Lionel Richie is My Guru

A year or so ago, my wife and I were driving home from dinner at my Dad’s house.

During dinner my dad was playing what I felt was some god-awful, nails-on-the-chalkboard, Soft Rock musical desecration on the stereo, Lionel Richie’s Greatest hits or something, I can’t remember, but on the drive home, I couldn’t stop going off about how terrible the music was and why was it that my dad even like that shit in the first place, and bla bla bla.

After several long minutes of spewing my terrible opinions about the music I felt I’d been subjected to, it was suddenly as if the Universe had heard enough of my verbal vomiting and pushed mute on my mouth. With a stroke of sudden self-awareness, I heard myself blathering on about something so inconsequential and for no reason other than to satisfy some habitual downward spiral of negativity. With clarion insight, I checked my complaining mid-sentence and the next words that came out of my mouth changed my life: “I don’t need to have an opinion about that.”

This phrase immediately canonized into my mind as my new mantra. At that moment, I saw both how useless my ranting was as well as the immense energy I was putting into spewing my acrid opinions all over those unfortunate enough to be in my company. God bless my wife, Seneca, who said nothing the entire car ride home but who, I’m sure, was enduring every Soft Rock epithet with thinning patience.

“I don’t need to have an opinion about that. Who cares if my dad listens to Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits?!” From that moment forward, I decided that Lionel Richie was something I simply didn’t need to waste calories criticizing. And more importantly, I discovered the magical truth that I have the choice to turn my opinions off and that when I do, I feel empowered, unperturbed, and frankly happier. So simple!

Can I suggest that you begin using this mantra immediately for massive and astounding results for not only your attitude toward the world but also the world’s attitude toward you? I’m really not over selling this.

The people with whom I’ve shared this mantra are loving it. I shared it at a meditation event I cohosted a few weeks before the holidays last year. A few weeks later I received a message from a couple who had attended the event and who said that the mantra, “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” had single-handedly saved Christmas. Another woman wrote me recently to say that as she was driving to do be interviewed on television, she confronted the nervous knots in her stomach with “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” and watched her nervousness completely dissolve. These people are not alone. In fact, since I’ve been sharing this mantra, I’ve received such a preponderance of positive feedback from it that I’ve decided this mantra deserves its own post.

Simple mantra. Profound implications. One reason it’s profound is because it provokes us to change our identity from one that defines itself by the mosaic of our ever-changing opinions, to one that identifies with the unchangeable Observer Self.

The credo of the Opinionator is “I critique therefore I am.” But the Opinionator fundamentally misunderstands their identity. Despite the fact that negative opinions are insidious, addictive, and low-vibration, opinions are fundamentally changeable so identifying with opinions and indulging in their fleeting existence sets us up for a massive existential disappointment.

Instead, identifying as an observer, even momentarily by doing something like repeating this mantra, is identifying with something much more real, what sages and spiritual traditions like yoga call the Observer Self, or True Self. The Observer Self is larger than our opinions and has the presence to pause and watch an opinion form and perhaps even choose to let it float on by down the river of consciousness.

This practice of merely observing something rather than reacting to it with an opinion leads us toward experiencing the state of our true inheritance, that of boundless equanimity, a state that can’t be shaken, not even by the immense weight of Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits. Boundless equanimity is the natural comportment of our Observer Self and practicing identifying as the Observer Self rather than the Opinionator not only feels better but will also lead us to deeper stages of consciousness that can only come by deep observation.  

As your consciousness develops by practicing and living this mantra, you’ll feel more at one with the world and it will feel more at one with you. You’ll be surprised to see new and old friends materialize around you, friends who maybe shied away from the cantankerous person you used to be. Suddenly you’ll have friends again, and together you can talk about Lionel Richie!

And personally, if Lionel Richie was the guru to bring me to this truth, then perhaps I should be dancin’ on the ceiling . . . or place a shrine for him on my alter . . . or at least not be such a hater.  

Yes, yes, yes. It is true that we do need some of our opinions. It’s true that we must very deliberately add our conscious opinion and deliberate action to help make a better world for everyone. I would proffer nonetheless that the more we practice the no-opinion mantra about small stuff, especially stuff around our family (man, that’s a difficult practice!), the more we will be able to apply our energies toward those issues that truly deserve an opinion and action.

Plus, as practiced Observers, we will gain the compassionate ground to discuss and even debate important issues from our highest nature, with respect for those who have different opinions. And as practiced listeners and not reactionary opinion-spewers, maybe we’ll be able to inspire a similar respect from others.

May we learn first to listen, to our hearts as well as those of others, and then respond to the call to action and not be pulled off our compassionate ground by circumstances, the rash opinions of others, or the incendiary sounds of Soft Rock. Practicing the no-opinion mantra is a powerful practice to that end.

I invite you to start using “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” today, at least for the small stuff.

And if after all this, you decide that you’re really happy with your tired menagerie of opinions. . . well, I don’t need to have an opinion about that.