Beginner’s Mind, Part I

A case for embracing the role of a beginner, in two parts…

When we’re young, everything is new. Tastes, textures, smells, sights, and sounds all surprise our senses as we interact with the world and experience it with the freshest of perspectives. (We’ll leave out any argument of reincarnation and past lives for now, ok?) For a time, we’re a beginner at everything, in every part of our lives.

As we move forward and grow older, we develop our arsenal of knowledge and experience so we can approach the rest of the world with context. This can be great. We don’t have to learn a hundred times not to touch a hot stove; we do it once, get burned, and then log that experience so we don’t make the same mistake twice.

But with this context can also come a tendency towards consistently past-based thinking. A woman cuts us off in traffic once and we label all women as bad drivers. Our brother gets a bit too drunk at a party and needs our help, and we construct him in our minds as a screw-up and a burn-out. We go to an open level yoga class, the teacher gives us the opportunity to try a challenging arm balance, we fall on our face, and we simultaneously judge that teacher, the whole notion of yoga practice, and (even if only silently) ourselves.

Am I arguing that we should forget all our experience, knowledge, and lessons over the years, throw caution to the wind, and run around touching hot stoves and putting ourselves in positions where we’re likely to get injured? Of course not.

I am, however, wondering what becomes possible when we allow ourselves to be a beginner again in our minds and let go of thoughts like:

  • I already know
  • I’m right, you’re wrong
  • He/She is this way
  • There is no way that’s happening/true/possible
  • Well, I can’t do that
  • I’m going to look really stupid if I try that
  • You should/shouldn’t ___
  • That person must be ___ because they look like ___
  • I’m not enough/They’re not enough

What might we see if we chose to adopt a fresh perspective in this moment? What could we dare to try? Who might we engage in conversation and have the pleasure of knowing? How might our loved ones surprise us?

What difference could all of those moments make in our lives, individually and universally?

Part II, tomorrow!

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