“The way to grow is by learning how to adopt a beginner’s mindset… Becoming a freethinker has many benefits. Come every day eager to learn and with an open mind. Be a beginner, never an expert”. ― Guru Tua
Our culture promotes the idea that the best teachers are well-known celebrities. However, the opposite is often the case. The best teachers are not always those who seek public acclamation or endorsement. Those who spend a great deal of time promoting themselves are often copy-cats. They learn a little about something, rebrand it and sell it as their creation. You see this in both the areas of business and spirituality.
Becoming A Freethinker
People seek experts because they are proficient and qualified to give opinions about the subject matter. The problem is determining who is an expert and who is masquerading as an expert. You see people in places of power not because they are outstanding leaders or teachers but because they amass a large group of followers. Social media has taught people to follow those with the largest following, but this has nothing to do with the accuracy of what they say. (1)
Fox News is an excellent example of an extensive network that hires self-proclaimed experts who are vastly underqualified to give opinions about almost every subject, from politics to medicine. Yet, they have a substantial social following of people who are not freethinkers; they are followers of celebrities and sensational headlines. (2)
So, the first step toward becoming a freethinker is a beginner’s mindset. If you start with this mindset, you’ll spot the quacks and charlatans spewing misinformation. You can spot this same line of thinking with any religious or ethnic extremism.
“Always be a student. Beware of the hucksters and frauds. Don’t believe the opinions of those who are not qualified to speak on the subject.
The more you learn, the more you understand. The more you understand, you realize there is much more to learn. When you put on the garments of an expert, celebrity these become a barrier to further learning.” ― Guru Tua
Approaching life as a beginner is an asset in life. It is especially true in the arena of spirituality. Being open-minded and willing to explore alternative methods and learn new things is essential. It is all about your attitude and willingness to learn and share.
What does becoming a freethinker mean? The story of the Japanese Zen master Nan-in (1868-1912). He was visited by a professor of philosophy who wanted to question the master about Zen.
The Master Nan-in offered the professor a cup of tea. The professor accepted and held his cup. Nan-in began filling his cup but kept pouring and overflowing the cup. The professor said, my cup is full; no more will go in! And Nan-in responded, yes, like the cup, you too are full of ideas and opinions. Unless you empty your cup, nothing new can be poured in.”
Whether its account is true or not, the analogy certainly fits. We cannot investigate the idea if we’ve already decided to accept or reject something. The expert locks themselves out of this beginner’s mindset by being full of their ideas.
“When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist, or an idealist; a Christian, or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last.” — Thomas Huxley
The above mindset contrasts with that of the expert. The expert knows it already, and this is an attitude that hinders learning.
“I would not be happy if I could not become a monk. They call it the beginner’s mind – the deep intention, the deepest desire that a person may have. And I can say that until this day, this beginner’s mind is still alive in me.” — Nhat Hanh
People with a beginner mindset are curious, humble, and help others. They come ready to learn. It’s an attitude and philosophy that helps you learn. It enables you to connect with people where they are.
A beginner asks a lot of questions instead of stating their opinions. Asking questions enables them to learn as much from others as they share. Becoming a freethinker is a process that starts with asking questions. A beginner’s mindset is an asset, no matter how much you know or how long you’ve been on the path.
The world needs more freethinkers to solve the complex problems we face. One thing you can do now is to spread peace and compassion. Join the warriors of light who are battling the surge of religious extremism.
If you are a teacher, this mindset is indispensable. A good teacher asks a lot of questions too. A good teacher often learns as much as a student. As a guru (teacher), teaching gives you a deeper understanding of any subject. It is especially true with the spiritual technologies of seated and moving meditation and energy collection. So, learning how to adopt a beginner’s mindset benefits both the learner and the instructor.
Characteristics of a Great Guru or Teacher
“Guru is not the goal. Anyone who establishes himself as a guru to be worshipped is not a guru. Guru is like a boat for crossing the river. It is important to have a good boat, and it is perilous to trust a leaking boat.
The boat brings you across the river. When the river is crossed, the boat is no longer necessary. You don’t hang onto the boat after completing the journey, and you certainly don’t worship the boat.” ― Swami Rama
If you seek a spiritual teacher, seek someone who projects competence because of their humbleness and willingness to help. Find someone selective about who they teach. If they have a vetting process, it shows they want to give quality individual guidance to those ready to learn. Also, seek a teacher that has isn’t seeking followers. You want a teacher that makes other teachers. Ask them, do you know how to adopt a beginner’s mindset? If they don’t know, then seek a better instructor.
What to Avoid in a Guru or Teacher
Avoid celebrities looking for followers. Beware those who want people to look up to them with admiration. Look out for the self-proclaimed expert. Just because someone has a large number of followers doesn’t mean they are a good teacher.
Avoid Multi-Level Scams
That means don’t follow the crowd. Do your independent research. Look for people and organizations that provide you with tools you can take away. Beware of the mind game tactics of organizations like LifeSpring, EST, or The Forum.
These organizations are multi-level marketing schemes like their business-related counterparts, such as Amway and Herbalife. They make millions for the owners. Don’t get caught in one of these time-wasting enterprises.
If you only get the next level of information by “bringing in” other paying customers, you involve yourself in a multi-level marketing scheme. Many of these are illegal.
“My mother used to tell me to be a leader, never a follower. As a respect to my the words of my mother, I cannot place my faith in God or anyone else, because if I do, I am merely a follower. In order to respect my mother’s wishes, I had to dethrone God himself and claim the title as leader.” — Lionel Suggs
Keep a Healthy, Skeptical Mindset
For example, be skeptical if someone says they’ve discovered a new way to meditate. The human nervous system hasn’t changed in eons. Generations and generations have been investigating how to alter, expand, and reach higher states of consciousness. In our experience, this is probably a ploy to sell something.
How to Adopt A Beginner’s Mindset
The first step toward a fresh mindset is eliminating the programming filling your worldview with negative bias and prejudice. The source of this programming comes from our dominant cultural narrative. Our culture gets most of its input from religion. If you follow one of the world’s most popular religions, this is not easy. (3)
Western organized religion has some of the most harmful propaganda and programming; it promotes everything from wars and genocide to discrimination. They justify patriarchal hierarchies are responsible for gender mutilation and other barbaric practices. Some cultures will punish you for proclaiming that you do not accept their imaginary friend and related doctrines as truth.
Tools Not Dogma
One of the characteristics of a good teacher is someone who practices what they teach. They know how to adopt a beginner’s mindset and prove it by learning. The most advanced teachers are those who keep learning. Trust your gut instincts. They don’t need to sell themselves as self-proclaimed experts who already know it. (4)
The best tool to ferret out the facts from fiction is comparative analysis. It’s a structured scientific approach to comparative religious studies. Another vital tool is the Enneagram. The Enneagram can help us spot our harmful thought scripts.
Before adding positive thought scripts, you must confront and remove negative bias and prejudice. Removing negative programming isn’t easy inner work, but it is necessary. Once you’ve removed the harmful programming scripts, you can replace them with positive ones using affirmations. Don’t overlay positive affirmations over harmful or destructive programming. Your negative self-talk will override them.
Learn How to Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset
One last point. No matter how long you study, you will go farther if you learn to approach every situation as a potential learning opportunity. Approach every day with a fresh perspective, eager to learn and share.
“So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, “I know what Zen is,” or “I have attained enlightenment.” This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner’s mind. It is the secret of Zen practice.” — Shunryu Suzuki
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(1) Freedom of Expression, Western Historical Foundations of Freedom.
(2) The Impact of Digital Platforms on News and Journalistic Content.
(3) The Beauty of Beginner’s Mind.
(4) Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.