Keeping an open mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

– Shunryu Suzuki

This is not the first time I have referred to this quote. But the more I explore the world of Zen Buddhism, mindfulness and personal development, the more I come to appreciate its import.

When you get right down to it, how open are you?

If you listen to most conversations, you quickly realise how often we come to a decision or form an opinion on the scantest of information. It’s almost as if everyone is an expert on something; politics, relationships and money.

If, though, you are willing to stop and listen and apply beginner’s mind, you quickly come to realise how little you know. Even as a trained lawyer, where assimilating all the facts is a trait I find hard to discard, I am still prone to a definiteness of view that bridles against beginner’s mind. It’s not that I think I know the answer, but I’m inclined to consider a limited purview.

The other critical skill that goes with open-mindedness is the art of listening. I know you must have read a plethora of posts on listening, but how much time have you devoted to getting better, meaning stalling before opening your mouth to let someone have a proper say and let a gap appear in the conversation?

Beginner’s mind goes much further than conversation. Just imagine if you were approaching a project or opportunity with a completely open mind, how different might be the outcome.

I hope that you don’t read this post and hurry forward to the next thing. At the very least, please spend a few minutes thinking about beginner’s mind, and analysing a few of your most recent decisions to see if you already made up your mind or approached the outcome with a fixed view. Of course, your betting average might be superb, and you get more things right than wrong but chances are you may have missed at least one thing that could have made all the difference to the outcome.

Age is a wonderful medium for understanding more of who you are but, too often, we allow our mind to calcify and stay rooted in the past. Go back to the start where everything was embryonic and exciting. Try to reconnect with that now, and see how things take on new meaning.


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