October | Beginner's Mind

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Article: Haila Macedo / Artist: Alisa Aiv

“In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.” Suzuki Roshi

Have you ever felt the repetition of life weighing you down? How does it feel to wake up on Monday mornings? I know, I feel it too. It’s as if every year that passes it gets heavier and heavier. Is this it? Is this how life feels, with small doses of moments of happiness, then we arrive at death? If you’re reading this now then you know this isn’t the truth. If you’re reading this now, you’re a truth seeker. The truth is that this is merely an illusion brought about by our environment and outer stimulation. These mental habits, or neuro-patterns, were created simply because we were unaware, too busy, or too lazy to be in the present moment filtering out these illusions. We don’t live in mindful retreats or beautiful forests that promote this type of living, and if you do, lucky you. Do you happen to have a spare bedroom? There is a starting point to create space for this change, as well as, practices to develop this type of perception. Before I begin to explain these points, I would like you to understand how important it is to cultivate a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind allows you to experience life the fullest way possible. It allows you to experience life as a human who knows that one day it’s life will end, who understands the law of impermanence and who perceives unlimited beauty through this universal law. You are so lucky to be here, to have this human experience, to still have time on this wondrous planet. Do you understand this while you walk? Do you understand this while connecting with another living being that is also experiencing being alive? Do you feel this when an emotion arises? Do you feel this when you observe a leaf, a flickering flame, or the sensation of a breeze on your delicate skin?

Beginner’s mind, otherwise known as Shoshin, is a limitless and vast state of mind that does not cling to titles, accomplishments, teachings, emotions, or experiences. It does not allow these thoughts or titles to obstruct the way you process new information. The beginner’s mind is a flexible mind that is ready to learn and to understand. Yamaguchi Shihan, an aikido instructor, said that “standing strong and firm without any hardness or inflexibility is the state of real positive spirit. It is all-accepting and yet never loses the consciousness of its own existence.” Being open minded in this way does not mean that you allow everything to be a part of you, yet you allow yourself to be open to the experience of it in a non judgemental way, viewing it as if you’ve never known anything like it before. I believe it is possible to learn something from everything. Maintaining equilibrium and balance, so as to not be pulled left or right, assists me in learning what is there instead of what favors me. 

Meditation is the starting point at which a beginner’s mind can be cultivated. This practice brings awareness to the old, habitual mental patterns and it’s strengths. This awareness allows us to understand these habits, giving it the attention it needs, and creating space for it to unravel and dissolve. Some practices that are used in retreats are mindful walking and mindful eating. Both of which are simple, yet extremely powerful. Slowly walking down the block towards your next errand or walking your dog can be a good time for this practice. Just give yourself a couple extra minutes and leave early. Start by slowly walking and feeling every inch of your foot as it comes in contact with the floor while fully inhaling and exhaling. After a couple of minutes of doing this you can start to observe your surroundings, letting go of all preconceptions. Notice the trees, the leaves, the birds, and the people going about their own moments. There was a time when you weren’t here to experience this and there will be a time when, once again, you won’t be here to experience this. It is new because it is impermanent. 

When practicing mindful eating, observe your food with curiosity. Observe the colors, feel its temperature, smell its scent, and think about its history. Where did it come from? Who planted it? Did it receive love? Think about its timeline. Thank everyone that was involved in bringing this nourishing food to your plate. Send it loving energy before it enters and becomes a part of you. These practices create space to undo and do, to destroy and create. This is extremely beneficial for creatives, therapists, instructors, entrepreneurs, parents, everyone. Everyone can benefit from this. Everyone can accomplish more when they are able to view each moment as a blank canvas, as a new moment with infinite possibilities. 

This perception also gives you the space and power to manifest the reality you desire. Jon Kabat Zinn says “This moment is always fresh, always new. We’ve never been in this moment before.” What a gift this is! You have the ability to create the life you wish for because this moment is new. You have the ability to choose, to be, to live however you wish. Beginner’s mind can also elevate your frequency and allow you to connect to divine energy, whatever you may believe that to be. You can do this by giving your mind a break and entering your body, feeling and experiencing the world around you through your senses. This assists you in cultivating a mindful life. Because of conditioning, we tend to pack up our beliefs, past experiences, and emotions and bring them with us on our path through life as if they were essential. What if we left these on the side of the road and re prioritized, deciding that now we have new essential belongings such as these mindful practices that create space for beginner’s mind to arise so that we may experience life clearly as it was meant to be experienced?

Give yourself the gift of new possibilities, new vivid experiences. Give yourself the gift of a meditation practice. Be with yourself throughout the day and coach yourself along the way. If this seems too overbearing, look for a coach that can help you. You can have routine without feeling monotonous. Your days can be different and your routine can lead you to new beginnings, as long as you are open to receive, just as a beginner would, the lessons or inspiration that will lead you there. 

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Haila is a volunteer at Three Jewels and a writer for Elephant Journal. She's also a Holistic Wellness Coach, an explorer of truths, a lover of nature and all things healing. She has a deep desire to help all beings in need. Her personal practices include meditation, yoga, writing, energy work, and sound healing. She is the founder of Om Metta Bloom.