“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” Frank Zappa
So you’re not happy or you’re tired of spending too much time on the border between happiness and misery. Maybe you’re not sure you can even be happy … Have you thought then that your mind may be in the way?
Mine was! I was struggling to see the sun above the clouds of my life. I knew I deserved happiness and that I could be happy because for much of my life I had known happiness quite well! But no matter what I did I could not shake the storm.
My over-thinking mind was spoiling my fun!
The problem was I was stuck with a closed mind. As I panicked more in the quicksand of misery, my mind’s approach to life went into a sort of protection mode. It closed itself off. To protect me from vulnerability and the risks of being open, my mind was no longer open, or at least very reluctant to new!
“Happiness is not in the thinking mind” Dr Gail Brenner
It’s quite hard to notice or correct when you’re in that state because the outside world is an unknown threat. Despite the understanding of impermanence, the threatened mind protects itself through the illusion of control and predictability. It moves us further away from the reality we are in, imprisoning us more and more. Left unchecked I believe this is depression. I was there. I was fighting change, people’s opinions and I was not at all open to trying anything new to break free!
As I started to look for ways to heal I found so many references to the open mind-set. Quotes about half full glasses, emptying the cup to take on new, growth mind-sets and childlike curiosity etc. I realised that an important lesson for me to accept was to relax and lean into the fear of an open mind. An open-minded attitude became one of the five guiding principles in my aim of living a more authentic and happy life.
I recognised that in trying to protect myself I was trying to control the uncontrollable. If I opened my mind and accepted that I can’t control much in life then I could rather spend my energy focusing on what was great in life. Combined with my gratitude practice and enjoying the simple things in life, my new open-minded attitude started to roll back the clouds and reveal the glorious light of happiness. This was not euphoria but something much simpler, more subtle and present.
So what changed? I was open to new ideas, new truths, new possibilities and new ways of being and doing. I was open to learning again.
Having an open mind is not about being spineless or just open to anything. To me it is about getting away from being stuck and rigid, finding fluidity in life. Life isn’t stuck and rigid, it’s changing every second with every breath everyone takes! Being conscious about taking on an open-minded attitude means to be open to possibility and to let go of expectations. To make decisions based on what might happen rather than what mustn’t happen.
So here are three things I did with an open mind:
- I got a coach: Having written in the past about the business and personal benefits of mentoring and coaching, it was time I walked in those shoes. I needed help and I was finally open to asking for and getting it.
- The facade came down: I opened up to friends and family and was honest about where I was and where I had been. I found that talking about my problems and my goals brought me closer to the people that matter. It is obvious with hindsight but at the time, I was so scared of being judged.
- I tried new things: As I came to see my life was very static I needed to get out and do things which would charge my batteries and challenge my mind in new ways. I was desperate to learn new things again. So I started doing Tai-Chi, am about to start a Yoga class for beginners and I started taking daily walks. I am constantly looking at and for things that could keep me focused and keep me energised. I am dropping old habits that kept me locked in the muck of misery.
The best thing about changing to an open mind-set is it bore fruit – amazing fruit!
- Better relationships: I am having better interactions with people and forming better relationships. Rather than rallying my story, I am wanting to hear theirs. I am open to their reality and their opinions and it is such a rich experience to share with people without a strong motive for self-preservation.
- More synchronicity: A great example of this was how I found Tai-Chi classes. Having just decided that I wanted to do Tai-Chi energy practice, one day walking to the bus stop I saw a poster advertising beginner classes in my neighbourhood! I didn’t have to search, it was just there – as if by magic!
- Acceptance of how things are: Having an open-minded attitude meant I could accept the situation I was in. From there I was able to address what I didn’t like by looking for new and exciting ways to change. I was no longer tied in to self-fulfilling thoughts and expectations. I found a sense of freedom from accepting what I could and couldn’t change.
My daily routine now includes the practice of setting a daily goal to keep an open mind. When I am mindful I keep checking if my thoughts are from an open or closed mind. I challenge myself to do things that scare me or that I am not comfortable with. I feel alive again.
“You must choose between your attachments and happiness.” Adyashanti
I came full circle to being happy where I was and realising I was where I needed to be. I was living again, not just existing!
I am where I need to be now, and you are where you need to be now.
If you want to see some of the researched benefits of open minded-ness, check this out from the University of Pennsylvania: Authentic Happiness
“People are very open-minded about new things…as long as they’re exactly like the old ones!” Charles Kettering
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you have any thoughts or feedback, I’d love to hear from you.
I am passionate about change, personal development and the inner journey – doing things differently. In my spare time I work on my own personal growth journey, write Haiku poetry, practice and teach mindfulness and try to live a more authentic and present life.
I think that too many people go through change alone and so part of my personal purpose is to share the vulnerability and the learnings, the failings and the insights from my own ongoing journey. I am here to help guide and provide a safe space to those who need it but mostly I hope that it may resonate with some and that they feel less alone in their journey.
You might also like to read my previous posts:
- A life with gratitude is a happier life
- An authentic life is a simple life
- Stop looking! You are where you need to be
- Coming back full circle
- Gratitude – key to connecting with meaning
- The Abnormal Manifesto