What if I told you that one small and easy activity can solve all our problems?
And with time, you will find contentment in the same.
It’s a simple idea- look at life through an inexperienced eye.
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Where did this come from?
I’m borrowing this concept of ‘Shoshin’ from Zen Buddhism, which means a beginner’s mind. It is also the focus of Shunryu Suzuki’s book ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’. I write about it often, and the concept is easier than people believe.
But, what exactly is the beginner’s mind?
As the term suggests, it means the mindset of a beginner. In simpler terms, lower your assumptions and preconceived notions to approach things like a beginner would – with new eyes and an open mind. Recall the time when you experienced something new. Was it puzzling in the beginning because you had no idea about how to go about it and you ended up staring at it? With freshness, excitement and wonder? This is the beginner’s mind.
It is not something that happens when you are studying things. Lowering the ‘expert’s head’ and approaching things like a beginner would, does count for a start to develop a beginner’s mind. It is something you should remember and apply every single moment of the day.
Now imagine applying this to another activity. Let’s say, breakfast, for example:
You should approach the activity with an open attitude, as if you haven’t been eating breakfast every single day and have no idea of what to expect.
Hence, you might find yourself staring at the fruits, the cup of coffee and the cutlery. Most prominently, you will notice the nuances that you would have normally ignored. The texture of the utensils, the sounds you hear and the mouth-watering food will be new and wonderful. You will find yourself paying attention, as though you don’t already know how the food would taste.
Why should I develop a beginner’s mind?
Developing a beginner’s mind will teach you to not take anything for granted. You will appreciate everything as a gift – transient, fleeting and precious. You will notice that the beginner’s mind practice changes your behavior.
Let’s look at what happens when you practice the mind of novice on an activity:
Not clouding yourself with biases, fantasies and hypotheses is important to have a better experience. You will not keep wondering about whether something exists or not. There won’t be any disappointment or frustration because you will not have any preconceptions to compare it to.
Practicing Beginner’s mind will bring a change in your relationships as well. Instead of getting annoyed at someone for not matching up to the ideal behavior, you will be able to see them through new eyes. They have positive intentions, want to be successful in their relationship and are battling like you are.
If you are procrastinating a major job assignment, practice looking at it from a beginner’s perspective. You will find that instead of doubting your success, or thinking about the difficulties, you will eye it with curiosity. You will cater to the small gaps and details, instead of running away from them. Approaching Life
Prominent events or appointments can make you nervous. Opening up to the idea of being uncertain of the result, instead of stressing over it, will help you focus better. When you do this, you let go of your presumptions and are open to accept whatever happens. You will live in the present, appreciate your courage and be thankful to whoever is meeting with you, or for the opportunity you are bestowed with.
Practicing Beginner’s mind will change our mindset about every activity and remove most of our challenges. At the same time, it will enable you to become more agile, accessible, interested, thankful and invested.
I’m not saying this will happen immediately. It takes time, patience and practice, but it is worth the effort you will be putting in. Approaching Life
Developing a Beginner’s Mind
Beginner’s mind is something we meditate about. Instead of meditating and thinking about your present situation, break your prejudices and watch what’s in front of you.
Practising meditation frequently is incredibly helpful in developing Beginner’s mind. Here’s how to get going:
Settle yourself quietly in a peaceful place, devoid of interruptions and distractions.
Pay attention to your body and your surroundings, seeing them with a refreshed vision. Approaching Life
When you start, you are bound to encounter preconceived thoughts, deviating from the present and forcing you to assume again. If this happens, all you have to do is mark and remember that this phenomenon happened.
Attempt to figure out a way to lose the thoughts, dreams and stories that fill your mind. Empty your head of its earlier baggage to see what’s really before you. Observe your breath at the moment, instead of thinking or imagining the events of the future. Approaching Life
Repeat the last few steps over and over. Re-imagine thoughts and fantasies but don’t give up on what’s before your eyes and think with a new clarity.
You can practice this right away, with anything before you -how your body sounds to you, your pulse, your beating heart and every single thing about you.