Today was my first day trekking in Nepal, on on something known as the Royal Trek which is very untouristed, even in the high season. I’m loving it so far. My guide/porter Govinda is a sweet spirited man who never complains even though he’s lugging my camera and three lenses as well as my pack.
While walking today, i began noticing how much the mind gets in the way of our experiencing. How many times have you walked down the street or driven down the road with your mind thinking about something only to realize at your destination that you don’t hardly remember any details of the journey. It is this primarily i am trying to avoid. One of the blessings in wandering through a new land is the change which can come from being impacted. I noticed my mind trying to grapple to make sense of what it was taking in and became aware of how, simply by the act of trying to make sense of something, my mind seemed closed. Making sense of something is generally done by comparing whatever is being experienced with that which is already known. By comparing to what is already known, we are in essence reifying everything and telling ourselves that we already know this, and thus are effectively closing our minds. When the mind gets out of the way, all that remains is the actual experience. Without the mind’s intervention or distraction, the experience bursts with vibrance and dynamism and emotion, allowing us to be fully impacted.
I’ve also noticed that there is a big difference between being “open minded” and having an “open mind.” “Open minded” generally applies to someone who is open to a wide range of possibilities. Having a truly “open mind,” however, is to allow oneself to be fully impacted by experience, by simply allowing experience to be rather than trying to categorize or understand it.
So how do we achieve having an open mind? Meditation is one way as it teaches the mind to not attach itself to its own thoughts and encourages a distancing of our more true selves from identifying with the mind. I discovered a bit of a short cut though and I am calling it the practice of wide-eyed wonder. There is a very clear interconnectivity between the eyes and the brain, with certain eye movements associated with different brain function. The most obvious of these is how when we search our memory for a certain word or someone’s name, we shift our eyes up and to the left. If we are trying to remember an event or occurrence, eyes downward and to the right seems to help. I’ve discovered that to shut the thinking mind down, simply open the eyes as wide as you can. This posture of what I call”wide-eyed wonder” allows for maximum sensory input while limiting the mind’s interpretive tendencies. I notice that I even begin to hear with more awareness when my eyes are wide open.
As I walk through these monsoon lands, I am seeing people and faces, behaviors and dress, interactions and labors. structures and activities that are new to me. Lives here are lived in very unique ways and I hope that I can truly see without trying to understand or make sense of. The understanding may come with time, but for today at least, let there be wide-eyed wonder.