Cultivating a Beginner’s Mind
What is a Beginner's Mind
A beginner’s minds is an attempt to see, feel, sense or interact with an object or situation as though you have never really known the object or situation before.
What good is a beginner’s mind?
Most difficulties in being present to life come from having previously formed ideas and opinions about something. You already know how a situation feels: you may go to work dreading a boss, or go to a movie expecting a lot, or meet a long lost friend with preconceived ideas.
Take for instance: someone you don’t like crosses your path. Familiar feelings within you well up. You already know you don’t like this person. You already know you want to avoid this person. Everytime that happens, it only reinforces how you feel.
Why do you have preconceived ideas?
Having ideas beforehand keeps you feeling safe. You know what you are getting into. You roughly know what to expect and that makes you feel you are on familiar turf.
You don’t simply ‘have’ ideas or beliefs, you ‘love’ them. You nurture them and find ways that would reinforce them at every possible juncture. Sometimes you may even be fanatical about your ideas and may argue and defend them to any extent.
You can see examples of this in the biases people hold against communities or religions or races all around the world.
Your ideas and beliefs can become so integral at times to who you are and what you think about yourself that it may be actually frightening to let them go. It’s at times like letting a part of you go away.
And why should that not be so! Your beliefs protect you, guard you from strangeness, uncertainty, vulnerability and keep you feeling alright. They exist so strongly because of this protecting and guarding function which is so important to your survival.
Why then bother changing your beliefs?
These ideas and beliefs are protecting and guarding you! Why interfere with them? The answer lies in your search for wisdom and peace. Would you rather live in your own coloured version of reality (yes, it is coloured by your experiences, circumstances and your interpretation of those) or would you rather open up to seeing things for what they might really be?
For instance, this person about whom you have negative feelings is not the same person in every encounter. The person is changed due to his or her own changing life situations and experiences. Are you at least gently willing to allow yourself to re-perceive, even to a small extent?
Here is where the practice of the beginner’s mind is extremely useful as a mindfulness tool.
Starting anew with a beginner’s mind can be liberating
You don’t need to deny these feelings you have against someone or something, but maybe you can try watching anew, with renewed understanding, what really is happening in this situation. This renewed understanding, or a second chance, or rather infinite such chances, can take a huge emotional burden away.
The experience of doing something anew is entirely different and very rewarding.
A practice like this helps to keep aside the interpretations that you might have about the person, object or situation and your habitual ways of seeing and perceiving it.
Cultivating the Beginner’s Mind in Meditation
While meditating, you can start cultivating the beginner’s mind.
Notice the difficulties or pleasant sensations that come up in meditation as though they are new. Try not to judge them, make sense of them or fix them. Simply watch them, accepting that they are just present in the here and now as you are meditating. As you start practicing this non-judgmental watching of sensations and experiences, a beginner’s mind slowly starts getting cultivated.
As you are very aware in meditation, whatever you practice has a potential to settle in deeply in your system. Your practice of cultivating a beginner’s mind will also deeply settle into your system. This will then get generalized to life easily. Gradually, you will find it easier to let go of rigidly held ideas and beliefs You will notice that there is both relief and ease in this newfound flexibility.
I wish you all the best for this practice. May you find peace and well-being through cultivation of a beginner’s mind.
Do write in the comment box if you were aware of this concept earlier, or have been practicing it. How does it make you feel? Does it help?