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Beginner's Mind

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In the beginner's mind there are many choices; in the expert's mind there are few. Shunryu Suzuki

Part of my Beyond the Rainbow job description is being an expert. I am supposed to know about crystals, essences, Reiki, and other subjects, to be able to answer questions via email, and provide consultations.

Lately I've been become aware of the limitations of being an expert. This has led me into an investigation of a phrase which experts love to say: "I know."

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We Are All Experts

I am not especially troubled about my expertise in the areas of metaphysics, because I have no trouble saying, "I don't know." I am, however, troubled by my expertise in some areas of life--for I am an expert on many subjects related to daily living. You probably are, too.

You may also be an expert about yourself.

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Knowing Isn't Bad

In the early days of humanity, it was important to know many things: which mushrooms were poisonous, which way to run if an animal attacked, how to appease the mysterious forces causing flood and drought. Knowing was survival.

For each of us, coming into a world which seemed equally mysterious, knowing was also important. We've had to learn how to walk, to speak, and generally how to function in a world with other people. When we went to school, knowing took on a new urgency. We learned quickly that the students who knew the answers were rewarded, and that those who knew how to swim in the treacherous social waters of adolescence stayed afloat.

By the time we became adults, we were thoroughly convinced, like our prehistoric forebears, that knowing was necessary to survival.

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Knowing and Ego

If I decide it's important for me to be an expert on crystals, I have gotten my ego, that part of the self which judges how well we're doing based on the response from the outside world, involved. The ego tells how proud we should be of ourselves, thus affecting self-esteem. In this scenario, my ego tells me that as an expert I must know the answers.

If anyone says I'm wrong about something, I must defend myself against them, and never, never admit that they might know more than me. I certainly won't open my mind to what they say and explore their own ideas because then my status of expert is greatly weakened, and considerable damage is done to my self-esteem.

When we live in a world with other people self-esteem (or the appearance of it) often becomes our protective armor, hiding the vulnerability and doubts which crouch behind it. Once again, knowing is surviving.

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Knowing as Fear

What we know defines us, and defines the psychic space in which we can operate. In the realm of knowing, life is predictable. You know whether or not you're going to like that person you just met. You don't have to suffer uncertainty. You don't have to risk that you might decide to like this person and then be disappointed or betrayed. This keeps you safe.

Ultimately the expert's mind is about reducing choices, reducing risk, and thus reducing danger. As our prehistoric forebears reduced the dangers of being alive by placating the forces of nature with fixed rituals so we use the ritual of knowing to resist the mystery of life rather than embracing it.

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The Cost of Knowing

Knowing makes us safe. Knowing does not make us genuinely happy.

When knowing is vital to us, we must constantly patrol the boundaries of our psychic space to make sure that we're protected. This uses up a huge amount of psychic energy, and the cost to us is vitality.

Knowing means that we must resist new ideas, at least in our area of knowing. It means that we are constantly recycling well-worn thoughts. This costs us greatly in terms of creativity and growth, to say nothing of adventure, enthusiasm, and joy in living.

When we are committed to knowing, we are in essence declaring that we don't want to our lives to change. Those who do think they want their lives to change, who program crystals and say affirmations and meditate and pray without results, often don't realize that for all their efforts to initiate change, they are expending more energy in resisting it.

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The Power of Not Knowing

Transformation occurs when we are willing to give up knowing. Thomas Edison didn't know how to make a light bulb when he began. Imagine what would have happened if he'd said," This is how it has to be done, and if it doesn't work I quit because I'm an expert on light bulbs." Instead, he did hundreds of experiments, and after each failure (which he said only brought him closer to success) he did something new.

When great painters make their first brush strokes, they don't know exactly how the painting will look at completion. Even those writers who work with well-developed outlines don't have every word typed out in advance, and many say that they find themselves surrendering to a certain momentum, that at points the characters take over the story.

To live life fully, to express your creativity, to be enthusiastic, to have your dreams fulfilled, means to live in uncertainty. It means not always knowing what's going to happen. It means knowing what you would like, and being open to the possibility that something else may happen. It means trusting that something else may be a development far more rewarding than you had imagined.

It means understanding that there is a force within yourself which is much greater than your ego. You may call it Higher Self, Spirit, or Soul. It is that part of yourself which is attuned and connected to the forces of infinite creativity, that realm where your clear-headed and open-hearted intentions will always be realized and manifested, where you are no longer limited Knower, but joyful Seeker.

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Crystals for Seekers

Azurite helps us to to surface and release the core beliefs which limit our ability to have beginner's minds.

Citrine helps to replace the false self-esteem of being an expert with a genuine self-esteem which requires no external approval.

Charoite helps us to transcend the fear of being found inadequate because we don't know the answers.

Larimar helps us to access a level of understanding and appreciation which transcends mere knowing.

Clear quartz not only amplifies the energies of all other crystals. When we meditate with it we learn who we really are, beyond all the identities of expert.

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Essential Unknowing

The Eagle bridges heaven and earth in its flight, and the Eagle Essence (Wild Earth) opens us to a way of seeing which transcends our ordinary vision. Many people report the experience of shamanic journeying and traveling in other dimensions.

Seal and Dolphin (Wild Earth) are two mammals who are at home in the sea, which is a spiritual and emotional metaphor for unbounded existence. Taking either of these essences can help you escape the small pond of ordinary existence for oceanic adventures.

Gentian (Bach) is for those who are comfortable (if sometimes bored) in the world they can verify with their physical senses and doubt the existence other dimensions. If you are a Capricorn this one is especially for you.

Rock Water (Bach) is for people who feel safe only when the boundaries of their world are rigidly defined. They may be especially prone to fixed and scheduled spiritual practices.

Beyond the Rainbow
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