Develop Your Zen Mind
Dr. Beverly Potter
Our biocomputers have two systems. One
works with words,
simple mathematics, and linear logic, using either /or categories and
trees. The second controls creative leaps, music appreciation, and the
formation of images. We also come with resident programs, two of which
are safekeeping and discovery.
The function of the safekeeping program is to protect and guard us. The famous psychology experiment with Little Albert provides an example of safekeeping in action. Little Albert, just a baby, was playing with a fuzzy white rabbit when a sudden loud noise frightened him, making him cry. The next time he saw the rabbit, he cried and refused to touch it because his safekeeping program associated the rabbit with the loud noise. Later, when little Albert met Santa Claus for the first time, he took one look at the big fuzzy white beard, began crying, and refused to sit on Santa’s lap.
The discovery program functions in a wholly different way. For one, it doesn’t use words; it does not break things into categories or think in terms of either/or. The discovery program uses trial and error, which is essential for rapid learning and adaptation. If we are to adapt to the Information Era, which promises to change dramatically the very underpinnings of society, we must engage our discovery programs. Practicing the oriental discipline, Zen, develops discovery capabilities. By developing a Zen mind, we were more able to handle change because we are less inclined to blindly follow the safekeeping program while clinging to an obsolete past. Instead we become more open and receptive to a new future. The teaching and practices of Zen show how to bypass the ever-vigilant safekeeping program. But because the Zen mind comes from a part of us that is nonverbal, it is difficult to describe in words.
The metaphor of the mirror conveys the basic elements of the Zen mind. The mirror teaches "acceptance" or "non-evaluation." When you step before a mirror, it reflects you without evaluating who you are or engaging a dialogue about it. A mirror simply reflects your image.
Unlike a mirror, we constantly evaluate everything, which is a safekeeping function that puts things into pre-established categories. As Joseph Chilton Pearce said, "We see through the prism of our categories." We do not respond to the "real" world at all, but to our preconceptions about it. Our reflections are like those of a funhouse mirror that distorts the image. This is another way that the safekeeping program undermines adaptability.
Step 1: Look around the room for yellow objects.
Unless you are remarkably observant or you peeked at Step 2, you probably had difficulty naming red objects. Because your attention was focused on yellow, you ignored things of other colors. You did not “see.” A crucial first step in adapting creatively is to “see.”
When you step away from in front of the mirror, it stops reflecting your image. The mirror doesn’t argue about it or cling onto your image. It doesn’t accuse you of abuse and get depressed. The mirror simply lets you go.
Be a Witness
Mentally reviewing things from past situations with an eye to improving how we handle things in the future is one way we learn. But we often err in being judgmental and evaluating our performances, which leads to guilt and self-consciousness. When you use mental review it is vitally important to suspend judgment. Do not evaluate. Instead, sit back and witness—see the scenario. Let it unfold before you without making internal comments. Just see what is happening, like a mirror "sees." When you try this, you’ll will find that it is difficult to suspend judgment. The safekeeping thinker persists in evaluating, putting things in categories of "good" and "bad". When this occurs, notice that you are judging and let the judgment go. Be a witness not a judge.
To be yielding does not mean to be passive, allowing yourself to be suppressed or walked upon. Instead, be like a blade of grass in the wind—bend when necessary, then spring back. Yielding means to be receptive, interacting with the world and responding to it rather than rigidly clinging to a particular position or posture.
Many incorrectly think that to go with the flow means fanciful undirected movement. Actually it means to find existing lines of movement and to go with them rather than against the movement. Martial arts employ this principle. By using judo, for example, a petite 95-pound woman can effortlessly flip a 200-pound man attempting to attack her. The woman does not grab and throw the man who is larger and stronger than she is. Instead, she yields to and uses his movement to propel him away from her.
Legend has it that the martial art jujitsu originated in China during a long cold winter. Each day, the snow fell on two trees in a field. Being firm and rigid, the limbs of the larger tree supported piles of snow. Finally, the branches, no longer able to bear the weight of the heavy snow, cracked. The branches of the smaller tree also accumulated snow, but being supple, not rigid, they bent to the ground, letting the snow slide off, and then returned to their original positions. The tree that yielded survived the winter.Accept Paradox
We tend to get trapped in either/or or dichotomous thinking. Yet life is not either/or; it is a continuous process. Because of the way we have been taught to think and perceive, we break the continuum into separate categories. But this is a false separation, an overlay of the rational mind—the safekeeping program in action. We judge ourselves as being good or bad when we are in fact, both good and bad. We struggle over emphasizing self-interest or the interest of others, when in fact, they are both important. We worry about living now or planning for the future, when we should live now and plan for the future.
Because of our propensity to categorize things into either/or boxes we are constantly confronted with confusing contradictions that immobilize us. Organizations, for example, are paradoxical. Organizations, which are made up of people, seek clarity, certainty, and objectivity. Yet people are not clear, certain or objective, they are changeable, and subjective. Believing that these contradictions should not exist creates frustration, confusion and attempts to conform to modes of being that are not possible to achieve. The organization with its chain of command is structured so that no one person has too much control or power, yet to be mentally healthy and productive, individuals must have a sense of personal power.
To break out of immobilizing paradoxes, we must look at the situation in a totally new way, making what Marilyn Ferguson in The Aquarican Conspiracy calls a "paradigm shift." We must ask the right questions. For example, people once believed the earth was flat. From that paradigm, intricate belief systems about the stars, moon, sun and their relationships to earth evolved. The discovery that the earth was round and circled the sun was a dramatic paradigm shift, one that altered the way of life. More recently, there has been another paradigm shift. For centuries, leading thinkers adhered to Newton’s mechanical theory of the universe. But Einstein’s theory of special relativity upset the basic premises of Newtonian physics, turning them inside out.
Laughter is a stress buffer, but as with relaxation, the dynamics remain a mystery to medical science. Humor is a powerful tool for breaking out of paralyzing paradox, allowing us to look from a different vantage point to gain a new perspective and release tension.
When you jump on your donkey in a knee-jerk response to chase after situations of the moment, you often create an amusing picture to those witnessing it. Always remember the cosmic chuckle and laugh loudly.
Copyright 1984, 1987, 2001 by Bevely Potter, from The Way of the Ronin :Riding the Waves of Change at Work, Dr. Beverly Potter, Ronin Publishing, Berkeley, CA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This article may be downloaded and copied for individual use. Any other use requires written permission from Beverly Potter.
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