“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
—Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
It’s December 31, and I haven’t made even one New Year’s resolution yet. It’s not that haven’t thought about it; actually, that’s all I’ve been thinking about today.
Some of the possible candidates have included: losing 5 pounds, sending out more thank you notes, going to bed earlier, doing yoga and meditation every day, and not procrastinating—but nothing seems quite right.
I’m beginning to realize that when I focus my attention on what I want to change, what I want to change begins to define me. It takes my attention away from what is right here, right now—where I want it to be—and forces it into prescribed categories.
What I really want for this New Year is to leave my preconceived notions behind and enter the year with curiosity and openness. I want to enter the New Year open to all of its endless possibilities. I want to enter 2018 with Beginner’s Mind.
You probably know that snakes shed their skin, but did you know that they do that to grow? Their skin gives them a tough protective layer from a difficult outer world, but being so tough, it doesn’t grow with them. So, each year they have to climb out of their old skin and begin again. They become soft, tender, and vulnerable until they grow new skin. That’s what I want for the New Year: to be soft, vulnerable, and able to grow.
What is Beginner’s Mind?
It’s dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something and seeing it for the very first time, just like a beginner. You know what that is like! You probably don’t remember the first time you saw a dog, a Christmas tree, or even snow, but I bet you can imagine the awe you felt. Or, the first time you tried to read or ride a bike, there may have been some confusion, or even fear, but there was also excitement and a world of possibility. That is Beginner’s Mind.
Benefits of Beginner’s Mind:
- When we see things from a fresh perspective, we once again experience gratitude for all the beauty in our lives.
- Curiosity and interest are fun! Beginner’s Mind helps us remember why we love and enjoy the things we do.
- By unburdening us from our fixed mindsets and mental ruts, Beginner’s Mind helps us become more creative and spontaneous.
- By relieving us of expectations, Beginner’s Mind frees us to experience greater excitement and anticipation.
- There is enormous freedom in not knowing, and not having to know.
- Having an innocent and open mind helps us to cultivate our natural intelligence and curiosity.
- Beginner’s Mind improves our relationships by allowing us to see the people we care for as they are now, not how they were yesterday or the day before.
Tips for Cultivating Beginners Mind:
- Slow down; give yourself the time to experience things from a fresh perspective.
- Before you begin an activity, notice your attitude and your expectations. See if you can consciously let them go, just for a little while.
- Get curious; see if you can see through the eyes of your inner five-year-old. What would this look like if you had never seen it before?
- See if you can let go of your need to “get it right” or be seen as “the expert.”
- Ask the question, “What is this really?”
I challenge you to consider stepping into 2018 with Beginner’s Mind.
“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” —Henry Miller