Most people like to think of themselves as open-minded. Yet the vast majority of people are anything but. Why is this?
The Imperfect Circle
There is a sacred symbol associated with Zen. Enso (formally spelled ensō) is an incomplete circle, traditionally drawn with a single spontaneous brushstroke. Enso can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but I find it compelling because the circle doesn’t quite join up. It’s like making an “okay” sign with your thumb and forefinger, only your thumb and forefinger don’t quite touch. When I see the Enso symbol, part of me wants to squash those ends together, force it into a proper circle. I guess I want my okay to be really okay.
The human mind is like this. We want answers. We crave security. When things remain open-ended, we tend to worry, filling in all the gaps with anxious What Ifs. We want a plan, a clear and direct path from point A to point B. But a truly open mind tends to resist a static, concrete approach to anything. We want to rest, to stay still and lick our wounds, but an open mind wants to grow, expand. It wants to flow like water.
Practicing 10% Doubt
Can you ever really be certain of anything? After all, you might be dreaming at this very moment. You might be hallucinating. You could argue that the only thing of which you can be truly certain is that you are, you exist.
Zen is about keeping the question open. Think of it like this: Consider that at any given time in your life, 10% of your most basic assumptions about who you are and how life works are completely wrong. And the thing is, you never know which 10% – until you face plant into a brick wall. So you keep your mind open, agile, fresh. And from time to time you tune into your center. You relax into the simple experience of existing. You may never complete the circle – yet you can’t help trying to complete the circle. Such is the bizarre, boring, terrifying, wonderful, ecstatic, surprising, mind-blowing journey of becoming your most genuine self.