Oakville Zen Meditation

#147 Mindset = Mind trap Feb. 13th 17

                                               Mindset = Mind trap      A Zen perspective

Definition: an established set of beliefs, ideas, concepts, and opinion held by someone or a group of people. We all have a mindset about almost everything: weather, diet, events, religion, politic, people, etc and our thinking, judgments, attitude and actions are greatly influenced by it.

Opposite to mindset is Open mind, “Don’t know mind in Zen”

Where our mindset is coming from?  

Preconceived ideas start soon and lasts til the end. Beside few genetic factors, the vast majority of our mindset contents are acquired during life. Parental education, schooling, social status, personal socio-professional experience-good and bad-, self-learning sources ---book, TV, Internet---, moral/ethical principles, spiritual beliefs and practice, etc. As long as our set of beliefs is based on facts and within proper social and moral framework, having a mindset is a great instrument to function properly and efficiently in our relationships.

On the opposite side, if my mindset is made of wrong, negative, destructive beliefs or if our preconceived ideas are based on nonobjective facts, which is most of the cases on, it becomes a significant issue not only regarding my behavior and how am I be perceived by others.

When and how our mindset becomes a mind trap.

Having a set of beliefs, ideas, judgments and opinions is necessary to function socially and professionally. However when they may become a hindrance to understand, adapt, and progress but also towards self-enhancement and inner serenity. Their impacts can be negative i not only on the self but also in our relationships. Let me take the example of mindset-based spontaneous. We are judging machine. We are judging positively and negatively all the time for anything. There are two types of judgment:

It is OK to judge for a specific purpose such as 1) being requested, 2) to make a decision or 3) to act; but, most of the time, we are judging without any request, purpose or decision. These spontaneous judgments are meaningless and yet we keep doing them hundred of times during the day and this, subconsciously for most of them.

What is behind this? Our ego is controlling our mindset from which our judgments are coming from.

Subconsciously we are on a power trip by judging something or somebody even if such judgment is useless, based on non objective evidence, and not requested by a third party.

By judging we feel important and our ego is feeding itself on this illusion. This is one of the most powerful deceptive tools to boost our self-image.

Here is one example: “I don’t believe in human-generated global warming” “OK I replied: Can you prove it?” “ No” This is a good example of a non-objective ego-driven judgment purely based on some sort of artificial mind set. Our Western education is imposing that we must have an opinion on everything. Beside, having an opinion it is an excellent social skill during mundane dinner with friends or others. On the corollary, if you don’t have opinion or judgment, it will be perceived as an intellectual handicap or rudeness.

The problem is that our mindset, being an ego boaster, is creating a mental jail in which we are trapped. If we are not able to get out of this mind trap, not only we cannot adapt to the ongoing changes but also we may suffer from being mentally and emotionally frozen. Also, if you have a mindset about x or y or z and cannot backing it up with facts, you may be wrong, look stupid, cannot adapt and progress in learning.

This is why our Eastern philosophy and Zen in particular is promoting the “ open mind” or “don’t know mind”

 Zen says:

“ If you want to avoid misery, drop most of your opinions and beliefs about things and people since you do not know them objectively”

“Don’t know mind” or Zen mind is like a beginner’s mind as Zen master Suzuki used to say.

A mind always open w/o preconceived idea, reflecting things a as they are and not as we want them to be especially when there is nothing we can do about them.

“ Don’t know mind “ does not mean stupidity or lack of knowledge but the opposite that is being open and receptive to whatever and whoever w/o being dogmatic and be curious.

Contrary to Western teaching, open mind and doubt are signs of growing wisdom and serenity whereas mind  is driving us in the opposite direction.