Flexible Focus #58: The Principle of Objectivity

by William Reed on June 23, 2011

A Lens on Life

The Mandala Chart is a multi-faceted lens through which we can observe ourselves and all phenomena. We explored this theme earlier in Flexible Focus #27: In Search of Solutions, in which we saw that flexible focus is fast moving, physical, and multi-dimensional, like a mental Rubik’s Cube. The Principle of Objectivity, the 7th of 8 principles for the Mandala Chart, takes this process into a deeper, more reflective mode, in which you gain crystal clarity of perception and insight by examining things from multiple perspectives.

Like the crystal cube shown in the illustration, which could also be called a Mandala cube, when the laser beam passes through, it refracts and reveals new surfaces both inside and outside the box. When the light of insight passes through our mind, the Mandala Chart acts in like a lens to reveal new facets and perspectives. This becomes a driving force for creativity and innovation.

Objective thinking is usually associated with science, observation, and experimentation. The effort to measure and get repeatable results works well under controlled laboratory circumstances, but is far less predictable in real life. Complex systems are impossible to describe in terms of linear cause and effect. Hence the quote attributed to MIT Meteorologist Edward Lorenz, “When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.”

Instead of the phrase, cause a hurricane, it might be easier to understand if we say it is connected to a hurricane in another part of the world.Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus recognized this in saying that, “A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.”

In Search of Wisdom

The Mandala Chart also takes an objective approach, but starts with a different set of assumptions, and leads to a different kind of objectivity (冷静 reisei, calm cool; or 霊静 reisei, calm spirit).

Starting with the recognition that nothing is fixed, we realize that our perceptions and observations depend very much on our perspective. Another perspective is not wrong, just different. Seeing a second point of view is only the first step in flexible focus. Having a third perspective is the beginning of wisdom, because 3-dimensions are more flexible than 2-dimensions. In Japanese this is expressed in the proverb, Three heads give you the wisdom of Monju, the Buddhist Deity of Wisdom (San nin yoreba Monju no Chie).

The Mandala Chart gives us 8 perspectives in the A-Chart (3×3 Matrix), and 64 perspectives in the B-Chart (8×8), beyond which it becomes difficult to consciously comprehend. Only God can comprehend the universe from all perspectives. However for us it is enough to recognize that we need to overcome the single-minded stubbornness of thinking that our point of view is the only point of view. If two heads are better than one, and three heads give you wisdom, then why not practice cultivating a more flexible mind?

In Zen Buddhism and in the Martial Arts, this is known as the Beginner’s Mind (初心 shoshin). Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki’s famous statement, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

What are some of the qualities that can help you develop a Beginner’s Mind?

  • Curiosity. A beginner is brimming with questions. Make a practice to write down your questions on a daily basis, and to ask them! You can seek answers from other people, or research for yourself, but the driving force is the quest to know.
  • Enthusiasm. A beginner embarks on a path filled with surprise and discovery, which generates a childlike eagerness to know more. A lack of enthusiasm is a sure sign that a person has lost the Beginner’s Mind.
  • Calmness. A beginner whose curiosity and enthusiasm does not decline enters a new state of mind, that of tranquil awareness, a state of meditation. A rapidly spinning top is calm and poised, while a top that has lost it’s energy wobbles and comes to a dead rest.

As we learn more about the brain, the science of neurology is beginning to catch up with ancient Asian wisdom. If you can change your brain, you can change your life. A book which explores this is in depth is, Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PH.D, with Richard Mendius, MD.

As you practice thinking with the Mandala Chart, using it as lens to explore your universe, The Principle of Objectivity will help you realize a state of mind which is calm and cool, a state of awareness like that realized in Zen Meditation.

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