Open Mind, Receptive Heart

” You should not lose your self – sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’ s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

Remaining open and receptive in our lives, greeting mindfully everything that comes into them, is an acknowledgement ( explicitly or implicitly ) that we are situated in a landscape of constant change. A change that may be, in large measure, beyond our control, a change that we may very well want to resist or avoid, but a change nevertheless that is seeking our attention.
Nothing is truly enduring or permanent in life, although we may at times wish that it was. All is continuous flux, continuous change in a universe of never – ending, unfolding anicca (Impermanence ). The Buddha understood this profound reality and in time it came to find many scriptural expressions. Eventually becoming one of the central pillars of belief in Buddhism. It also found expression in a number of traditional meditation practices, that are still used today, which can help us to become more sensitized to the nature of anicca that sweeps into our lives, uninvited, to ultimately change everything……

When small, unwanted changes filter through our lives we may feel that we can manage, that we can cope with the minor irritations and disruptions that surface. But when significant changes come, we can feel challenged, overwhelmed, unable to see a way through. Yet somehow we do manage, we do go forward and by doing so become much more stronger than before because of this very experience.

The judgements that we make, about the events that effect us, are not always accurate.They can sometimes be too critical, too harsh, or too premature which leaves them open to adjustment, modification or even complete rejection. Certainly in the initial stages, judgements can be restrictive and limiting because they are unable to take in all the likely variables that develop in the fullness of time. In the dynamics of change short – term loss can sometimes become part of an ongoing, long – term gain.
We must remember this….

Change viewed as ‘ positive ‘ is welcome in our lives and we label this good luck, justified reward or perhaps just fortunate timing. At other times a different response prevails when we view unwelcome change as ‘ negative ‘ and see it as bad luck, misfortune or perhaps bad timing. But a deeper reality informs us that if we live mindfully and skilfully there is really no good or bad luck, no real dualism to separate us in misunderstanding, just one constantly flowing stream of experience, in all its rich complexity and texture, from which we construct a life.

If we try to nurture magnanimity in our lives then we can start to accept, equally, the struggle as well as the joy, the pain as well the pleasure, the uncertainty as well as the purpose, the fear as well as the security, for they are all lessons to be absorbed, all part of our learning syllabus in life, all part of our journey


” Wherever you are, you are the master ”

Rinzai

Keeping up with the ever – changing conditions that are likely to affect our lives, can be a time consuming and weary process but ask yourself the question: “ Can we really consider an alternative? “ We have to learn to think in a continuously creative manner – differently, productively, imaginatively, for this is our practice. A practice that accepts, in an ever – changing world, an active engagement with our personal development. Without change in our lives, confronting us and challenging us, there is little scope to develop and expand beyond what we have become, what we are now.
So much of our thinking is habitual. The same old thoughts being thrown up, followed by the same old responses. But if we start to look objectively at those thoughts, stay with them in full focus, without us trying to offer up any reaction in terms of judging, weighting and comparing, then in this depth of awareness a calmness eventually settles. A calmness that allows us to move away from these repeated voices, to make way for possible new thought, fresh thought, constructive thought.

Saint Francis of Assisi, at the close of each day, said to his companion Brother Leo: ” Let’s begin again, for until now we have done nothing. ” Saint Francis’s spiritual life was grounded in a questioning mind and an attentive heart which led him to new beginnings, again and again, in his quest to serve. There was never a sense of completeness or finality in his work. By staying fresh and alert, within unfolding events, he brought clarity and compassion to his life and those around him.

The form, shape and intensity of any change that enters our lives varies to some degree, by our perception and reactions to it. Therefore change, by its very nature, can come to represent a complex, kaleidoscope of forces. However, despite this complexity, the phenomenon of change does appear to have some underlying pattern that can be outlined and explored further…..

• BELIEF – this is where we are at any given time. The cluster of values, opinions and views that we have about ourselves, and the world around us, that helps define us and inform our behaviour.

• CHALLENGE – the old is contested in some way by the voice of the new.

• RESISTANCE – this may not appear if we are open to the change but so often we are not open and through the process of resistance, denial, etc, we contest change.

• APPRAISAL / RE – APPRAISAL – when we start to consider and weigh up ( subjectively and/or objectively ) the presentation of the new we may begin to shift ground on our previous position.

• BREAKTHROUGH – this is the time when we finally realize the benefits of the new, in whole, or in part, being suggested to us.

• CONSOLIDATION – once we theoretically accept the need for change then we can start to look at implementation.

• MAINTENANCE – we need to sustain any newly introduced change with regular evaluation and assessment.

• INTEGRATION – this is the final stage where, if we are still committed to the change in our lives, we go beyond maintenance to full synthesis. Change then becomes an integral part of our lives – assimilated, reconciled.

It’s not only as individuals that we should be aware of the dynamics of change, for organizationally as well there is a need to monitor and predict change in order to effectively function within the context set for that particular organization. Whether it is a small business, a Buddhist organization, an official public body, or an entire Government, there is an imperative to constantly assess and evaluate conditions that are likely to make an impact on structures and operations.

Individual and collective renewal is an ongoing, life learning strategy that we are all involved in to some degree. And without us constantly monitoring the situation a fossilization process would start to occur, that could have implications for our growth and development. Sometimes we may be tempted to adopt the  ostrich approach  to change ( burying our heads in the sand hoping that it will go away ) but in my experience this response does not work because change is always present, inviting us to listen, inviting us to pay attention. Our daily practice then should be one of questioning, probing, reflecting and attending to the new.


” It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a
pet hypothesis everyday before breakfast. It keeps him young.”

Konrad Lorenz

CONCLUSION
The only real constancy in the known universe is change, change without end. So it is pointless to resist it, fight it, ignore it or deny it when it sweeps into our lives. Change, in all its manifest forms, is always there in the wings, trying to work its way through, trying to seek recognition, so we must deal with it in the best way can.
All change that tries to enter into our lives has to be assessed and evaluated on its own merits, within the time frames given, whether that change is deemed significant or otherwise. We must do the best we can in the given moment and then let go of the outcomes – this is important. There is no other way. Outcomes are not within our jurisdiction, not within our control so we must be accepting of them, in whatever way they turn out. We must look at outcomes in a magnanimous fashion – this is our spiritual practice, a practice that needs the engagement of vigour and tenacity, leaving only one question left to be answered:
” Can we face up to this challenge in an wholehearted way ? ”
Difficult isn’t it…….

JOURNEY WELL, JOURNEY LONG……