What if we approach everything with a beginner’s mind? Though beginner’s mind is a Zen practice we can apply to transform all areas of our lives.
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For some of us we live in a daydream in which we dwell on the past, and dream of the future. Then life runs on without us, being present, that is. We miss so much when we live in a daze. Beginner’s mind allows us to take it all in. It makes life stimulating and keeps us young at heart as well as eager to learn. With an eagerness to learn we are more creative and productive.
Even goals can be addressed with a beginner’s mind. Goal setting is about imagining the future, and building one’s life around one’s hopes and expectations. To set goals we still need to begin by asking questions. What do we want and where do we hope to go? Those answers guide us in taking steps to reach those goals. How we take those steps define whether we are willing to learn new ways to be while keeping life exciting and fresh.
1. Take One Step At A time
We tend to think in sequences. For example, when we are focused on tasks at work, our mind is on what we need to do next. We’re likely to skip over all the little connections that make our lives more full: acknowledging a coworker who may have insight into our project, drinking a cup of tea and opening to possibilities while considering the next step, or missing the whole picture because the little steps are all we see. When we take one stop at a time we experience each moment fully without getting ahead of ourselves.
2. Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight Times
When did you last learn something with determination and no obvious success? I am learning my way around my Android tablet, some days quickly and some days slowly. When I focus on “getting it down” I make mistakes and have to start over. Literally falling down seven times and still getting up again. I know I will get there if I keep getting up.
3. Be Open To The Spirit Of Enquiry
The spirit of enquiry is when the mind is open to the unknown, and empty of pre-conceived ideas. When we allow ourselves to be uncertain we can ask new questions and therefore find new answers. We may discover that the greatest move forward may require an unexpected slight right turn. The bottom line is that welcoming uncertainty makes room for intuition. Out of intuition flashes of brilliance appear.
4. Let Go Of Being An Expert
We are all experts in some way. We may be experts in our job, in writing a book, or solving a formula. It’s difficult to let go of being an expert. Because it means confessing that we really might not have the answer. The truth is that what we really know belongs to the past. This moment, now, is new and offers its unique challenges. If we let go of being an expert, we can listen to others with an open mind. Then we can find that even a beginner has something to teach us.
5. Disregard Common Sense
‘Common sense’ is what fits into a cultural norm. When we release ourselves from common sense we become creative. People often refer to this as out of the box thinking. If inventors like Steve Jobs or Dr. Temple Grandin had stayed with a ‘common sense’ mindset, our life would be very different because they changed the world. Dr. Grandin made great strides in animal handling devices, earned a Ph.D in animal science and is a renowned speaker all while living with autism. Neither Jobs or Grandin only relied on their ‘common sense’ as their guide.
6. Discard Fear Of Failure
When did you last start something new? As children we are always starting something new. Then, as we go through our twenties, thirties, and further, we become more hesitant about being a beginner again. Why? Maybe because we don’t want to look silly when we fail. Or we believe we should already be an expert, or at least know how to do something. We can focus on people ready to snigger when we take the first wobbly steps or we can immerse ourselves in the steps and forget the watchers.
While beginner’s mind may be a Zen practice in action, it is also a way to be much more creative and dynamic. A beginner’s mind is present to explore and observe and see “things as they are.” When we live with an open mind, life is more exciting and fulfilling. An open mind is a beautiful thing, innovative, peaceful and productive.