Beginner’s Mind

What is it about a new year that seems to propel us out of our complacency and get us excited, inspired and motivated to make changes so that we are living our best lives?  Even though I have come to use the start of a new year to review and and make adjustments to my intentions of how I want to live and show up in the world, I more deeply realize that the real power lies in when I can do this every day, even…every moment. 

There is a Buddhist term, “shoshin”, which mean’s “beginner’s mind.” It refers to a mindset in which we encounter situations with a fresh perspective, like a beginner encountering the situation for the first time.  In “beginner’s mind,” we drop our preconceived notions, ideas and opinions and embody an attitude of not knowing, of curiosity, of openness and eagerness.

This is how I want to live each moment of my life, not just on New Year’s Day!  I want to live with openness and curiosity, because I’ve found that the opposite of that–closed and judgmental–doesn’t bring me much happiness.  When I can bring my “beginner’s mind” to parenting–staying open and curious to what is going on for my child, letting go of my preconceptions that he’s stubborn or trying to manipulate me, or any other story I make up in my mind–then I create space for understanding, compassion, and connection for both of us. When our relationship is rooted in these qualities, then nothing seems impossible!  There is no situation that we can’t work through.

 As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki says in his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”  I don’t know about you, but I like having lots of possibilities!

I invite you to give it a try.  The next time your kid “pushes your buttons,” pause and get into your “beginner’s mind.”  Get curious.  Ask yourself, Why would he say that?  Why would he do that?  What’s going on for him?  Maybe I can find out and help him.  Because that’s not the best him.  That’s not who he really is. 

 With beginner’s mind, we can cultivate an attitude where we are savoring every moment of this precious life we have been given, every moment of interaction with our loved ones, every encounter even with strangers.  The world can become new again and exciting when experienced with beginner’s mind.

Try it the next time you are stuck in traffic, or waiting in the wrong line (the slowest one) at the grocery store, even while your 3-year old is clinging to your legs and whiining.  Imagine you just landed on this planet or you just woke up from a coma after 40 years.  How does the world look?  What sounds do you hear?  How does it feel to have your child seeking your attention if you let go of the label whine-y and look at her with fresh eyes?

Is it possible to savor, absolutely s-a-v-o-r the moment?  Savor the wait, savor the whining, savor the stuck wheel on the cart.  This precious moment of life that you have been given.  What a miracle it is.

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