Post originally written for AboutMeditation.com
When we’re young, everything is new. Everything is exciting.
What joy a toddler has learning about gravity, experiencing the sheer amazement of mailboxes, or to work their fingers. They soak up life like a sponge.
Yet at some point in the child’s development, the rate at which he is experiencing and learning new things starts to slow down.
What once induced awe now is taken for granted and has become an ingrained understanding of the world.
As this rate slows, he (foolishly) comes to a place where he feels he’s got it. He understands how things work.
Maybe there’s something more to learn in the next grade, or the next job, but he believes he has a working knowledge of the world – a knowledge that he believes he built himself – and so there’s nothing more to learn.
Sadly, for many people, this is where the story ends.
Curiosity is been replaced with supposed-to’s and frustration.
The intrigue of “let me figure this out, let me understand this better” turns into “if you don’t agree with me, you’re my enemy.”
The folly of this thinking is that every moment is new. What I am calling “now,” the moment that I’m typing this, is different from the moment you are reading it. If you read that previous sentence again, things will be different again.
Things may not appear different, but they are.
If you consider the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun, it may appear that we are endlessly going in circles. However, the sun is moving in space as well.
Our sun moves within an arm of the Milky Way galaxy, which itself is also on the move. As is the cluster of galaxies the Milky Way belongs to.
So quite literally at any moment in life you will be in a place that you have never been before.
The Changing Moment
In meditation, we notice what shows up moment to moment.
We effortlessly allow the sensations of life to appear and disappear. There is no expectation of what will happen in the next moment; we only care what is happening in this moment.
In this practice, we open ourselves to whatever this moment has to offer. We inherently allow space for us to be surprised and to experience the unanticipated.
We witness and allow the noise of the car outside just as we witness and allow our breath.
We do not know what our next breath will entail, what next thought or insight will arise. We are simply present and allow the sounds, breaths, thoughts, and insights all to arrive in their own time.
This practice of meditation mirrors that process of the toddler walking down the street. The toddler is living completely in the moment, in awe of the mailbox, gravity, or the mysterious and magical world of insects. He has no idea what will happen next. It’s all an exploration.
Openness Outside of Meditation
Perhaps we can employ this approach in our waking, adult life.
We can try this from the seemingly mundane choice of trying something new off the menu at a restaurant to exploring a new hobby or personal endeavor, or attempting something we’re convinced we’re not good at.
This also can have a profound effect on how we communicate with those we disagree with.
With increasing intensity, we are in a world that popularizes extreme language and a bipolar right/wrong mentality. On any divisive issue, such as abortion, or gun rights, or the rights of those who are LGBTQ, or military intervention, or religious freedom, or prayer in schools, or the use of force by police, it is common for people have intensely-held beliefs.
Usually, these beliefs are broadcast and stated in a way that if you disagree with them, you are wrong.
Increasingly, we are fooling ourselves that there is nothing more to learn on a subject and that we know it all.
More and more people are speaking and listening only to those who already agree with them.
The world of digital customization and “Tailored Just For You” inherently limits people to what they already know and believe.
By perpetuating that process we lose openness to new ideas, new approaches, and new information.
People will go to great lengths to defend their position, even when shown their position to be ineffective, misguided, or baseless.
Instead, perhaps we could use the lessons inherent in meditation and approach these intense conversations from the mindset of “I have a lot to learn here,” and “I have no idea what will happen next, but I am open to it.”
If we leave room to be surprised and to grow, that’s exactly what can happen. If we work together, just imagine how far we can go.