“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few. Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.” ~Shunryu Suzuki
After one of my recent blog posts about letting go, Peggie shared that she was going on a canoe trip in Alaska, which was a new adventure for her, and posted a comment that said, “Relinquishing control was easier than I thought it would be. I think my novice status contributed to letting go. That and deciding in advance to let go. I am going to be more mindful of the freedom of being a novice. It's a lot of fun!” She brings up the philosophy of coming at everything with a beginner's mind. In our everyday life, we encounter so many things that we see and do without ever thinking about them – we do them out of habit. But in doing things in a habitual manner, we miss opportunities and possibilities. When was the last time you stopped and smelled the roses and really looked at their texture and color and appreciated their beauty? When you slow down and live in the present moment you can experience the flowers and all of the items you see and hear, the tastes and smell of your food, the relationships with the people and animals you interact with every day from a fresh perspective. You will begin to appreciate things that you take for granted. For example, today was the first day, after my root canal, that I could chew on the right side of my mouth. I had taken the ability to chew for granted. But today, I am approaching chewing from a beginner’s mind and doing it slowly and easily and being grateful that I can now chew again.
Think of a time when you did something that was new to you. For me, the new experience was paddleboarding. I listened to every piece of advice I could get about how to stand up, how to balance, how to get back up when I fell off and how to make turns. I then took that knowledge and applied it and found out what worked for me. I applied previous knowledge from kayaking and windsurfing to what I was learning. I did not let my ego get involved and think that I knew what to do; I listened to the advice of teenagers and others who were successful. It was a blissful experience to do something new and approach it from a beginner’s mind.
We need to remember to try and look at each experience from a beginner’s mind and see if there is something new we can see and appreciate. We can look at the activity and see how it affects us physically, emotionally and mentally. Come from that place of innocence where there are no doubts, limitations or fears. Embrace life like a toddler learning to walk – you will fall down and make mistakes, but you will also experience moments of pure ecstasy too. I embraced paddleboarding like a toddler, - I was shaky when I got up, I was unbalanced, and I fell off. But, when I was successfully paddling across the lake I was living in the present moment and blissed out.
How can you bring more moments of the “beginner’s mind” into your daily life?
How often to you try new things? What is something you have always wanted to try but have been putting off?
How would your life be different if you embraced everything from the perspective of a novice instead of an expert?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
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