Search term: shoshin

“If You’re Just Naïve Enough To Believe You Can Do What Everybody Tells You That You Can’t, Amazing Things Can Happen”

"If You're Just Naïve Enough To Believe You Can Do What Everybody Tells You That You Can't, Amazing Things Can Happen" | rethinked.org

I’ve written about the Zen Buddhist concept of shoshin, which translates to “beginner’s mind,” several times before here on rethinked Beginner’s mind is a mental state devoid of assumptions and prejudices. Zen master Shunryu Suzuki highlighted the sense of omnipresent potential and openness that characterizes the beginner’s mind by saying: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Mick Ebeling, founder of the fantastic Not Impossible Labs has a great article over on CNN, explaining the immense power of shoshin, which Ebeling refers to as “beautiful naiveté” to yield big ideas with tremendous impact. Below are some excerpts from Ebeling’s inspirational article. You can read the rest of the article, and view the accompanying short video here.

In each case, the experts told us that what we were doing just couldn’t be done.

Fortunately, we didn’t listen, or didn’t hear them, or ignored them, or were oblivious, or all of the above. We went ahead and tried anyway. And what do you know. It worked.

This all started when I met a graffiti artist named Tempt, who was paralyzed with ALS. I was a film producer, with no experience whatsoever in the field of technological medical devices. But when I learned how he was communicating with his family — they’d run their fingers over a piece of paper with the alphabet printed on it, he’d blink when they’d get to the letter he wanted, and, painstakingly, he’d spell out a sentence — I was moved, and angry, and a whole lot of other things. And I blurted out to his father, “We will find a way to get Tempt to paint again.”

See, I was just clueless enough not to know that that was impossible.

At one point, a group of programmers and coders told us, “If you had any clue how hard it is to do what you did, you never would have tried it in the first place.”

I’m so glad we were clueless.

*

David possesses a quality — as do the other members of the team, Dan Goodwin and Sam Bergen — that, I think, is essential to success.

We call it beautiful naïvete.

Because if you’re just naïve enough to believe you can do what everybody tells you that you can’t, amazing things can happen.

It’s just possible, in fact, that you’ll discover what each of us has discovered:

That nothing, in fact, is impossible.

Source: Naïvete is key to innovation via CNN, published April 22, 2014.

{ Question Day 2014 & Vuja De } Making the Ordinary Unknown To Rethink Anything …*

{ Question Day 2014 & Vuja De } Making the Ordinary Unknown To Rethink Anything ...* | rethinked.org

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” -Albert Einstein

Break out your party hats because today we’re celebrating Albert Einstein’s 135th birthday and one of my all time favorites– questions! That’s right, inquiry now has its own day of celebration, Question Day, thanks to author of the new book: A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger, and the nonprofit The Right Question Institute who partnered to sponsor a one-day event designed to increase appreciation of the importance of questioning.

The day will be marked by an extensive social media campaign encouraging people across the Internet to share their stories and thoughts about the importance of curiosity and questioning in their lives, or to share their own meaningful questions—all designed to create a national conversation around questioning. We are also inviting teachers in schools to set aside time that day to tell students about the importance of questioning, encouraging kids to ask “beautiful questions” of their own.

To learn more about Question Day 2014 and discover ways to get involved, head over to the microsite QuestionDay2014.

Speaking of Warren Berger, he had a fantastic article in the Harvard Business Review a couple days ago about the power of reframing to spark innovation. Through his article I learned a new term–vuja de–which expresses something I hold extremely dear: making the ordinary unknown. As you may know, a core principle of our team is the belief that rethinking is greater than inventing. We’re not trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel, we’re trying to see and experience it with fresh eyes and open minds to broaden its landscape of possibilities { shoshin }; hence our motto: making the ordinary unknown to rethink * anything. And that’s precisely what late comedian’ George Carlin’s term: vuja de means. In his article, Can You See The Opportunity Right In Front of You? Warren Berger describes Carlin’s vuja de:

That term was made up by Carlin, in a bit of wordplay that put a twist on the familiar concept of déjà vu, that sensation of being in a strange circumstance yet feeling as if you’ve been there before. Imagine the reverse of that: you’re in a situation that is very familiar, something you’ve seen or done countless times before, but you feel as if you’re experiencing something completely new. This is vuja de, Carlin told his audience: “the strange feeling that, somehow, none of this has ever happened before.”

[ … ]

Of course, vuja de isn’t just a way of looking at things; it involves a certain mindset that questions assumptions and refuses to accept things as they are.

Berger goes on to describe the rich history between vuja de and innovation:

Stanford University professor Bob Sutton, author of the new book Scaling Up for Excellence, was among the first to make a connection, more than a decade ago, between the Carlin vuja de perspective and innovation. Sutton, and later Tom Kelley of IDEO, pointed out that innovators could potentially spark new ideas and insights if they could somehow manage to look at the familiar—their own products, their customers, their work processes—as if seeing it for the first time. Adopting this view, business leaders and managers might be more apt to notice inconsistencies and outdated methods, as well as untapped opportunities.

Read the rest of Berger’s article and learn more about combining vuja de observation with entrepreneurial action to yield big impact.

“When the familiar becomes this sort of alien world and you can see it fresh, then it’s like you’ve gone into a whole other section of the file folder in your brain. And now you have access to this other perspective that most people don’t have.” – Kelly Carlin

question, rethink & take action …* 

Source Can You See the Opportunity Right In Front Of You? via Harvard Business Review, published March 12, 2014.

{ Rethinking Expertise, Part I } The Dangerous Seduction of “Yes, But…”

Lucy from Peanuts

My sister and I still laugh over something she said in passing, years ago. We were on the phone discussing the fact that our 60-something mom had just completed a long charity walk  — essentially a marathon and a half — over the weekend.

“I can’t believe she walked forty miles!” I marveled.
Thirty-nine,” my sister shot back.

Her retort — as though she couldn’t tolerate such imprecision — was hilarious to me. Through a self-effacing groan, she too laughed at her automatic correction. Ever since, it’s been something I’ve good-naturedly teased her about.

Fast-forward to this month. Three times, I’ve noticed myself doing something similar:

  • Talking to a friend about the possibility of moving to a new place, I say the location is a bit far from a commercial street.
    “Well, there’s Smith Street,” my friend accurately remarks.
    “But it’s two-and-a-half blocks away. Two-and-a-half long blocks.”
  • I’m leaving a birthday party on 21st Street in Manhattan with my five-year-old daughter Amelie. Another parent who is a relatively new acquaintance asks me what we’re planning to do next.
    “Not sure. I kind of want to wander around before we head home.” “You two could go check out some art galleries,” she suggests.
    “With Amelie, no. Maybe a playground.”
  • Amelie wants some help making doll’s shoes out of cardboard. I have traced and cut out a sole.
    “Now cut this and put it like this,” she says, holding up another piece at a perpendicular.
    “I don’t think that’s going to work. It’s not going to stay.”
    “But we’ll tape it!” she insists.
    “OK, but it’s probably not going to hold.”

It wasn’t until the third interaction that I noticed the similarities among them. When I nixed my daughter’s cardboard vision, she didn’t take it lying down. She threw herself down. In hysterics.

Her dramatic dejection, along with some insights from my husband, helped me see that my response to her shoe idea was fundamentally negative. Moreover, all of my responses were:

Yes, but those blocks are long.
Yes, but art galleries aren’t for kids.
Yes, but shoes aren’t made of cardboard.

Yes, but…

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Last night I attended a wonderful talk by someone you might call professionally curious.

Robert Krulwich is a longtime, award-winning science reporter and the co-creator of WNYC’s RadioLab. As I remember it, the last question of the Q&A session that followed his talk was, Where did you get your curiosity?  

Without hesitation, he answered, My mom. She was amazing: she could get anyone to open up about anything. Even a stranger on an escalator.

Though heartfelt and perfectly lovely, his response struck me as an oversimplification. Why? Because to embody profound curiosity throughout one’s life — openly, out loud, and particularly in one’s professional sphere — requires an intellectual humility that I’m not sure our prevailing sociocultural values reward.

Instead, expertise — knowing things, having the answers — is prized. Experts are sought out by business, media, and governments. In the west, expertise is a form of capital, quite literally. Experts are paid to provide answers to important questions. They aren’t paid to say, “Hunh, I don’t know” or “Gosh, I never thought of that.”

Exceptions to the primacy of expertise do of course exist. Several have crept into my consciousness recently. In graduate school, I encountered the view championed by Bruce Mau, Tim Brown, and other designers — and borne out by cognitive psychologists — that being a novice in a particular context can often boost one’s capacity to innovate in that context. At the same time, I was absorbing my now-colleague Elsa Fridman’s rethinked essays on shoshin (the beginner’s mind), and how it plays an important role in integrative thinking. And I was studying Japanese designer Kenya Hara’s concept of “exformation”: making the known unknown for the explicit purpose of seeing and interacting with it anew.

But outside of these specialized contexts, our culture generally views expertise as an unqualified good. And so, for the most part, it’s somewhat unusual to hear such phrases as “Hunh, I don’t know” and “Gosh, I never thought of that” — not to mention somewhat difficult (for many) to say them. 

And yet, Robert Krulwich has revolutionized his career (and some would say mainstream science journalism as a whole) in part by using those very phrases. In his talk yesterday he addressed this observation, comparing Walter Cronkite’s stentorian voice-of-God delivery to his own unmodulated voice, which often conveys sincerely perplexed reactions to Radiolab’s guests. (Check back for a link to the video of Krulwich’s talk, which took place at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.)

By design, Mr. Krulwich’s approach to Radiolab is not as an expert but instead as an engaged and curious novice. This approach, he said, makes him a faithful and effective proxy for the people he hopes the show will enlighten: his own listeners.

rethinked...* logo

So why is being an expert a problem?

Of course it’s not, per se.

The problem I think is being the kind of expert who can’t be anything else.

The kind of expert who — consciously or not — avoids saying, Hunh, I don’t know and Gosh, I never thought of that.

The kind of expert who reflexively responds, Yes, but… 

Yes, but those blocks are long.
Yes, but art galleries aren’t for kids.
Yes, but shoes aren’t made of cardboard. 

Here’s the thing. In those moments I didn’t perceive my responses as negative. I sincerely believed my responses were more precise reflections of an objective reality. And in the case of my daughter’s shoemaking, I thought I was being helpful by steering her away from a doomed experiment. I suppose I assumed that each Yes, but… reflected a clear-eyed assessment of the situation.

Now my Yes, but…s seem impulsive and strange. They fill me with questions: What is that chronic hole-poking about? What is that mental blip, that unthinking tic? Is it a short-circuit in my reasoning? Is it the cause of the Yes, but…? Or the effect? Or, somehow, both? Do the Yes, but…s stem from overuse of my critical function? Or from an overinflated value I place on my own sense of expertise?

Hunh, I don’t know. 

But I do know this: Each Yes, but… I’ve described to you very effectively closed me off from an attractive possibility and a fresh point of view.

I didn’t stop to consider that a longer walk to the store would be a boon to my health. I didn’t contemplate the unique perspective I would gain by visiting an art gallery with a five-year-old. I didn’t realize that if I had just allowed that five-year-old to play out her shoe experiment, she would have discovered the cardboard’s deficiencies herself — and experienced deeper learning than my prepackaged “expert knowledge”  could ever instill.

This leads me to wonder: If the impulse to pounce on the holes in others’ ideas is a side-effect of expertise (be it a scientist’s expertise or an educator’s), what can be done to offset it? 

Part II: Yes, and… — How Openness and Receptivity can be Reverse-Engineered 

{ S H O S H I N } “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

{ S H O S H I N } “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” | rethinked.org

Shoshin is a Zen buddhist term, which translates to “beginner’s mind.” Beginner’s mind is the goal of Zen practice and can best be explained with this sentence from Zen master Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Essentially, beginner’s mind is the capacity to approach all new moments, whether the experience at hand be known and|or habitual or not, with a sense of openness and curiosity; to not limit ourselves to past experiences and knowledge in our appraisal of the present moment.

Unfortunately, “The older we get, the further we get from the truth and the more we search for answers. If only we could ask the real experts, life would go a whole lot smoother.” Which is where Little Kids. Big Questions. comes in.

Little Kids. Big Questions. is one of Soul Pancake‘s video series which takes the concept of shoshin quite literally by turning to beginner’s minds masters –little kids–to get their ‘expertise’ on life’s big question. The series, which debuted January 7th of last year, touches upon a wide range of complex topics, from religion, honesty, purpose to life and death.

MEET THE EXPERTS:

To celebrate Valentine’s day, here is the Little Kids. Big Questions. episode on love. Delight in the tiny experts’ brilliant answers to some big questions:

  • What is this strange and all encompassing word, love?
  • How do you know when you’re in love, what does it feel like inside?
  • What does it mean to be romantic?
  • Can boys and girls be best friends or do they always fall in love?
  • How do you know when you’re ready to get married?

Little Kids. Big Questions. – Love, published January 14, 2014.

Embodied Curiosity as A Framework for Being | Everything I’ve Learned About Being A Knowmad { so far }

Embodied Curiosity as A Framework for Being | Everything I’ve Learned About Being A Knowmad { so far }

This is the final article in a series of posts synthesizing my insights from the past three months spent attempting to apply concepts from Integrative Thinking to my every day life as an individual.

When I set out to explore this idea of embodied curiosity, I had grand plans of creating an entire ‘idea harvesting’ system for myself. I decided to create a process to guide my w{o|a}ndering and a system to store and display the treasures uncovered by my curiosity. I beefed up my Google Reader, bought a very large daily planner which I made into a “learning milestones” notebook and started a private blog in which to collect photographs, videos and articles that I found inspiring. The first two weeks of this big curiosity overhaul were positively thrilling–I was engaged, focused and motivated. I nearly jumped out of bed in the mornings I was so excited to get to work and at the end of the day as I lovingly flipped through my notebook or scrolled through my blog, I felt a great sense of accomplishment seeing all these nuggets of potential grouped together in an easily accessible way. I could feel the beginnings of new connections forming in my head. I was burning through Post-Its, littering my walls with reminders to “explore the relationship between z and x further” or “get the book on y mentioned by w”.

About a month into my new embodied curiosity lifestyle, I had a spectacular intellectual burnout. One morning I woke up and found that the excitement had gone and all that was left was dread. Dread at the thought of the hundreds of millions of interesting things that I wanted to but wouldn’t be able to uncover that day. Dread when I realized how long it had been since I had created rather than consumed. I started feeling massively overwhelmed by the amount of content and input surrounding me–so many books, articles, videos, photographs and people that I wanted to engage with and so little time. By sticking the word embodied in front of curiosity I had given myself free reign to let my curious nature loose, unchecked and unproductive. My life had become all input and no output. It was a bad place to be in. So I stepped away from my books, computer, phone and magazines and decided to go back to the beginning.

Embodied curiosity, to me, means translating ideas into action by infusing curiosity into every facet of my life and acting on the fruits of that curiosity as often as possible. What it comes down to is much simpler than what I had envisioned: it’s about asking questions and acting on ideas, every day, with every new opportunity that presents itself. Embodied curiosity is much more than a system or tool, it’s a mindset and way of being in the world. It’s a framework for subjectivity and experience. I decided to write down everything I knew about being curious, generating ideas and acting on them. I now carry the list everywhere I go so that I can revisit it daily during in-between moments and remind myself of the small behaviors and attitudes that I can nurture and develop on a daily basis to infuse my life with embodied curiosity. Here is what I know, so far:

 

  • Be grateful
  • Take in, but also, let go
  • Get lost ~ at least once a day
  • Look. Really, look
  • Listen (and try to hear)
  • Walk, everyday. MOVE
  • Look for patterns, but do not get lost in them
  • Play—hard & daily
  • Never give up trying to find ways to move past language
  • Ask questions & be wary of answers
  • Observe & seek connections with the mind of a beginner { shoshin }
  • Learn to zoom in & out
  • Seek wonder, banish contempt
  • Do not underestimate the potential of constraints
  • Surrender to your obsessions
  • Drop the thread
  • Never confuse the construct of linearity for reality
  • Collect moments & experiences with the fervor of the curator
  • Define things for yourself & revisit your definitions often
  • Create multiplicities
  • In all things, aim to be like the ink drop ~ fluid & bleeding through
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Let others in
  • Aim to make the ordinary unknown
  • Be aware of theviolenceofpunctuation
  • Redefine value with each new context you encounter
  • Observe, record, remix
  • Empathy is the most salient of currencies
  • Do not lose sight of the relativity of suffering
  • Delight ~ often & freely
  • Consume + produce ~ It’s a precarious balancing act, keep the equilibrium
  • Cultivate the skills to adapt & improvise
  • Imagine wildly & with abandon
  • Give back
  • Failure is in the eye of the beholder
  • Change perspectives as often as you change underwear, but hold on to your core.
  • The other exists only in relation to the self, so for the sake of all, exercise your compassion muscle daily
  • Growth hurts, accept that its part of the process
  • Travel lightly & shed along the way
  • Embrace the unknown & learn to be comfortable with uncertainty
  • Flee perfection & expertise ~ broaden & blur
  • Take chances
  • Translate everything ~ ideas into action, challenges into opportunities, problems into solutions…*
  • Know when to stop & move on
  • Show up & begin
  • Meaning is never given, you must create it for yourself
  • rethinking > inventing
  • One of the most important things you can do is surround yourself with good walking companions
  • Do not dismiss or scorn that which you do not understand
  • Look to the extremes
  • Context!
  • There are no beginnings or endings, just spectrums of intensities
  • Seek to exist within tensions
  • Wake up for sunrise

 

HMI Create a Framework for Embodied Curiosity in my Everyday Life? {rethinked * annex | Integrative Thinking}

Those of you who kept up with my rethinked*annex project in the fall, in which I attempted to translate the tools, processes and frames of reference of design thinking to my everyday life, might have been wondering what happened to the next phase of the project: integrative thinking. I had originally intended to post each week of the challenge (December-March) about various thought experiments that I would do in an attempt to assimilate the cognitive discipline into my daily life. I soon found out however, that the nature of integrative thinking did not lend itself to quick reflection, so I rethought…* my original plan, and decided instead to steep in integrative thinking, think/work it out for myself and allow some time for ‘digestion’ before trying to organize my thoughts about the experience. This is the first article in a series of posts synthesizing my insights and observations from these past three months spent attempting to assimilate integrative thinking into my everyday life.

THE ONTOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS OF BEING HUMAN
The problem when one attempts to think about one’s own thinking, let alone try to change that thinking, is that one runs into myriad cognitive hurdles designed and implemented to keep us from questioning the equilibrium and understanding that we create for ourselves in our daily lives. I’m not talking about politics or culture but about the core ontological constraints of being human: our inability to process the constant influx of reality and our perceptual and cognitive need to parcel it into salient bits, which we craft into overarching frameworks and models through which to experience our subjectivity and every day encounters. Because of the infinite malleability of our appraisal of reality, we have the ability and the need to fashion our own understanding of it. The issue with this is that, as Roger Martin put it in his terrific book, The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking,

“this tendency makes it difficult to know what to do with opposing and seemingly incommensurable models. Our first impulse is to determine which one represents reality and which one is unreal and wrong, and then we campaign against the idea we reject. But in rejecting one model as unreal, we miss out on all the value that can be realized by holding in mind two opposing models at the same time.” (55)

INTEGRATIVE THINKING
Integrative thinking is an effective method for countering this human tendency to simplify and reduce our understanding of reality to opposing binaries. Martin offers the following working definition of integrative thinking: “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.” (15) Integrative thinking, according to Martin, stems from our inherent capacity to simultaneously hold two opposing ideas in mind, a concept he explores through the metaphor of the ‘opposable mind’, which:

“we can use to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension. We can use that tension to think our way through to a new and superior idea. Were we able to hold only one thought or idea in our heads at a time, we wouldn’t have access to the insights that the opposable mind can produce. And just as we can develop and refine the skills with which we employ our opposable thumbs to perform tasks that once seemed impossible, I’m convinced we can also, with patient practice, develop the ability to use our opposable minds to unlock solutions to problems that seem to resist every effort to solve them.” (7)

After rereading Martin’s book, which is filled with keen observations and insights on the mental patterns of effective integrative thinkers, I decided that the first step in my attempt to practice integrative thinking on a daily basis should be to take an honest and in-depth look at my personal knowledge.

PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE | STANCE, TOOLS & EXPERIENCES

Martin defines personal knowledge as a tripartite coalition of stance, which “is your most broad-based knowledge domain in which you define who you are in your world and what you are trying to accomplish in it.” (93); tools, which, “range from formal theories to established processes to rules of thumb.” (97) And experiences that “form your most practical and tangible knowledge. The experiences you accumulate are the product of your stance and tools, which guide you toward some experiences and away from others.” (99) A thoughtful balance of the three elements of this cognitive coalition is key to effective integrative thinking.

“Operating at their best, the three elements of the personal knowledge system will reinforce each other to produce an ever-increasing capacity for integrative thinking. By the same token, though, stance, tools, and experience can conspire to trap perfectly intelligent and capable people in a world where problems seem too hard to solve and mere survival is the only goal.” (104)

Before I could start thinking about integrating components of conflicting models or ideas with my own, I had to gain a solid understanding of what my model was. But how to break past the blind spots and recognize my own assumptions to take an honest look at my stance, tools and experiences?

CREATING DISRUPTIONS

The first few weeks of December, I created all sorts of disruptive thought experiments for myself, which I hoped would allow me to experience the ordinary, common sensical and taken for granted dimensions of my life as unknown. I decided to write down 100 assumptions I had. I walked up and down my street taking pictures of each building from various angles. I went on a scavenger hunt around my apartment looking for ‘unexpected typographies.’ I tried to photograph and catalog every color and shade I could find in my home. I attempted to count how many different logos were scattered in my immediate surroundings. I was looking for a way to disrupt my perceptual routine.

Many of these little exercises proved to be fun and engaging, and the results were at times astonishing. Noticing the discrepancy between what I think I see and what I actually notice (and the vast amounts of things I don’t) was, forgive the dreadful pun, eye-opening. But at the end of the day, I found that all of these exercises provided little more than isolated disruptions and I was left frustrated, unable to understand how to take this to the next level.

If I was to assimilate integrative thinking into my everyday, I needed to find a hypodermic way of creating ongoing disruptions in my noticing and thinking practices. Tools and exercises would not be enough, what I needed was a paradigm shift. To go beyond isolated disruptions to a sustainable, adaptive and iterative process of integrative thinking, I would have to approach this challenge as a design project and consider the wider landscape of interrelated terms and concepts within which integrative thinking is embedded.

NEED FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT

Any time we talk about a paradigm shift, what we are really talking about is a moment in time and thought, in which ideas and concepts open up, become tangibly more malleable, and beg for new connections and definitions. Before I could move forward, I had to formulate in my own terms a synthesis of the drives and assumptions underlying the discipline, to refine my understanding of what it was I was after when seeking to ‘do’ integrative thinking. I had identified the constraints, which could all be summed up as ‘being human’—need for order and meaning, inability to process reality as is, uncomfortable with ambiguity, etc. Now I needed to identify the frame through which I would explore integrative thinking and make it mine.

Integrative thinking is the ability to suspend your framework—the core model through which you make sense of the world and your place within it—and to willingly place yourself in a space of unknowing, ambiguity and uncertainty. It is the ability to separate yourself from your ideas and the organizing narrative of your life, the willingness to look at all the things you have explained to yourself and admit that perhaps none of them are true. Of course, this is not the goal of integrative thinking. In its ideal form, integrative thinking is not about subtraction or substitution, it’s about remix and enhancement. But being able to entertain the notion that your model of reality is ‘wrong’ (not in an absolute sense, but in terms of it not being optimized to your life and practice) is an essential prerequisite to integrative thinking. If your ideas are too precious to you, and if you are unwilling to “kill your darlings” you will never be able to practice integrative thinking effectively.

Integrative thinking stems from our capacity for cognitive empathy, the ability to place yourself in someone else’s mental framework and view the world from their perspective. In my understanding of it, empathy starts with curiosity. The goal of my integrative design challenge, therefore, was to move past creating isolated events to creating a process by which to induce, nurture and maintain a cognitive state of hyperawareness and receptivity or ‘beginner’s mind’ in myself.

SHOSHIN | BEGINNER’S MIND

Martin alludes to the powerful possibilities of beginner’s mind and the hyperawareness it creates:

“When we learn something new, we’re acutely aware of features that more experienced practitioners take for granted. Think of your self-consciousness when you learned a new sport or took your first driving lesson. This hyperawareness of yourself and the skills you’re learning does not last long. Over time, practice transforms conscious acts into automatic habits characteristic of mastery. Think of your anxiety at stoplights when you first learned to drive using a standard shift, and the unthinking ease with which you now put the car into first and drive off. The better we get, the faster we forget about what we are doing. Our awareness of what we are doing and how we are accomplishing it quickly becomes as intuitive and inaccessible as the knowledge we use to tie our shoes or ride a bike.” (100)

Famed Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, summed this up beautifully with the remark, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” Shoshin is a Zen Buddhist term, which translates to beginner’s mind and is characterized by a very open attitude, free of preconceptions and fueled by genuine curiosity and eagerness. Shoshin does not describe a temporal event (the first time one does something) but rather an emotional and cognitive state of openness, optimism, creativity, curiosity and zeal. Shoshin can (and should) be achieved at all levels of practice.

EMBODIED CURIOSITY

It seemed that no matter how I went about trying to break down integrative thinking for myself, I kept zeroing in and coming back to this concept of ‘embodied curiosity.’ A term that, at this stage, was little more than a vague contour overflowing with possibility. I had finally found my entry point into integrative thinking. And so, the formulation of the challenge went from the general and unhelpful “how might I practice integrative thinking” to the more focused: How Might I create a framework for embodied curiosity in my everyday life?

 

Look for part II next Thursday.

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