Cleveland, OH, USA

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Open Mindedness

The H.O.W in the 12 step fellowship that I practice stands for Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness. I spoke of honesty in my previous blog entitled "Living Sober". The principle of being open minded helps to allow input into my life via resources I would not necessarily have considered. I only knew what I knew when coming into recovery and my actions were based upon that knowledge and that knowledge alone. There is a saying "If I knew better then I'd do better". I thought I knew everything and everyone else was pretty much in the dark. It was brought to my attention that if I knew everything then why was I in a treatment center? Obviously, I didn't know how to get and stay sober (along with many other things). A counselor in treatment asked, "Is it possible that everything you think is true may not be? Is it possible that maybe 10%, 20% or even 30% of what you think is true may not be true at all?" I conceded that maybe 5% might be false Even with 95% assuredness there's still that 5%. My first step in being open minded was to question my thought process. If all my thinking had been correct then why did my best thoughts keep landing me in jail? Why did my best thinking keep getting me drunk? Why did my superior brain tell me to have a drink and then when I drank too much that same brain tells me I'm stupid for picking up a drink? Why did I continue to go to the same dope boy on the block after he sold me a dummy? For the very first time in my life I began to question my thinking.

I picked up a book in my first year of recovery entitled, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki. In this book I learned the meaning of Shoshin. It's a word from Zen Buddhism meaning "beginners mind". It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. I realized that the only thing blocking me in my growth were my established ideas. In order for me to learn something new I would have to empty my mind in order to allow new thoughts in. There's a saying in Narcotics Anonymous that expresses this perfectly: "You can't graft a new idea onto a closed mind". By practicing open mindedness I'm able to see things more objectively which opens the door to be able to take another view into consideration. Remember, I said "practicing" open mindedness! It takes commitment and perseverance to provoke a change in behavior. Especially, after years of being flawless in my judgement of all I surveyed. One important transformation as a result of practicing open mindedness is my willingness to utter a short, three word sentence, which I would never have voiced prior to trying something different. That sentence being: "I don't know".

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." (Herbert Spencer).

If we try something new; something new will happen!

Peace and Guidance...................