By Jackie Johnson
“Try walking around with a child who’s going, “Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky!’ And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, ‘Wow! Look at that crazy hedge! Look at that teeny baby! Look at that scary dark cloud!’ I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world – present and in awe.” - Anne Lamott
Many of us spend years becoming an expert in something. With this mindset we are conditioned to be knowers rather than learners, living in our heads, and potentially missing much of what is available through direct experience. Knowledge, cognition, and expertise obviously have their place, and they serve us better when balanced with embodied presence and interest.
Beginner’s Mind is a mind that is awake to possibilities. With an attitude of open-mindedness, curiosity, vibrancy, and a lack of preconceptions, we meet the objects and experiences of daily life in a fresh way. Free of established views and assumptions, we are learners, able to listen more deeply and to see through a clear lens.
There’s a certain irony to the notion of practicing to be a beginner, but most of us have cultivated habits of knowing and judging over many years. Through meditation and the practice of mindfulness, we build the muscle that enables us to return to the present moment with ease, receptivity, and self-compassion. Over time and with practice, we can reconnect with a beginner’s mind that enables us to meet moments of discomfort without layering on stories, like those that convince us that we are not good enough, which add to discomfort. We can enjoy pleasant moments like joyful times with friends and loved ones, free of the clinging desire that morphs to sadness when the pleasant moment ends.
With Beginner’s Mind, we meet the moment anew with openness to experience life in its fullness.
Here are some daily suggestions to practice cultivating a Beginner’s Mind:
- Try taking a walk in your neighborhood today and notice three things you have not seen before.
- Try rediscovering fresh qualities in someone you know well and find challenging. What might you see or feel if meeting them for the first time or softening into a sense of our common humanity?