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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Knowledge is an Obstacle to Knowledge

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 13th 2011

lightening in mindI remember when I was in school and the lesson of the day involved being in touch with our emotions and being able to convey how we felt. This was graduate school, but more and more this is fortunately being taught in grade schools. At the time most of us just got caught up in analyzing, hypothesizing and making judgments upon why we or another person felt a certain way. We were missing the point. Our professor would compassionately look into our eyes and say, “You know what your problem is, you’re all just so smart.” In his recent book, Your True Home, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and world renowned author Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Knowledge is an obstacle to knowledge.” If you want to break out of the confines of your mind, this is worth understanding. 

Before we’re even born, the brain is fast at work absorbing information and building it’s framework of how the world works. After we’re born, our parents, institutions and media continue giving us information and we absorb that creating rules of right and wrong, fair and unfair, good and bad. What start to know what people should and shouldn’t do and this varies by family and culture. 

When we’re watching the upcoming elections we listen to the other candidates, but interpret it through the previous knowledge we’ve acquired. Maybe one candidate has something important to say, but our brain quickly dismisses it because a rule has been formed that because this person is a Democrat, Republican or just a politician, it’s nonsense. 

In other words, the subconscious rules we’ve developed in our minds from previous knowledge holds us back from getting this new knowledge. This isn't to say that our previous knowledge is worthless, but it's just to say that it's good to be conscious about how we're interpreting the world rather than unconscious. The amazing thing is that our judgments happen so fast we’re not even aware of it. 

This is the gift of cultivating a beginner’s mind and seeing life as if for the first time. 

We need to get underneath these rapid judgments and into a space of open mindedness where new knowledge has the opportunity to be taken in. 

Think about how this works in your intimate relationships, at work, with acquaintances or with friends. In one part of The Now Effect I write about how more often than not we don’t even see the person; we only see the model our mind has created based on our previous knowledge of who this person is. This creates a recipe for disconnection and what we know is that disconnection leads to imbalance. 

On the flipside, becoming more aware can facilitate connection which leads to a sense of balance.

Take time out today to take a step back and see life as if for the first time and allow your experience to be your guide. 

Life and the people around you have more to offer than you might think. 

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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