A small book, Just One Thing, written by neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, has been on my bookshelf, unread, for ten years. This month, it fell into my lap, so to speak, as I was looking for another title. As I flipped through it, I saw that it was a book of gentle practices and the key point was simple: “how you use your mind changes your brain – for better or worse.”
What I responded to was the simplicity. I like small things and the practices in this book are brief actions. I have already found good stories, practical tips, and a certain restfulness. Right now I am doing my usual, hopping around in the book, taking its temperature.
I jumped in at practice 34 – Don’t Know- by Rick Hanson, PhD Author of Buddha’s Brain
“Once upon a time, a scholar and a saint lived on the same street, and they arranged to meet. The scholar asked the saint about the meaning of life. She said a few words about love and joy, then paused to reflect, and the scholar jumped in with a long discourse on Western and Eastern philosophy. When the scholar was finished, the saint proposed some tea, prepared it with care, and began pouring it slowly into the scholar’s cup. Inch by inch the tea rose. It approached the lip of the cup, and she kept pouring. It ran over the top of the cup and onto the table, and she still kept pouring. The scholar burst out: “What are you doing?! You can’t put more into a cup that’s already full!” The saint set down the teapot and said, “Exactly.”
A mind that’s open and spacious can absorb lots of useful information. On the other hand, a mind that’s already full—of assumptions, beliefs about the intentions of others, and preconceived ideas—misses important details or contexts, jumps to conclusions, and has a hard time learning anything new…the great child psychologist Jean Piaget proposed that there are essentially two kinds of learning:
Assimilation—We incorporate new information into an existing belief system.
Accommodation—We change a belief system based on new information.
Both are important, but accommodation is more fundamental and far-reaching. Nonetheless, it’s harder to do, since abandoning or transforming long-held beliefs can feel dizzying, even frightening. That’s why it’s important to keep finding our way back to that wonderful openness a child has, seeing a cricket or toothbrush or mushroom for the very first time: child mind, beginner’s mind . . . don’t-know mind.”
This commentary is followed by a list of small practices that one can try, pick or choose etc. The first one was my favourite:
“Be especially skeptical of what you’re sure is true. These are the beliefs that often get us in the most trouble.”
I suppose this notion was on my mind tonight because I just finished hosting a monthly Creativity Cafe. One of the participants spoke about how we are all impacted by our cultural conditioning and beliefs, and, by default, respond to a variety of situations through that lens. It reminded me of this idea, “being especially skeptical of what you’re sure is true.” This resonates with me.
1:) My son sent me these photos, and my bias, being in a cold and icy part of Canada, was that these pussy willow branches had ice on them. I learned today, because I asked him, that it is simply raindrops. Having spent the last month watching icicles and ice taking shape, where I live, I saw ice. Now, when I look, I see clearly. The banner photo is an old and favourite photo from Gottfried.
2:) Here is a link to an excellent article and podcast on NPR – Making Art is Good For Your Health. There are three sections: The article; the audio which is different and a set of five flash cards: How to Start An Art Habit.
3:) February is drawing to a close. In my family, it is a month of celebrations that will conclude this weekend with my grandaughters 17th birthday. Also, my daughter had her birthday yesterday.
4:) I hope these days have moments of joy and meaning even as we experience difficult and painful times. Thank you for stopping by. With great appreciation and warmth, Trudy