It's 2015! We’re starting over, again. What a great opportunity.
With each New Year, many of us take a look back; we also begin to look forward.
Beginnings can seem so auspicious - full of promise and opportunity. In response, we make resolutions along the lines of “I will stop/begin…”; “I will do more/do less…”.
What if our resolutions were about “now”; this moment? That’s what makes “beginner’s mind” so wonderful. We can adopt it any time, in any situation.
According to the Insight Meditation Society, beginner’s mind is… “a mind that is open to the experience of the moment, free of conceptual overlays.” It was first made popular by the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi. In his book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Roshi writes, “"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.
I know this first-hand. My “expert’s mind” shows itself each time I say/think:
· “Oh, here we go again…”
· “I know where this is headed…”
· “You won’t change my mind about…”
Or, when I finish people’s sentences, because I KNOW what they’re going to say anyway. Let’s just save time, shall we?
At worst, my expert’s mind stands firm, convinced, and even rigid. There is no room for argument. I am unteachable. But, when I look at things as though for the first time, I am open, curious, full of wonder. I can respond in a fluid, organic way, rather than with a stubborn, arms-crossed surety.
How does one cultivate Beginner’s Mind? A simple way is to say (or think) “I don’t know” or, “I wonder…” or “That’s interesting”. Another is to spend a few minutes noticing an object you know well - something you pass by everyday without a second thought.
1. Choose an object in plain sight from where you’re about to sit.
2. Have a seat. Close your eyes. Take a few nice breaths in and out. When you’re ready…
3. Open your eyes and gaze at that object.
4. Notice its shape, color, and texture. Notice its location (on the table, wall, mantel). Notice its orientation in space – is it horizontal, vertical?
5. At any point, if you find yourself thinking “I’ve always liked/hated that” or, “It really could use a good cleaning!” gently bring your attention back to your breath, and then resume noticing the object.
6. After a few minutes, close the exercise with a few intentional breaths.
7. It may be useful to journal what you’ve noticed. If you find yourself writing about the object using opening phrases such as “I never noticed that it was….” or, “I forgot that it was…”, then you might just be in Beginner’s mind. :-)