How to Keep an Open Mind

I had a friend once who absolutely couldn’t stand being confronted with information that contradicted her beliefs.  “Don’t confuse me with the facts!” she would say, “My mind is already made up.”

I thought of her this week when I came across a quote from Pema Chodron.  “The truth you believe and cling to, makes you unavailable to hear anything new.”

As I said in last week’s post, nobody enjoys discovering that what they believed to be true is not.  But our pain only lasts as long as we insist on clinging to our erroneous, distorted, or incomplete beliefs.

The reality is that none of us has the whole picture about anything.  We make up a lot of stuff.  We grab soundbites from the news, read something, or pick up viewpoints from family or friends and add them to our information stock without question, especially when they fit in well with the beliefs we have already formed.  Then, when they’re challenged, we tend to get defensive.  It can be uncomfortable to let go of a belief.

But it doesn’t have to be.  You can toss out a torn or outworn belief as easily as you throw out a sock with a big hole in the toe or a shirt you’ve outgrown.   The key is to see that learning something new is an adventure, an opportunity to get a wider, fresher view of things.   Moving toward a greater truth is freeing.

When you encounter information that challenges your beliefs, see it as a chance to expand your understanding of the world.  You don’t have to buy into it right away. Investigate. Poke around a bit.  Probe the new data to see how sound it is.  Is there good evidence for it?  Great! You’ve opened a new door.  You don’t have to form conclusions immediately.  You can just accept the possibility that maybe there’s something to these new ideas and poke into them some more.  They may lead you back to your initial belief, strengthening and broadening it.  Or they may lead you to a different and clearer view of the world that empowers you to act in it in a wiser, more informed way.

And right now, we need all the strength, clarity and wisdom we can get.  Competing voices from all sides are vying for our loyalty.  It’s important to consider which ones are based in facts and which are riding on mere platitudes or suppositions.  Keep an open mind and do some research into the claims.  Try to distinguish between arguments that are presenting facts and those that are appealing to your desire to cling to an established belief.

Sorting things out calls for a commitment to finding the truth, regardless of where it may lead you.  But searching for greater truth is the greatest and most rewarding adventure of them all.

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