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To Grow Spiritually, Let Go of What You Know


Several years ago, I attended a conference for spiritual leaders and musicians. At the meeting was a music director who led an incredibly successful music ministry with highly accomplished singers and musicians, and a well-renowned 175-person choir. During the question-and-answer session, one of the attendees asked the director how she accomplished her success. The director replied, "I don't know. But when you don't know anything, God will tell you everything."


The music director demonstrated the power of having a truly open mind. Having an open mind was vital to that music director's success. An open mind is also critical to spiritual growth, and that’s because spiritual growth is a journey that requires openness, curiosity, and an eagerness to learn. However, as we go through life, we can become attached to our beliefs, assumptions, and preconceptions, which limit our capacity to learn and grow. When we have such attachments, we can recognize that cultivating an open or beginner's mind can be beneficial. A beginner's mind is a willingness to be teachable.


One of the advantages of cultivating a beginner's mind is that it allows us to connect with the profound source of wisdom of the universe. When we have an open mind and release our attachment to rigidly held beliefs, we allow ourselves to tap into the universe's infinite knowledge. In other words, when we don't know everything, we are open to receiving new insights and ideas that can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.


In the Zen tradition, a concept known as Shoshin translates to "beginner's mind." In Zen there is a story about a Zen master who invited a learned professor to discuss Zen philosophy. The professor talked about all the knowledge he had acquired over the years, and the Master listened attentively. After the professor had finished, the Master poured tea into his cup until it overflowed. The professor said, "Master, the cup is overflowing. You can't pour any more tea into it." The Master replied, "Your mind is like this cup. It is full of your own opinions and preconceptions. How can I teach you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"


Paradoxically, letting go of what we think we know makes us available to limitless possibilities. When we release our attachment to rigidly held beliefs, we become open to new ideas and insights that we might have missed otherwise. In contrast, when we don't let go of what we assume we know, we're blinded by the filters of what we already know. This assumption can prevent us from seeing new opportunities, possibilities, and insights that can help us grow.


A beginner's mind can also help us fearlessly embrace the unknown. We become more comfortable with uncertainty when we're open to new ideas and experiences. This comfort can help us develop a sense of courage and resilience that enables us to face challenges and opportunities more easily and gracefully.

I recall a friend who had been practicing yoga for several years. She routinely did the same poses and routines every day. One day, she decided to take a class with a new teacher who introduced her to new poses and sequences. At first, she felt uncomfortable and uncertain. However, as she embraced her beginner's mind and stayed open to a unique experience, she began to learn and grow in new ways. She discovered a newfound love for yoga and developed a deeper appreciation for her practice.


Cultivating a beginner's mind is a powerful tool for spiritual growth. When we have an open mind and release our attachment to rigidly held beliefs, we allow ourselves to tap into the profound source of wisdom of the universe and make ourselves available to previously unrecognized experiences. A beginner's mind can also help us fearlessly embrace the unknown. By embracing our beginner's mind, we can learn and grow profoundly and unexpectedly.


Peace and Blessings,

James


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