Saturday, October 11, 2014

Think like a child and respond like a scientist

The people who make progress tend to think in specific ways. I use the word “specific” here purposefully, instead of saying “thinking in certain ways.” Many people (and by people, I mean adults) look for certainty. When you’re “certain” about something, it tends to limit possibilities. So, specifically, don’t think like an adult who gets locked into looking at things a certain way, but start to focus like a child in a world of possibilities, bringing openness and curiosity to whatever captivates your interest.

Children are known for their questions. “Why?” or for taking a watch apart because they’re curious, “How does this work?” They want to know things like why frogs jump, why fish swim, why the sky is blue, and where rainbows come from. They want to know how to build a taller sandcastle, or how to get the blanket to stay on top of their pillow fort. They come up with simple and direct answers, often through observation and experimentation. They figure out that if the sand is a little wet (but not too wet), it will stick together better, or that a book isn’t just something you can read, but that it will also make a pretty good weight for holding down the corners of a blanket.
Responding like a scientist is an extension of the childlike approach to problem solving through observation and experimentation. A scientist starts with an observation, and then becomes curious about what they’ve noticed, coming up with a question. Then, they formulate a hypothesis, which is just a best idea of something they think might work. This best idea is often built off of a combination of things they’ve seen directly, ideas that have been passed down from other scientists, and their own reasoning and intuition. To get more information about their hypothesis, a scientist formulates an experiment to test out their idea. The influence of other variables will be controlled for so that whatever effect they see can be assumed to be the result of the thing they’re testing. This experiment will be repeated many times to make sure the result is not just a random chance occurrence, but that it is truly because of the thing they’re specifically testing.
So what does all this mean to the Wujifa practitioner? The first is to be open to possibilities, not to be too certain about something, but to develop the kind of focus that lets you notice the specificity of what’s going on in your practice. Everything changes and grows, one insight leading to another insight, and then all of the sudden you may see everything in a completely new way! The best way to do this is like seeing the world through a child’s eyes, observing and asking questions. What we mean by this is not to be certain, which is like coming to a tea party with a full cup, but as it is said in many kungfu movies “empty your cup so you’re open to the possibilities that can be gained”. Play with your practice like a child, and experiment and as you get more sophisticated, those child’s eyes can start to follow a more scientific process where one experiment builds upon another, repeatedly testing and refining and furthering your personal knowledge, just like the scientist or the child is moved by their curiosity . This is the way to make progress in the Wujifa system.
The child within us all is still there. You may believe that you’re an adult and you have to be in the world a certain way, but the eyes of a child are still able to shine through if you let them. Mr. Rogers once quoted Kenneth Koch in saying, “You’re not just the age you are, you’re all the ages you’ve ever been”. The world of a child is a world of possibilities. It’s just a matter of allowing ourselves to go back and see the world as we once saw it before.

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