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Open, Closed, Inquiring

“Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.” – Bertrand Russell

Out of the chute, so to speak, we’re all born with open minds. As we age and accumulate one experience after another, we naturally start forming beliefs based on those experiences. The experiences of other individuals (like our friends and parents) and institutions (like our schools, our corpocracies, and our government) are also impressed upon us. The more similar our new experiences  to our previous experiences, the more attached we become to our beliefs. Unknowingly, we’ve started to construct our own very personal “unshakable cognitive burden” (UCB) from the ground up.

Closed Mind

As our attachment to (at least some of) those beliefs hardens through exposure to more and more confirming evidence, our minds close up and we start suffering more and more. We tend to conveniently ignore, or violently reject,  disconfirming evidence to the contrary in order to preserve our hard earned sense of safety and security. Each subsequent experience causes a nearly instantaneous transition out of, and back into, the closed mind state. Once a core belief (the earth is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, “they” are always right, “—-ism” is infallible) has hardened, intellectual and spiritual growth stops. Stasis sets in. Bummer.

Attachment And Suffering

So, how does one break the infinite loop of self-transitions out of, and then back into, the closed UCB mind state? Does another more flexible state exist? I think one may exist- the “Inquiring Mind” state, but I don’t have a clue on how to make the jump to get there. In this state, beliefs still exist but our attachment to them is not absolute. Our level of attachment is fluid and ever changing. As a consequence, our suffering, and more importantly, the suffering of those around us, decreases. The world becomes a kinder and gentler place to live in. We start to recognize our connectedness to all “things” and we empathize with people who still hold fast to their core beliefs.

The state machine below shows one speculative way out of the closed mind state and into the inquiring mind state – the experience of an instantaneous, life-changing epiphany. It’s speculation on my part because I don’t know squat and it’s just a belief that is a brick in my UCB.

Inquiring Mind

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  1. September 30, 2012 at 1:01 am

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