The Tremendous Power of "I Don't Know" & "Beginner's Mind"
The monsters invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted,
criticized, judged, blamed, embarrassed, humiliated, ridiculed, victimized,
demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied and battered the child's
mind because they insisted they knew better. The child struggled to use its own
eyes and ears -- its "beginner's mind" -- to find out what was
actually the case, but like all children, made mistakes.
The monsters had been trained to believe that everything had
to be as *they* saw or heard it, no more and no less because *they* had been
invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed,
embarrassed, humiliated, ridiculed, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on,
dumped on, bullied and battered themselves. They knew no other way to be. And
no other way to treat each other, save to cower and submit, which was not allowed with miniature representations of themselves; worse: representations that looked and sounded so
much like them when they were being hounded into... submission. One generation
after another, the monsters begat innocent children they would train to be
Most of them will never notice their bewilderment -- nor
their dysfunctional compensations for it -- unless they are so fortunate as to
run into Zen Masters Suzuki Roshi and Seung Sahn, DBT inventor Marsha Linehan
or any of these people.
Or Stephen Levine, who -- paraphrasing those zen masters --
wrote, "We discover the presence of bewilderment. We recognize the state
of mind that says, 'What do I do now?' when confronted with difficulty, the bewilderment
which has for so long leaped impatiently into an insistence on an immediate
answer. By not reacting to that state, but instead mindfully responding, we
enter these feelings that arise when we feel we no longer have control of the
situation, and we stay a moment longer to explore things as they are. We allow
bewilderment in rather than compulsively running toward the confusion which
turns life into an emergency. Investigating this bewilderment, as if for the
first time, we become 'complete beginners' and notice an alternative: another
road branching toward spacious pastures and open vistas of 'don't know.'"
Not knowing, allowing the mystery to just be there, and
moving out of the compensations, rationalizations, pseudo-certainties and defense mechanisms we learned from
the monsters into the "beginner's mind" will seem utterly
"backwards" and "wrong" to the beliefs, ideas, principles,
convictions, rules, codes, regulations and requirements the monsters taught us.
"This is not safe! (I was too hurt as a child to go back there.) I have
to protect myself at all times (by either lashing out or hiding)."
Returning to Levine: "The difference between confusion
and 'I don't know' is that confusion can only see one way out, and that way is
blocked, while 'I don't know' is open to miracles and insights. Pain often
calls out for immediate conclusions. The mind implodes. In confusion we are so
far away from our selves; in 'I don't know' we are right there watching [as in
observing to notice to recognize to acknowledge],
fascinated. ... To be a 'complete beginner' is to trust [the vast possibilities
that are always there waiting] in 'I don't know.'"