Opening your mind can be a scary proposition. Everything we have come to know or believe can come crashing down around us. Things we were told in childhood might turn out to be fairy tales and fantasies. Losing the innocence of childhood is the scariest part of opening up our minds. If the things we believed for so long could be fiction or lies, then how can we trust anything else? How can we know that what we see or hear now is true? The black and white of right and wrong, morals and sins, Truth and Lies, beliefs and myths, all fade into an infinite shades of grey. The dichotomy of black and white gives people a sense of control and meaning over their existence. Such was my case too. Till around the ages of 18-22, life for me was pretty straight forward. I knew what I should do and shouldn’t do, what I should eat, what I should drink, what I should believe. I was taught right and wrong that shouldn’t be questioned. I questioned the abstract, but never questioned the path set by my parents and society. I might have asked questions, but I wasn’t prepared to take a divergent path from what was set for my culture/society/religion. In short, I was the “good, obedient child”. Just like children don’t question the existence of Santa or the mythologies of various religions, I followed what was taught.

But a funny thing happens when you live in the United States, and in a diverse city like New York. You meet people from every corner of the planet with all the different cultures, beliefs, and thinkings that one can imagine. When you meet these people who are different than you but as good a human being as any you know, you do start to doubt and question your thinking. Why can they eat beef but I cannot? If eating beef was a sin, shouldn’t that sin be universal? Is this amazing human being committing a sin for the simple act of eating a cow when I don’t commit any sin for eating a goat? If my religion is the True one, is my best friend a sinner for not believing in it? Is there a Creator who will condemn a human being for the act of belief, not actions? How could a Creator punish a person who has served his/her fellow human beings for an entire life, for the sole purpose of having a different belief or no belief? Then such a Creator seems more like a narcissistic, egomaniacal, insecure dictator than a benevolent Creator. If what I knew about eating and believing is false, what else isn’t true? It was a scary thought. Seeing my entire reality crumble around me was a scary and torturous phase for a few years.

But something else happens when you start opening your mind. The world starts appearing more beautiful, more inviting, less stressful. One gets to appreciate the beauty of diversity. Instead of living a life full of fear and paranoia if you are committing a sin or a wrong, you start to experience everything the world has to offer with a free mind. Nothing is forbidden because it is different or from the “others”. You get to appreciate different thinking, different cultures, and different cuisines. You start to understand the existence of different beliefs in different geographical places. When you open your mind, nationality, race, ethnicity, caste and gender ceases to exist and you see a fellow human being for who he/she is – a fellow human being. You bond over your shared humanity rather than you shared tribal roots. When your identity becomes a homo sapien, you no longer have a rival or an enemy based on religion or nationality or ethnicity. The world no longer exists in black and white, but the infinite shades of grey are less terrifying than falling afoul of the morality of black and white. Opening of the mind is a continuous journey where everyday is a learning experience, where every possibility becomes possible. Maybe the answers aren’t as straight forward as we thought, but the journey of life becomes a search for answers from every corner of the Earth, not just my own. Opening of the mind allows us to experience the beauty of life in all its glory, without obsessing about the next life and neglecting the one we are living. For a non-believer, opening of the mind unleashes the full potential of existence. For a believer, opening of the mind allows a person to experience the magnificence of a Creation that is meant for everyone, not just a select few. Starting on this journey might be a scary prospect, but the journey of life through an open mind is an exquisite spectacle to behold, with mysteries and surprises on every corner. It is a beautiful life, a life worth cherishing.

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