This favorite aphorism of mine has all the hallmarks of a stalwart maxim: it is short in length, composed of simple words and, at first blush, appears to be obvious. But the power contained in truly understanding and practicing its meaning is virtually unlimited. I’d been aware of this truism for decades but only in the last five years or so did I finally come to understand its significance and begin to practice its wisdom. While often difficult to live, the rewards I’ve reaped far overshadow my struggles to remain receptive.
From another perspective this adage might be reworked as; ‘attitude is everything’. And, indeed, it is so because to be ‘available’ to new or different stimuli one must first be receptive to said ‘new or different stimuli’ and this involves having an open mind. In order to truly embrace the concept of having an open mind willing to assess new stimuli and ideas in as unbiased a means as possible one must engender the attitude that anything ‘new’ or ‘different’ is ultimately of benefit. Sure, many experiences, ideas or stimuli may eventually prove to be negative and even harmful but if one can learn from these experiences the net is a positive outcome assuming one believes learning is a positive experience. Leaving my car parked under the eaves of my steep Alaskan home’s roof was a bad idea as when snow and ice break loose they come thundering down and smash into the vehicle but by experiencing this I now know to stay away from these zones when outside during the spring thaw! As such maintaining a positive attitude helps to fuel the understanding that since ‘attitude is everything’ if one can embrace and truly face life with a positive attitude one will be receptive to so many ‘new’ ideas, thoughts and understandings.
Key to practicing this philosophy is truly ‘living’ the experience; one can understand these words on an intellectual basis yet still fail to reap the wealth that comes from embracing their meaning. There is a less than obvious requirement to this process; it involves the willingness to ‘let one’s self go’ such that we can experience any new ideas, concepts or understandings without influencing the process with preconceptions or biases. This is another extremely difficult piece of the puzzle because it is human nature to be subjective and at the elemental level we are aware of our world through our experiences and learnings which are based upon reactions to stimuli yielding results of positive, neutral or negative value. The valuing of our experiences often leads to imbuing us with the belief we have control over most situations when, in fact, the opposite is true. Over time we perceive we can control situations and we attempt to do so with the aim being to generate a positive outcome. We succeed sometimes and fail in others but we grow the belief we have some control and since we favor ‘positive’ outcomes we continue to try to affect these results. By doing so we are running counter to the need to keep an open mind because we now believe we know what we favor, what will work best for us and what we will like.
Going this route inadvertently reinforces the construction of mental barriers to being open to new things; we reinforce this with our ongoing ‘internal dialog’ which we use to rationalize this behavior. Prior to relocating to Talkeetna I had a fear of speaking in front of people so I ‘knew’ I wouldn’t enjoy or be successful as an on-air newscaster and music show host. I’d built a wall around the idea of doing live radio and fortified its foundation with memories of awkward presentations during my corporate years based on a fear of stuttering. Yet when I opened my mind to the possibility of actually doing live broadcasting and stretched my own self-imposed envelope I discovered I truly enjoyed volunteering in this capacity. In this sense I was a prisoner of my own preconceptions which were entirely inaccurate even if based upon experience and memories.
I definitely do not think of myself as a person anyone would want to emulate and I have struggled mightily against a surfeit of shortcomings with varying degrees of success and many outright failures but finally, in my early 60’s, I have come to truly embrace the wisdom of that simple yet so powerful precept:
‘To See Light One Must First Be Receptive To Light…’