We like to think of ourselves as open minded individuals.
But if we know that most perceptions, and decisions are taken on the basis of previous life experiences, our subconsciousness and the bounderies of our own mind framework, we can wonder if we are really that open minded...
Maybe then to have an open mind really means expanding the possibilities in perceiving the world in and around ourselves… going beyond the limited views of our subconscious mechanisms. Which is exactly what we are going to do during the open mind retreat.
The choice for creating this retreat is not random. What I have been noticing over the years in my own and other’s practice is that tapping into this open mind awareness, is actually one of the biggest gifts of the practice, and yet, the most easily forgotten. This is the case for beginners as well as experienced practitioners, but also for our being human in daily life.
One moment we can have clear insights about noticing our thoughts, the other moment we are completely caught up in thoughts. One moment we can feel emotions passing by as physical manifestations in the body, the other moment we are completely attached and drained by stress reactions. One moment we have clear insight about our own feelings, the other moment we blame others for decisions we ourselves took, …
Pretty human, wouldn’t you say? Totally, but that’s not the point.
What does an open mind awareness look like?
When we learn to observe our thinking mind and body, without interfering, we enter a non-judgemental and open space (even when your thoughts or emotions are judgmental in nature). We step out of the thinking world into our body and awareness. We allow story lines to be there, but we are not attached to them. We can simply watch thoughts, emotions, body sensations, sounds, … pass by…
Thereby calming the mind and entering an ‘open space’. Everything is allowed to be there, and in the moment: everything is already okay. We see that what comes, goes away again, that nothing is permanent. We see that by giving attention and holding in awareness, we give space to what comes up and there is no striving anymore for something else or something better. We can just observe, moment by moment, what is happening, just like you would watch a movie on the screen.
One of the outcomes of this practice is not that you try to change what you think or feel, but that you start to see your own cognitive and emotional biases ……how your thoughts or feelings might have nothing to do with the present moment, the other, or your heart longings, but were simply ‘biased’ by moods, unrecognized triggers, and the fleeing of uncomfortable feelings.
It’s not because we think in a certain way, that we have to act upon it. It’s not because we feel depressed, that we ‘are’. It’s not because we experience anger, that the seed of our anger has been caused by the other person. We also see that there are many possible solutions and creative connections, and that more is possible then … well, our thinking mind is telling us. The possibilites are plentyfull… and beautiful!
So why is it so hard to access that open mind space?
Simply, because we never learned to do so.
What is happening? (and I already apologise in advance for the lack of nuance in what I am about to say…) Therapy, coaching, and the like, are useful to start noticing storylines, feelings, behaviours, and eventually take actions and decisions. It works a lot with the content of the thinking mind, but of course, also the activation of feelings and behaviour.
Concentration meditation — or let’s say what most people still think meditation consists of — is useful in helping you direct attention and bring it back to the present moment. It learns you the distinction between thoughts, feelings and body sensations.And it starts to help you see how crazy your monkey mind really is, while learning you the ability to let go of certain thoughts or to step out of the thinking mind and into the body.
But what is often forgotten in therapy, coaching, NLP, and even meditation, is learning to take on an observer perspective as a skill by its own, even as the main intention.
Learning not to necessarely change your thinking patterns into new ones each time a different situation comes up, but simply and more profoundly — cut through the storylines all together… opening up to what is available in possibilities. Learning to work with the process of thinking and feeling of feeling, rather than the content.
This open mind space is available to us, we don’t have to create it, or change our mind. We can just learn how to tap into it. And it’s not difficult, it’s actually very light.
Is it that simple?
Well… when emotions, chronic stress, or traumas are at play, it becomes harder to access the open mind space. This is because a strong mind-body reaction is preventing us from actually allowing and feeling the sensations in our body. Our mind has always been the illusionary ‘saver’, trying to search for rationalizations, categorizations, judgments, to make sense of the world. It makes us feel save to ‘know’ what is causing our distress, so we keep looking for reasons in the mind.
That is why it equally important to access the open mind space on different layers, because besides the mind, there is also the physical, emotional and spiritual body that need care, and attention. So we can also learn to take an open stance regarding our body, physical sensations, and our feelings. Experiencing them from the same observer perspective.
Practice and intention matters.
Practice matters. Accessing the open mind space does require a bit more effort than meditating just once, or one particular kind of meditation, or even ‘mentally knowing’ what it means. Going from concentration meditation, to other types of meditation, slowly but steadily transitioning more and more into an observer mind…
Our intention within the practice matters. Concentration and meditation are not endgoals in itself. There are means to develop our intention to tap into the open mind space. Through different practices, we can learn from our ‘direct experience’ what it means to access an open mind awareness, and slowly start integrating into our daily life.
Care enough to practice?
The October Retreat will focus on accesing that open space on different levels: body, brain, heart, emotions and subconsciousness. In that week we will become conscious of our intention, but also of all the mind layers we carry along. Unraveling layer by layer, and come home to the body, the moment, and the beautiful open space full of possiblities in experiencing the world. Needsless to say I am very looking forward to expand what is possible!