A Fresh Perspective: Beginner’s Mind

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In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind, there are few.

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We spend years accumulating experience and expertise, which helps us to achieve our goals. But do you ever feel a little bored and burned out, or like you’ve “been there, done that”? Do you find yourself repeating patterns that you’d like to change? Are your set beliefs inhibiting your curiosity? Do you need some new sources of inspiration and creativity? The remedy might be to embrace a beginner’s mind, or the Buddhist concept of “shoshin”.

Adopting a beginner’s mind means questioning and maybe even shedding our conditioned beliefs and assumptions and loosening the grip of the ego. It means embracing the unknown. It might even mean admitting that we “don’t know”, rather than feeling like we must always have the right answer.

Think about children, who are ‘”beginners’ at life. They approach the world with boundless curiosity, questioning everything, and eager to learn. They ask “why?” hundreds of times each day. They are not jaded or cynical, and they find delight in simple aspects of life. This leads to a constant flow of wonder-filled discoveries. Or you can think about the fresh perspective Ted Lasso came with to the world of soccer, er, I mean football. Everything could be questioned, which led to amazing results.

So, whether you are stuck in a rut, or just need some inspiration, wouldn’t it be great to see things anew? In mindfulness practices, such as Yoga and meditation, we are always asking ourselves to see things as they actually are in the present moment, rather than the way we “think” they are. This often leads to a sense of peace, calm and acceptance. We can then release expectations and appreciate the moment. It might even feel expansive, when we loosen our grip on what we think we already know. The beginner’s mind aligns with Yogic philosophy. As per the Bhagavad Gita: “To action alone you are entitled, never to the fruits of action”. So, what happens when we let go of expectations of what the outcome should be, and just enjoy the journey and the learning along the way? If you’d like to explore the openness that comes with a beginner’s mind, there are many ways to do it. You could take a class and learn something new. You can read the news from a different perspective from your usual source. You might question a long-held belief you hold, asking “what if this belief is true?” and “what if this belief is not true?” and see what comes up. Here are a few more ideas to help you open up the possibilities:

On the Mat.

We already know that our practice is different every time we come to the mat. The same postures feel different depending on how tired we are, what we’ve eaten, what stressors we are dealing with, and more. Yet we still often come to the mat with expectations. To cultivate a beginner’s mind, let go of needing to “execute” a posture perfectly, or to feel as flexible or strong as you were in a previous practice. Approach the practice with curiosity, noticing the rhythm of the breath, the feel of the mat under your hands and feet, and all of the sensations in the body. It’s great to come to a posture that you do often, such as Downward Facing Dog, and approach it as if it were your first time. With that approach, it may feel fresh and new, and perhaps even point you to some new insight.

On Your Drive Home.

Driving home can be a mundane and automatic activity, which makes it perfect for practicing beginner’s mind. Even as you start your car, pay attention to the sound of the engine (or the dashboard sights if you drive and electric car). Feel how your body is positioned in your seat and feel the texture of the steering wheel. If there is an alternate route you can take, try that; it will force you to pay attention. You may even begin to look forward to your commute!

In Relationships.

We get into patterns in our relationships. We think we know how our friends or partners are going to behave and respond, and that can lead to some frustration for all. Instead of thinking you know everything about another person, approach an interaction as an opportunity to learn something new about them. Pay attention to their words and gestures, as if you were interacting with them for the first time. This may lead to deeper understanding and connection. You might also approach someone with more openness and compassion. Not knowing everything in advance can help you remember that people are always evolving, and there’s always more to discover.

Are you ready to be a beginner again? And again, and again? Try these tips and share some of your own! Let me know how it goes!

If it feels in the flow of your practice, please join me for a class or on a retreat!

Be Well. ~Lisa

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