The Fertile Mind: Find Opportunity Wherever You Look
This essay is inspired by Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book “Freedom from the Known”. I have borrowed concepts from there and adapted them to the scope of this subject. For anyone that wants a deep-dive into the subject of human consciousness and liberation from our mental constructs, I would highly recommend this short but dense work by a great inquirer and visionary teacher.
Society treasures the learned and experienced, seeking counsel of those that have walked the path to project what’s ahead. These are the people that have gathered knowledge and authority over their fields. They become guardians of this accumulated knowhow — of how things are and have been in the past. And this is usually as far as their value goes. They rarely play a role in transforming their field of expertise. Improving on the status quo requires the innocent curiosity of a beginner and this has been proven time and again. To uncover opportunity and be the bridge from the old to the new, a mindset that is fresh, non-judgmental and free from pre-conceived notions is required.
We rely on our knowledge to perceive whatever is before us. The mental data points we’ve gathered through the course of life become the pixels we use to construct our image of reality. These constructs come from two sources — the first is our personal experience. This is the knowledge we have actively gathered, and the stories that our lives have played out. Unfortunately, relying on this means being tethered to the past. It takes away the liberation of learning through non-judgmental inquiry, embedding us in the old. Another source of our truths come from our family, culture, marketers, leaders — society in general. We look outward for answers and arrive at our conclusions through borrowed ideas. These concepts are passed down through time, and were created in contexts that seldom hold true here and now. Such concepts are often crafted to suit the nefarious agendas of the few that aim to control our perspective of reality.
“Each one of us is the storehouse of all the past. The individual is the human who is all mankind. The whole history of mankind is written in ourselves.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
So how are we supposed to approach the realities of today if all we have is unreliable, borrowed ideas and out-of-date experiences? How can we cut through the noise and uncover opportunities to transform the status quo?
Zen Buddhism has a concept called ‘Shoshin’ — translated to ‘beginner’s mindset’. This practice is designed to free us from the burdens of expertise or knowledge of a particular field. It asks to approach a subject with childlike curiosity, approaching all information with an aim to understand rather than to judge. A common error we make is to cherry-pick ideas that match our current understanding, blocking out anything that disrupts the mental norms we have built. Shoshin teaches us to accept all ideas with open minded humility. It comes from wanting to gain clarity of all perspectives, rather than pushing to be right, win an argument or promoting our ideas.
“The moment you have achieved anything, you seize to have that quality of innocence and humility; the moment you have a conclusion or start examining from knowledge, you are finished, for then you begin translating everything from the old. Whereas if you have no foothold, if there is no certainty, no achievement, there is freedom to look, to achieve. And when you look with freedom it is always new. A confident man is a dead human being.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
Recognizing that we understand our world through the lens of our community, religion, family and general societal constructs is in itself a liberating revelation. The act of observing the voices within that feed you with prejudices and ideas of the past is a step towards reducing their power over you. The inner awareness of this gets sharper with time and a clearer image of reality is revealed.
“The moment you give your total attention to your conditioning you will see that you are free from the past completely, that it falls away from you naturally”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
The idea that experts are the source of all invention is a myth. Knowledge and experience is tied to the past and often blurs our view of reality and the potential of how things can be. A more powerful mental quality is one that is free from the shackles of pre-conceived judgements. By adopting Shoshin, or a beginner’s mindset, while actively observing the thoughts that automatically arise when approaching a subject is a powerful way to attain clarity and true understanding. It instills a mindset that is full of vigor, youth and passion — the mental state conducive for creative thinking and problem solving. It’s the mindset that reveals opportunity and uncovers solutions.
Understanding reality is a subject that scientists, spiritualists and philosophers have pored over. This is a journey that goes into the deep recesses of our understanding of ourselves and the values of society. This dialogue is equally applicable to modern day leaders — entrepreneurs, creatives, visionaries — that want sharpness and clarity to upgrade the state of our world. It’s possible to nurture a free and creative mind, liberated from the burdens of our past and society’s conditioning.
- Don’t let the need to be right come in the way of true understanding. Approach all new ideas to gain completely clarity first and foremost.
- Understand the role of society’s conditioning in shaping your perspectives. Let this awareness show you
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