instead, we step into our heart space,
where we contemplate what they must be FEELING when they are doing it.
Mind you, we just make a guess, and we hold it lightly to make room for the possibility that

we may still be way off. In fact, during our monthly discussion about this topic,
a teacher mentioned one of her students is very disruptive in class,
randomly whistling, for example, in the middle of lessons.
An educated guess is that the kid isn't getting enough attention at home, and this is a way to
be noticed, heard, and seen. Someone else suggested that it's possible the student is

actually an only child and used to getting a lot more attention at home, so acting out is
a way to express how difficult it is to suddenly share the spotlight with 30 other kids.
That second perspective would have never even occurred to me, and that's why it's
so important to accept that we may never understand what someone is thinking,
but we can always guess what they must be feeling. When you make that shift,

you recall yourself feeling justified in your own anger or pain before, for example,
or being consumed by sadness and loss,
or feeling elated by the joy of winning, consuming, or acquiring what you
have wanted for so long or believe is rightfully yours in the first place.

Remember (06:12):
greed, hatred, and ignorance arise in each of us endlessly,
so we vow every day to abandon them. It's a moment-by-moment practice.
If we shift from trying to understand people's thoughts and, instead, tap into what they are
feeling, we will be able to relate to each other for one obvious reason:
We are all already related.

I am another you, and you are another me. And we are in this together.
If you find value in what I do,
please show your support through
It's how I am able to keep this podcast free of commercials, ads, and sponsors,
and how we continue supporting the books-to-schools and prison programs,
along with mental health associations, recovery groups, and veteran support.

Thank you for making this possible.
I appreciate you.
Timber Hawkeye is the bestselling author of Buddhist Boot Camp, Faithfully Religionless,
and The Opposite of Namaste.
For additional information, please visit,
where you can order autographed books to support the Prison Library Project,

watch Timber's inspiring TED Talk, and join our monthly mailing list.
We hope you have enjoyed this episode
and invite you to subscribe for more thought-provoking discussions.
Thank you for being a Soldier of Peace in the Army of Love 🙏
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