Open Mindedness

By Jan Zimmerman on October 17, 2013 in Recovery

This was one of the postings that I read during our meeting today.  Please check out their blog!

Many a middle school classroom has the following quote about open mindedness on its’ wall: “Minds are like parachutes, they function best when OPEN.” Rigid thinking leads to rigid behavior, and rigid behavior is the hardest to change.

When we are trapped in rigid thinking or rigid behavior, it becomes difficult to see that other options are available to us. These options might be solutions we hadn’t considered (because we won’t let ourselves consider them) or perspectives that we have closed off to ourselves, even though they might be beneficial. A lack of open mindedness points to an ego out of check, or a person who truly believes they have thought through every option available to them or that no further possibilities exist. This is a very sad state to be in when you consider what a wild, wide, unpredictable world we live in, because although you may be sure as can be, the unexpected is always just around the corner.

Sometimes, it is our need for control that keeps us from being open minded. For people in recovery, there is usually a moment of clarity that helps us realize that we have another option besides our previous addictive patterns. Before that though, we are closed to the path, because we have chosen not to see it.

Letting go of the past is also a sign of open mindedness. When we box people in with their previous behavior, we are in effect telling them “I do not believe you will ever change.” We might hold them accountable for something they did years ago, especially if they are family members, even though they are a completely different person than the one who hurt you long ago. Holding onto the past keeps your relationships trapped in a cycle without moving them forward and letting them grow. Growth is a major result from cultivating open mindedness, as it represents the ability to gently change.

To illustrate the point of letting go of the past, here is an old fable:

Two monks, one young and one old, were walking down a forest path. Soon, they came to a wide river, where an aristocratic woman was waiting to cross. She was dressed in finery and could not let herself get wet. There was no boat or raft nearby. Instantly grasping the situation at hand, the old monk silently scooped up the woman and carried her to the other side, dry as a bone. He then began to walk down the road once more.

However, monastics of their order are forbidden from any physical contact with the opposite sex, and the young monk was clearly upset about the older monk’s defiance of the rules. He fumed about it for miles, not letting go of the memory. Finally, when he could bear it no longer, he exclaimed, “I can’t believe you picked up that woman! It is in direct disobedience of our monastic code! What was your thinking?”

The old monk simply looked at him and said, “I left the woman back at the river, so why are you still carrying her?”

When we cling to our ideas rigidly, we collapse our options from many to few, but by cultivating open mindedness, we learn to soften and open up to a much larger, richer world.

Update as of 12/2/2020: the links for this post are no longer available. It came from a wonderful site called

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