Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Every Morning

"The Break of Day"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Lots of tourists come out to the desert at this time of year. In fact the population of this region more than doubles in these months just after Christmas, as people flee from their cold wintry homes seeking the pleasant temperatures and beautiful vistas of the wilderness in early Spring (and yes, it is early Spring here already). 

Yesterday as I took my routine walk on one of my very familiar wilderness trails, I was not only aware of how many people were on the trail with me, I was struck by how amazed they all were at the surrounding beauty. I was walking on that trail in order to get some exercise, almost oblivious of the desert sage, the smell of lavender, the sight of towering mountains,  but these "tourist" folks were seeing it all for the first time, lots of pictures were being snapped, exclamations like: "I never knew how beautiful it was out here." 

It all made me realize just how easy it is to fall into the trap of ignoring the wonderful surprises life has to offer at every single moment of every single day.  

When I was teaching college courses in Interpersonal Communication I would often warn my students to be aware of what I referred to as the "hardening of the categories" as they went through life. We can easily be so comfortable with the familiar, with our tried and true ideas and opinions that the world becomes "calcified" as everything fits into our well worn "hardened categories." When that happens we can walk along a spectacular beautiful wilderness trail and see no need to snap a photo.

My flash of insight yesterday made me think about a Zen teaching about wisdom and the "Beginner's Mind." 

If your mind is empty, it is ready for anything, it is open to everything.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities
but in the expert's mind there are a few.

Experts are often afflicted with the dreaded disease of the"hardening of the categories." I should know; I've been an expert all my life. I think maybe it's time for me to change all that.   

Now that the holidays are over, many people may feel condemned to the drudgery of going back to work or back to school- back to the same old routine. Yet it seems to me that there is no such thing as the "same-old" routine. The old world of yesterday is new every morning and every moment is filled with surprises if we have a "mind" that is open to embrace whatever comes our way. 

The New Year offers me a "new" opportunity to see and hear and feel and taste and touch the world as if I am doing it for the very first time. The beginning of a new year is a perfect opportunity for embracing a "Beginner's Mind." 

I am going to walk on that old familiar trail once again today - this time I will have my camera in hand. 


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