When you open inside everything becomes interesting. The universe buzzes with life. Your senses come online. Suddenly, you’re attuned to the colors, fragrances, and sounds of things you ordinarily take for granted.
Close, and the world becomes black and white, or rather, a shade of gray where the contrasts of things are muted and blurred. Each day is a monotonous bore.
The best thing about boredom — it’s a reliable gauge.
When you’re open it’s impossible to be bored. The energy of the moment is circulating through you, it’s flowing in through your senses and stimulating your nervous system. The mundane transforms itself into the new and exotic.
You can learn to go through your whole life like this, loving the joy of the ride, reveling in the always-changing scenery of the trip. You can become continuously entranced by the cosmic journey through interdimensional time and space. The doorway into this way of living is wonder.
To pass through the doorway of wonder you first have to learn how to unlearn. You have to drop the linear-thinking mind that has it all figured out and step into the unknown.
The next time you have a break, take a moment and go outside. Take a deep breath in, then let it go. Let the mind go with it. For just a few seconds, drop the part of yourself that wants to label everything it perceives. Simply see the world as you see it without judging anything. Imagine you’ve been transported to a foreign country you’ve never laid eyes on before. Look deeply into what is before you and ask:
What is this, really? What am I seeing?
Ask without looking for or expecting any intellectual answer.
What is this? What am I seeing? Feeling? Hearing? Tasting? Smelling?
Open your heart to the experience. Drink in the world with your breath. Breath it in and really taste what’s around you. Feel your connection with it, the flow between your body and its surroundings. Become nourished by the flow.
Feel a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be right here in this moment.
If you practice this several times a day, even for a few seconds at a time, you will become filled with wonder. A state of wonder invites exploration. Exploration invites discovery. And what you begin to discover is that you really don’t know anything at all.
You become infused with wonder by emptying the thinking mind. In this emptying out, the filters that prevent you from seeing the newness of the moment are washed away. And this gives reality the space it needs to come rushing in.
In other words, you wake up to what is present rather than to what you think about what is present.
Spiritual awakening occurs when you become vulnerable, when you drop the false sense of control that comes from the illusion of knowing. It creeps up on you from behind when you let go of your ego’s armor and walk defensiveness along the path. It’s only in a state of open vulnerability that you can accept the new, ever-changing present. Otherwise you’re just hiding out in your fortress, staring at gray rock walls, waiting for an attack that never comes.
In Zen, they call this state of open vulnerability “beginner’s mind”. A beginner’s mind is the ideal mind because it has no fixed ideas. It doesn’t have everything figured out yet, so it takes it all in with a type of innocence. For the beginner, anything is possible because they haven’t learned what is impossible.
An expert knows all the details, all the ins and outs. They have a preconceived idea of the situation. From the perspective of the expert no new discoveries are possible. There’s nothing to see that hasn’t been seen before. Reality, through the eyes of an expert, is fixed. It’s crystalized.
In Zen, Tantra, Advaita Vedanta, and other enlightenment traditions, the spiritual path is a path of unlearning. It’s not about adding new, more “spiritual” information. It’s dropping the mechanistic mind altogether so that you can perceive reality as it is, not as you think it to be.
Wonder is also a doorway to devotion. The deeper you look into the world around you, the more awed you become by your environment, and that sense of amazement fills you with a kind of reverence which transforms the ordinary into the sacred.
It’s not that wonder makes you more religious — wonder has no room for the recitation of scriptures or repetition of rituals because it’s overflowing with the mystery of the moment. In a state of wonder there’s no room for labels or even names such as God, Krishna, Jesus, or Allah. Wonder is saturated with the Absolute Itself, not the names people have given It.
Categories, definitions, distinctions, boundaries — these are all functions of the educated mind. The yogi burns them in the fire of devotion and enters into mindlessness.
If you wish to feel the immediacy of the moment, to really feel alive, become dumbstruck with wonder. Stand as a naked, silent, open-mouthed idiot, staring at the world like you’ve never seen it before.