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PodcastBig Mind, Small Mind

Big Mind, Small Mind

Today we’re talking about an idea that comes from the Zen tradition. There are two ways of looking at the world: up high, like the view an eagle might have flying over the mountains, and up close, as if you were noticing every grain of sand. The two are vastly different — so how can we do both?

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(mouse clicks) (bright music) Headspace Studios. (gentle music) Hi, my name's Andy, and welcome to "Radio Headspace." Welcome to Monday, the start of the week. I thought today there's no particular story. It's more of an idea, and it's a really, really important idea. It's been so central to my learning and understanding of the mind, and it was something I thought might be helpful to share. It's an idea that comes from, well, this phrase comes from the Zen tradition: Big mind, small mind. I learnt about it when I was training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. There were two different ways of sort of looking at the world. On the one hand, you have high perspective of life. It's almost like the view of an eagle flying over the mountains. It's able to take in everything and everyone, and because we have that perspective, we tend not to sort of get so caught up in all the comings and goings of life, and we tend not to get so caught up in sort of the negativities and the habitual patterns of the mind. At the same time, they talked about everything being vitally important, that we should pay so much attention to them, our attention should be as fine as every single grain of sand on a beach. It's interesting, at first, you hear those two different things, like, "Well, how can we live with both? How can we be paying attention to everything with such fine detail and at the same time maintain this sense of perspective?" But it's interesting, as you kind of work with that over time, you see that it's not a really either/or. Although it may sound impossible, it may sound paradoxical, it's possible to do both. On the one hand, if we live too much with just that sense of perspective, then it's very easy not to pay enough attention to the detail in life. And that can be really dangerous, not just for us, but also for the people around us. Equally, if we are too caught up in the detail, then we don't get the benefit of seeing our life, our mind, our situation from a distance with some sense of clarity. So finding a way of, on the one hand living with our relative thinking intellectual mind and paying attention to each and every thing, each and every person with a really positive intention. That's one part of our mind. That's one part of training our mind, looking after our mind, looking after the people we care about in our life, the way we show up in the world. So important, and yet at the same time having the ability to view that, to witness that, to observe it from a place of awareness, with a sense of perspective, so that when difficult things happen, we don't get swept away, we don't get overwhelmed. When good things happen, we don't get overwhelmed. We don't get swept away. We're not...


Duration4 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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  • Eve is a mindfulness teacher, overseeing Headspace’s meditation curriculum. She is passionate about sharing meditation to help others feel less stressed and experience more compassion in their lives.

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  • As a meditation teacher, Dora encourages others to live, breathe, and be with the fullness of their experiences. She loves meditation’s power to create community and bring clarity to people’s minds.

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  • Kessonga has been an acupuncturists, therapist, and meditation teacher, working to bring mindfulness to the diverse populations of the world.

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  • Rosie Acosta has studied yoga and mindfulness for more than 20 years and taught for over a decade. Rosie’s mission is to help others overcome adversity and experience radical love.

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