Friday, October 3, 2008

Beginners Mind

The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time. Henry Ford
Yesterday, I met with a colleague to talk about ideas for gaining awareness about homelessness and the shelter where I work. I came armed with the certaintude that we need to do a print campaign. I left with the confidence that doing the same old is not the path to enlightment. Getting creative is the path to opening hearts and minds, to encouraging compassion and support.

I am always stymied in meetings or conversations where an idea is put on the table and someone immediately leaps upon it, stomping and pummeling it to death with examples of how it will never work, isn't possible, definitely not viable.

Perhaps it's why conversations with Jason are so fruitful. He reminds me that there truly are no bad ideas. There are simply ideas that need to be given the life breath of creativity so that they can flow where they will without an untimely death by sudden objection.

With Jason* conversation flows in every direction. One idea spurs another igniting a stream of consciousness which, while neither of us are sure about the direction its going, we know it needs to flow freely so that it can find its true expression.

In our conversation, we trust in the process of 'brainstorming'. We don't force the conversation. We don't veto ideas as they're born. We let them flow. We give them air. Turn them upside down. Around. Connect one thought with a previous. Circle it around. Change directions. Change sides. Look at it from every angle. Let one word leapfrog to an idea catapult into a vision drawn upon the page.

We don't force the idea to fit the box. We dismantle the box. Open it wide. Unhinge its sides, lay it flat and then lift it up to see what's underneath. We look at the box as a circle, a triangle, a star, a trapezoid. We don't define the box, we let the box become the source of the next idea. The thread that connects it to the 'collective consciousness'. The seed that sprouts into a forest of ideas worth exploring.

So, here's my idea for this morning. I'm off to give a presentation on homelessness to a group of corporate Calgarians. I usually have a pretty clear idea of what I'm going to say before I step into the meeting. I know my story. Like to think I know what homelessness is all about. Like to believe I have the answers.

Today, I'm going to step into the meeting room without the answers, or as zen scholar Shunryu Suzuki would say, beginner's mind. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

In my mind there are endless possibilities when I step away from knowing it all and leap into exploring all there is to know. This morning, I will not present the answers, I will present the idea that we can all make a difference by stepping away from knowing what homelessness is all about and moving into a place of compassion and caring for those who have lost the question of why they're here and fallen into the belief that down here, on the street, is where they belong.

The question is: Are you walking through your day as if you know everything there is about what will happen? Or, are you leaping into the unknown eager to explore the adventure of your lifetime today armed with your curiosity, open to encountering the unexpected, letting creativity breathe life into your ideas?


Anonymous said...


I'd like to re-title and publish this piece 'THE AIR IS FULL OF IDEAS'

no edits required . .it's a gem


M.L. Gallagher said...

Publish away!