Message from a blank mind

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 24, 2015 – 12:00am

My mind has been blank the past few days. I honestly don’t know how to proceed with this article. I have been feeling like this for quite some time now. After seven years of writing a weekly column, I sometimes feel I have nothing to say anymore.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

People are expressing their opinions all the time, more so today than maybe a decade back. We can’t help but hear them. The world has become noisier with the intrusion of media, social media in particular, into almost every aspect of our lives.

This is the world we live in now. Everyone has his own soapbox and you will eventually hear his views, whether you like it or not. That goes with our addiction to social media. We just can’t help it.

The world tends to looks at people who have strong opinions as brilliant men and women who could be real leaders. I used to automatically assume that to be true, but lately, I have not been so sure.

I have always had strong opinions about many things, but lately, I have been stopping myself from expressing them even when I have a forum to do so. Why? Because I am starting to believe that the world probably needs fewer opinions and more listening

When we are full of our own opinions, we are often not ready to allow new facts and ideas to come in and influence us. We tend to feel that we are already complete, or “together” since we believe that we are on the side of correctness. We do not question ourselves. Filled with self-righteousness, we do not challenge the validity or certainty of our opinions.

We are like a cup where liquid is being poured endlessly even as it overflows to waste. There is no room to accommodate anything new.

Many people think that not having opinions is a form of stupidity or mental slowness. I don’t think that is necessarily so. It could be an openness, a spaciousness that is ready to see things exactly as they are, with no spin, no inherited reactions or opinions from others. A blank and open mind is ready to face any situation and capture the unique gift that it offers without the mental construct or artifice of judgment, taste and public approval or political correctness. It is ready for a direct experience, a pure, spontaneous, uncomplicated encounter with whatever shows up.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the expert’s mind, few things are possible. In the beginner’s mind, many things are possible.” This is a famous quote from Shunryu Suzuki, one of the first Zen masters in America when Zen practice was in its early stages there.

The expert’s mind is filled with knowledge already learned, and a reputation earned. Thus, it speaks with authority. Its primary reaction to any challenge is to look to the past and reenact what has already been done.

The beginner’s mind operates differently. It comes from a blank mind, a clean slate. It has no reputation to protect and thus can react with openness and spontaneity. It is without guile or fear. It is coming in fresh all the time.

When we come into a situation already filled with our own opinions and a fixed mindset, what often happens is we force, bend or reshape what we encounter to conform to what we already know. We presume that what is before us is something that has happened before. Thus, we react not with creativity but with preexisting knowledge.

I am not saying this is bad. Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to approaching things with a pre-set mind. Architects, for example, must know the elements that hold a concrete and glass building together.

But I like to encounter life with as much wonderment and amazement as I can. I want to be both surprised and delighted. I feel challenged, and when I am, I really pay attention. And when I pay attention, I know I am being alive to the moment and doing something completely new, even if on the surface I may have already done it before.

I try not to repeat myself. When I perform in a concert, I allow great leeway for things to happen by themselves. I may have a ready repertoire and a spiel in mind, but I know I will have to wing a big portion of my performance to adjust to the venue, the stage setup and the audience I am performing for. I also have to pay attention to how I feel about myself at the moment.

I started writing this article without knowing what would follow. One might say, this article wrote itself. I just paid attention to the flow of things.

It is amazing what a blank mind can do!

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