When we are young, everything is new. Everything is exciting.
How happy it is for a child to learn gravity, to experience the wonder of mailboxes, or to use their fingers. They soak up life like a sponge.
However, at a certain point in a child’s development, the rate at which he experiences and learns new things begins to slow down.
What was once awe-inspiring is now taken for granted and becomes an ingrained understanding of the world.
As that speed slows, he comes to a place where he (foolishly) feels he has reached it. He understands how things work.
Perhaps there is more to learn in the next class or the next job, but he believes he has a working knowledge of the world—he believes he has constructed himself—and therefore there is nothing more to learn.
Unfortunately, for many people, that’s where the story ends.
Curiosity is replaced by suspicion and disappointment.
The intrigue of “let me understand this, let me understand this better” turns into “if you don’t agree with me, you are my enemy”.
The folly of this thinking is that every moment is new. What I mean by “now,” the moment I write this, is different from the moment you read it. If you read the previous sentence again, everything will be different.
Things may not seem different, but they are.
If you consider the rotation of the earth and its orbit around the sun, it may seem that we are going in endless circles. However, the sun also moves through space.
Our Sun is moving in an arm of the Milky Way galaxy, which is itself moving. Like the cluster of galaxies to which the Milky Way belongs.
So literally at any moment in life you will be somewhere you have never been before.
The Changing Moment
In meditation, we see what appears in each moment.
We allow the sensations of life to appear and disappear without effort. There is no expectation of what will happen in the next moment; We are only interested in what is happening at the moment.
In this practice, we open ourselves to whatever this moment has to offer. We naturally allow ourselves to be surprised and experience the unexpected.
Just as we witness and allow our breath, we witness and allow the sound of the car outside.
We don’t know what our next breath will bring, what our next thought or thought will be. We are simply present and allow the sounds, breaths, thoughts and understandings to all come in their own time.
This meditative practice mirrors the process of a baby walking down the street. The baby lives completely in the moment, with fear of the mailbox, gravity or the mysterious and magical world of insects. He has no idea what will happen next. All this is an exploration.
Openness beyond meditation
Perhaps we can apply this approach to our waking, adult lives.
We can try it from the seemingly mundane option of trying something new on the menu at a restaurant, exploring a new hobby or personal endeavor, or trying something we’re sure we’re not good at.
It can also have a profound effect on how we interact with people we disagree with.
With increasing intensity, we live in a world that popularizes extreme language and a bipolar right/wrong mentality. On any divisive issue like abortion, gun rights or LGBTQ rights, military intervention, religious freedom, prayer in schools, or police use of force – people’s beliefs are intense.
Usually, these beliefs are broadcast and expressed in such a way that if you don’t agree with them, you’re wrong.
More and more we delude ourselves that there is nothing more to learn about a subject and that we know it all.
More and more people talk and only listen to those who agree with them.
The world of digital personalization and “Made Just for You” essentially limits people to what they know and believe.
By continuing this process, we lose openness to new ideas, new approaches, and new information.
People will go to great lengths to defend their position even when it is shown that their position is ineffective, wrong, or unreasonable.
Instead, perhaps we can use the lessons inherent in meditation and approach these intense conversations with the mindset of “I have a lot to learn here” and “I have no idea what’s next, but I’m open to it.”
It can happen if we leave room for surprise and growth. Imagine how far we can go if we work together.