I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again I’m sure but since it is so mind-bending I’m going to write about it now. The problem is that I can’t ever explain it to anysort of satisfaction because the state of mind you have to be in is so strange. I’ve done a bit of glossary on Zen Buddhism and I’ve got Zen Mind; Beginner’s Mind, on my reading list. Although I haven’t read it, I think Beginner’s Mind is a good concept to use in my own context.
So I’m laying in bed, just got done reading about Buddhist breathing exercises, so I’m listening to myself breathe. Not thinking about it, or controlling it, just observing it. This is a hard thing to start consciously and thankfully I managed to do it unconsciously and then realized what I was doing. So I started thinking about how friggin complex the simple, automatic and taken for granted act of breathing is. The diaphragm changes the air pressure in our lungs which causes exhalation and inhalation. Alveoli in the lungs help transfer carbon dioxide and oxygen between the bloodstream and the lungs and then the little blue RBCs get all red with their load of oxygen and truck around my body delivering it to various things. And I never think about it. It just happens, taken for granted.
Then I zoomed out just a tad. I’m in this huge galaxy that is just one of a huge number of other galaxies that all do their things with gravity and light in volumes and distances so huge that only a concerted effort will let you comprehend them. And I take all that for granted as well.
But the taken-for-grantedness is one step too far. I only got to that after proceeding through a stage of joyous wonder which is my version of Beginner’s Mind. Since I was a child I’ve told myself I wasn’t going to lose my sense of wonder and so far I have succeeded. All of these things and innumerable threads of others are all happening in concert and I’m a part of it. The wonder comes from not taking things for granted, and until that wonder comes when you regard a certain thing, you are taking it for granted. The obvious next response to this is gratitude for being a part of it. My gratitude is directed into my faith, but even if someone doesn’t have a faith, this sense of gratitude is still legitimate and should be present, I hope.
My version of Beginner’s Mind is also humbling, because wonder and gratitude have humility as a prerequisite. I’m being this specific so that the state of mind I am talking about can be identified and separated from other ones. The mind is cunning, and memory and taking things for granted are two ways it uses to assure us of our own power and importance. By taking things for granted and using memories to tell stories about our past we keep our egos healthy.
I’m not saying that one should live in either state all the time. I’m saying the opposite. Everyone should be able to engage and act and focus on a specific point in the world and take things for granted in order to accomplish whatever needs done. This would be the enthalpic drive, our God-like abilities yearning for use. But we should also be able to put ourselves in universal context, realize our relative insignificance, cast even that aside and just sit in observational wonder at existence.
There is a necessary tension between these two things, and when their use is out of balance [if someone has forgotten wonder, for instance] then the other side gets twisted by its own weight. Strive for Balance.
Here endeth the lesson. I hope I learned something.