Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Letting Go of Understanding - Adopting Beginner's Mind

One of the ways I try to control my world is through understanding - by knowing things, looking for connections, and synthesizing information. It makes me good at my job, it makes me a good writer, and being an "expert" makes me a closed system.

Lately, I have been wondering how healthy this is for me. Intellectually, as a Buddhist, I know that control is an illusion. Seeking control is a great way to suffer.

But I learned this at a very early age. In my family knowledge was power. As a very young student, I didn't learn to read until second grade - which got me placed with the "special" kids, and it also got me teased and made fun of when I couldn't read the next sentence in class. In short, it got me shamed.

Shame is a powerful and destructive feeling - and a powerful motivator. I decided at some point (probably not even consciously) that, as far as knowledge and education are concerned, I would NEVER be the "dumb kid" again.

So now, at 43, I still consume information the way a Hummer consumes gasoline - which is to say in large volumes. Again, I ask, is this healthy?

Probably not so much. Which is why I have been trying more and more to adopt beginner's mind - I can still consume information, but it doesn't all have to make sense and fit into a perspective. I can have experiences - good and bad - that do not have to mean anything.

Because that's another thing I do - I try to find meaning in the things that happen in my life. When bad things happen, I look for a lesson or a way to make sense of it. When I good things happen, I wait for the other shoe to drop - what's up with that?

Today's Daily Om is about NOT seeking the hidden meaning in everything that happens. They recommend a ritual of letting go, but I am trying to hold beginner's mind more often - to approach life. The phrase was used in the title of Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki's classic book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, which reflects a saying of his regarding the way to approach Zen practice: In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.

I'm tired of trying to maintain expert's mind, no matter how safe it makes me feel. I want to be open to possibilities.

Sometimes we are not always meant to know the deeper meaning of certain occurrences and need only move forward.

All of us who seek to be conscious and aware regard our experiences as teachers, and we try to discern what lessons we are learning from the things that happen in our lives. Sometimes the lesson is very clear from the get-go, and other times we have to really search to understand the deeper meaning behind some event. While this search often yields results, there also comes a point in the search where what we really need to do is move forward. It is possible that we are not meant to know the deeper meaning of certain occurrences. Answers may come later in our lives, or they may come as a result of letting go, or they may never come.

We are all part of a complex system of being, and things work themselves out in the system as a whole. Sometimes we are just playing a necessary part in that process with a result larger than we can understand. It may have very little to do with us personally, and while that can be hard to understand, it can also free us from overthinking the matter. Sometimes it is best to see it in terms of karma, a past debt we have been able to repay in this way, or as the clearing of energy. We can simply thank the event for being part of our experience and let it go. This completes the process that the occurrence has made possible.

To make this letting go official, we can perform a ritual, make a final journal entry on the subject, or sit in meditation with the intention of releasing the event from our consciousness. As we do so, we summon it one last time, honoring it with our attention, thanking it, and saying good-bye. We then let it go out the door, out the window, out the top of our heads, or into the earth through the bottoms of our feet, liberating ourselves from any burden we have carried in association with it.

What do you think?

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