What is an open mind and how can I get one?

One can receive no value from anything in life unless one maintains an open mind. An open mind is like an open door. It allows new information to penetrate our mind which currently only houses old information. This new information actually penetrates the old information and stimulates a synthesis of the old and the new to form a new framework that was not there previously. New information forces change and adaptation to occur. It stimulates the thinking process. One cannot think “adequately” without processing new information. Without the consideration of new information, one can only think or process old information. By nature, this would be a closed system – uninfluenced by the new information.

Those having a closed mind often have it because they fear new information. They fear the change the new information may cause in them. They desire to cling to only what they know because it is a comfort to them. Yet, by closing their mind they rob themselves of the richness of life.

More importantly, by having a closed mind, one chooses to ignore truth. Information yields truth. To say that another way, the increase of information moves one closer to truth. Of course this assumes that one has the mental and intellectual capacity and analytical processes in place to properly analyze the new information in order to synthesize it with the old information – one must be able to think and think logically.

An open mind is the product of a decision. One decides to be open and actively pursues and welcomes new information. One does this because he does not fear the change that new information brings, but rather accepts and embraces the fact that change happens and is inevitable.

Overcoming fear of change is the first hurdle to cross in order to achieve an open mind. And this hurdle must be repeatedly crossed throughout life because new fears arise with life’s events and one must make a continual decision to remain open.

The rewards of an open mind are many even though such openness has its risks. Openness will mean constant challenge to ones mental framework and world-view. However, the risk is worth taking because the alternative is a life that is self-contained and closed off from the reality we live in – the world around us.

The first step to achieving an open mind is humility. I admit to myself and myself only that I do not know everything. This seems a simple admission, but it is not. If I believe within myself that I know everything, then my world seems secure. It puts me in control. Everything seems to operate within the bounds of my knowledge and understanding. Therefore, anything that happens can be explained according to the way I think about the world.

While this seems like a nice and comforting thought, it lies far from the truth. Reality and the world says that we are the opposite of this. We do not know everything. In fact, we know very little. We are finite creature that are born and die in the span of only a few years. The vast majority of time passes outside the scope of our lifespans. Therefore, there is a majority of information that we cannot possibly attain. Additionally, even if we somehow were to obtain all this information, out finite brains and intellectual powers would be vastly insufficient to grasp and understand all this information.

Therefore, what we are left with is partial information and a very limited capacity to understand it. So what do we do?

First, we admit to ourselves that we have these limitations and that we do not know or understand everything.

Second, we admit to ourselves that while we do have minds to process information, we are limited to by our own bodies. We, that is the personality and mental capacity of who we are is encapsulated or contained within a physical body. Information can only pass through our bodies and get into our minds by the physical “doors” that our bodies contain. Information passes through our eyes, ears, fingers to our brain where it can be processed and assimilated into our mental image of the world. There is a natural limitation in this and sometimes even a distortion of the information because of our physical senses.

Yet, we also admit that there are millions of other people around us, equally limited like we are in their ability to understand the world around them. However, an important fact exists. Each of these people have their own unique collection of experiences and understandings that have made them who they are just like us.

Therefore, when we admit to ourselves that we do not know everything (and cannot) our mind begins to open. It opens to the fact that there are other sources of information and understanding available to us. We realize we can learn from other people; glean new understanding of ourselves when those others share their understanding with us. Once we open our mind, we can begin to look for new information that will make us more whole. We look to other people to teach us about their experiences so that we may understand ourselves better.

By admitting we do not know everything and realizing that no one else does either we begin to realize that all people are in the same situation – we are all trying to figure out life together and we all possess the same limitations.

This humble admittance creates a grace within us. We become more graceful to others because we realize they are just like us and we are just like them. We are all collectively trying to understand life as best as we can.