Although you and I might be very different people on the surface, we both share a number of experiences that weave together the fabric of our lives.
Both of us have undergone a process of social conditioning, both of us have developed a very elaborate sense of self, and both of us have a variety of mental, emotional and physical habits that we carry out dutifully every day.
Almost every single human being on the face of the earth shares these three similarities, and while they are all necessary for our evolution, survival and sense of comfort, they can also become a great hindrance to us.
How many times have you felt very small, constricted and one-track-minded in your daily life? How many times have you felt tired and disillusioned in your corner of the world? If you are like most people you might struggle with a looming sense of unhappiness and emptiness; you might have even asked on a conscious or unconscious level “… Is this really all there is?”
How depressing to operate in this mentality! When we lose touch with the mystery and infinite number of facets inherent in existence we become like miners hacking away at a dirty, dull rock face, forgetting the beautiful and precious gems hidden underneath.
When we live with the belief that “All you can see is all there is” and when we live with the desire to become “larger than life” in our material pursuits and personal conquests, we become terribly self-centric, constricted and deeply unfulfilled people.
Even on our inner work paths we tend to fall into the traps of becoming self-obsessed and linear minded. While this is a natural product of self-growth and exploration, it can eventually become a burden, obstacle and barrier to our true liberation.
If you are ready to be open-minded towards developing an open mind, this article might provide some interesting avenues to explore.
1. Take an Imaginative Leap into the Mind of Others
Empathy is something many of us believe we have when in fact we confuse true empathy with traits like compassion and pity. Empathy is not feeling sorry for a person, but rather, it incorporates an emotional and psychological understanding of another. Empathy is the ability to deeply understand why a person thinks, feels and behaves the way they do; it is the ability to look through the eyes of another and empathize with their situation and personal context.
One of the most small-minded traps we can fall into on our paths is to constantly judge, criticize and resent others for not doing what we want, for not being what we want, for not feeling what we want, for not thinking the way we want, and so on.
We tend to operate with a childlike mindset of, “Other people are just like me” when in fact many people are nothing like you: they don’t see the same way you do, they don’t value the same things you do, they don’t believe or desire the same things you do and they don’t think or reason the same way you do.
When we take a step out of our identities and take an imaginative leap into the minds of others, we become much more open minded and understanding of people.
2. Be Like a Curious Child
Curiosity dies as we become conditioned and as our identities develop. Very quickly we are taught to “stay close to mummy,” “don’t talk to strangers,” “don’t stray too far,” and other words and phrases that make us feel safe when we keep to ourselves. Then, as we begin to focus on protecting the “I,” nourishing the “I,” promoting and popularizing the “I,” and eventually exploring the “I,” we become more entrenched in everything and anything to do with ourselves.
Curiosity is a jump from focusing on ourselves to focusing on something “without” ourselves. In the process, our minds open significantly as we realize that we aren’t the center of the universe (as we once unconsciously thought).
Curiosity can extend to other people; to asking their opinions, exploring their life stories and tastes; different places and cultures; different species; different experiences, such as eating strange types of food, traveling, reading a book you would never read; different spiritual perspectives, and so forth.
3. Let Go of the Stories You Tell Yourself
Our stories are a collection of memories and inner narratives that we tell ourselves about who we think we are. Our stories can be tragic, inspiring, meager or enlightening – but no matter how intricate or finely layered your story is, it is a story.
Our stories distill our experience and they continue on within our minds each and every day on a very deep level. They always begin like this: “I am …” “I was …” “I will be …” “I can …” “I can’t …” “I have …” “I don’t have …” “I want …” “I don’t want …” “I look like …” “I sound like …” “I am like …” and so forth.
Our stories – no matter how nice or nasty – severely restrict us from experiencing the true essence of who we are; from experiencing that pure space of infinite silence, also called “love,” “light,” or “consciousness.” But these words grossly misrepresent the actual experience of your true nature and my true nature.
Just “letting go” of the stories you tell yourself can be hard, but it is possible with the development of enough self-awareness. Eventually, it is possible to experience unbounded openness when the filter of the mind is dissolved.
The beginning of this practice involves stopping yourself every time you feel unsettled or the slightest bit uneasy. Ask yourself, “What is it I’m thinking?” “Why?” “Is this thought, action or feeling really the essence of who I am?”
4. Explore Entheogens
An entheogen is a psychoactive substance that is used for spiritual, religious or shamanic purposes. Popular entheogens include mescalin, psilocybin mushrooms (“magic mushrooms”), cannabis, DMT, LSD and ibogaine. While many of these substances have been banned in a number of countries, other substances like Hawaiian Baby Woodrose and Salvia Divinorum still remain legal – although keep in mind that all have a variety of minor (and sometimes notable) side effects, although all are relatively harmless when used respectfully and sensibly.
Entheogens open a doorway in the mind to new plateaus of consciousness and profound, long-lasting self-discovery. Many people have claimed to have developed completely new outlooks on life after experiencing such mind-altering experiences, others have overcome depression and anxiety and still others have tasted a glimpse of true liberation, self-realization or “enlightenment.”
I believe that exploring our minds is our birth right. Not all psychoactive substances deserve to be put under the same feared and loathed “drug” umbrella.
So next time you have the opportunity to try a (legal) entheogen, do so: they are the earth’s reminder that life is much bigger than YOU.
Although we trick ourselves into narrow, dogmatic and self-centered habits and perceptions of the world, the truth is that life is so much bigger than what we ever thought it to be – life is so much bigger than us, and we are so much bigger than what we previously envisioned ourselves to be, for we are “life.” And this is something to celebrate!
If you have any discoveries to share about different ways to open your mind, please do so below.