Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider new ideas and perspectives without prejudice or preconceived notions. It is associated with qualities like tolerance, flexibility, curiosity and acceptance. Finding symbols that encapsulate the essence of open-mindedness can serve as helpful reminders to embrace this mindset. There are a few key symbols that are commonly associated with open-mindedness across cultures and belief systems.
The Open Door
An open door is one of the most straightforward symbols representing open-mindedness. A door that is ajar or wide open represents a mind that is open and welcoming to new ideas and experiences. The open door signifies receptivity, possibility and gives a sense of unlimited potential. Unlike a closed door which blocks entry, the open door is inclusive and provides free passage between the inner and outer worlds.
Doors represent transitions, openings to the unknown and opportunities for exploration and growth. The open door embodies the spirit of open-mindedness by encouraging exchange between different perspectives. It signals that one is willing to invite new ways of thinking and being into their life. An open door promotes connection and shows one is open to being influenced and changed through exposure to different cultures, beliefs and points of view. It represents the antithesis of insularity, prejudice and rigidity.
|Closed Door||Open Door|
|Restrictive, blocks passage||Free passage, welcomes entry|
|Closed off, insular||Openness, receptivity|
This table contrasts the closed door and open door as symbols and shows how the open door aligns with qualities of open-mindedness.
The Empty Cup
Another metaphor for open-mindedness is the empty cup. This comes from a famous Zen Buddhist story of a professor who visits a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. The master begins to serve tea, pouring it into the professor’s cup until it is overflowing. The professor watches the overflow until he can no longer restrain himself and says, “It is overfull. No more will go in!” The master replies, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”.
The empty cup represents a mind ready to learn and set aside preexisting notions. It signifies humility, a recognition that one’s knowledge and perspective are limited. Just as a full cup cannot be filled, a mind cluttered with fixed viewpoints leaves no room for new ideas. The willingness to empty one’s metaphorical cup shows an openness to be shaped and expanded. This emptying of mental content makes space for an open-minded approach where one can truly listen, absorb and understand new concepts without bias. The empty cup epitomizes the Zen beginner’s mind, being receptive to each moment and experience without the filter of past knowledge and conditioning.
The circle is another potent symbol representing qualities of open-mindedness like unity, wholeness and inclusion. It has no beginning or end, allowing movement and circulation between multiple perspectives held together in the connecting shape. Circles appear across cultures from mandalas in Buddhism to sacred hoops of indigenous Native American traditions. Each symbolize interconnection, the ceaseless, cyclical nature of ideas, eternity and the universe.
In numerous ancient traditions, the circle was considered the most perfect shape, often associated with the sacred. Circles resonate with open-mindedness because they have central equality with no point given more importance than another. This echoes the open-minded tenet of considering all perspectives and ideas equally. The never-ending lines suggest continuous learning, growth and expanding one’s horizons to gain a more holistic view. Sitting in a circle formation allows each person to be seen and heard, creating mutual understanding and open communication. Unlike rigid squares or triangles, circles fluidly unite diverse viewpoints without domination or hierarchy.
|Closed Shapes||The Circle|
|Boxes, squares||Unity, wholeness, inclusion|
|Beginnings and ends||No beginning or end|
|Rigid, boundaries||Fluid, boundless|
This table outlines how the circle symbolically represents openness, inclusivity and equality – key aspects of open-minded thinking.
The Third Eye
The third eye is a mystical and esoteric symbol that has become associated with open-mindedness. Known as the inner eye or ajna chakra in Hinduism, it signifies higher consciousness and perception beyond ordinary sight. Opening the third eye is linked to realizing intuitive wisdom by unifying left and right brain hemispheres. It represents one’s ability to access inner realms of deeper understanding in order to see things from a higher vantage point.
The third eye transcends the duality of two eyes or two modes of thinking. Instead it merges and integrates multiple ways of understanding reality. Thus the third eye signifies open-minded attitudes which look beyond surface appearances, cultural conditioning and pre-judgements to appreciate a more cosmic, integral view of the world and oneself. It epitomizes openness through inner exploration, contemplation and the willingness to probe one’s blind spots. Just as the third eye elicits a wider vista, open-mindedness requires expanding awareness beyond our usual two perspectives.
|Two Eyes||Third Eye|
|Ordinary sight||Higher vision|
|Duality, separation||Unity, integration|
|Surface reality||Deeper understanding|
This table illustrates how the third eye represents a higher, more inclusive form of seeing associated with open-mindedness.
The Beginner’s Mind
The beginner’s mind is a Zen Buddhist concept that describes maintaining an attitude of openness, curiosity and lack of preconceptions when learning something new. It is associated with keeping a mind that is receptive to new ideas and perspectives. The beginner’s mindset recognizes that the moment we think we have the answer or know everything, we close ourselves off to other possibilities.
Cultivating a beginner’s mind requires letting go of our fixed positions and beliefs in order to rediscover the world afresh. It means embracing learner humility and a willingness to ask naive questions. This allows us to approach learning and experiences without labels and pre-set expectations clouding our observations. The beginner’s mind makes fewer hasty assumptions and judgments, creating mental spaciousness. Open-mindedness relies on regularly re-accessing this unfiltered, in-the-moment presence which minimizes biases. The beginner’s mind offers a gateway to revitalizing openness in the face of rigid thinking.
|Expert Mind||Beginner’s Mind|
|Knows the answers||Asks questions|
|Closed, firm conclusions||Open, receptive|
|Labels and pre-judgements||Without preconceptions|
This table outlines the contrast between the fixed expert mind and the open, curious beginner’s mind.
There are a number of meaningful symbols across cultures that encapsulate open-mindedness – the open door, empty cup, circles, third eye and beginner’s mind. Each remind us of the qualities of receptivity, inclusion, curiosity and expanding vision. Open-mindedness requires continuous self-reflection to catch ourselves closing down or clinging to existing paradigms and beliefs. Integrating symbolic meditations and visual reminders can reinforce our intention to meet each moment with fresh eyes. Maintaining open-minded awareness is an ongoing practice that opens up new possibilities for learning, connection and innovation.