“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” -Shunryu Suzuki
At first glance this statement may make your mind do a somersault, challenging your existing beliefs about what an expert is and “should” be. But I love this quote because bringing a quality of “beginner’s mind” in to the awareness of a modern busy person helps restore and renew their relationship to the everyday grind. How? In meditation philosophy the beginner’s mind brings us back to the sweet simplicity of approaching everyday experiences with a fresh openness filled with a slice of wonder.
You are probably thinking, “How would this benefit me?” Here are three ways:
1) Beginner’s Mind Enhances Your Presence. We all want to be more mindful but sometimes finding the time to practice can be a challenge. Bringing a quality of beginner’s mind—a sense of openness, newness, curiosity and wonder to at least one thing each day—is the perfect way to start practicing mindfulness.
You can start with something you do mindlessly every day, like making a cup of coffee or tea. Bring your full attention to the smell, taste, texture, and sensations it evokes in your mind/body/heart. Take longer exhales than usual during this experience so you can slow down and take the experience in fully. Notice what changes and what thoughts arise as you add a quality of beginner’s mind to making your coffee or tea. Bring to mind the mug you chose, the color, where your coffee or tea was made, and all the people that took part in its harvest.
You may at first be agitated slowing down, which is a normal part of the process. In time and with regular practice, you will habituate yourself to practicing beginner’s mind and start to notice many possibilities pop up both in and out of work.
2) Beginner’s Mind Helps You Slow Down. Slowing down isn’t easy when there are a ton of things to get done. But taking moments throughout the day to slow down, pause, bring into awareness beginner’s mind, and rest in stillness and silence will help clear away cobwebs in the mind and allow you to see things as they are. Let’s practice slowing down right now for 30 seconds.
Place your feet flat on the ground. Sit straight. Place your palms down on top of your thighs. Roll the shoulders back and down so your chest is wide open, and make your neck long. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your two front teeth, and open your jaw slightly. Now bring all your attention to your exhale making it longer than your inhale. Breathe like this for five more breaths. Rest in the simplicity of just BE-ing.
3) Beginner’s Mind Helps You Feel More Alive and Creative. One easy way to fully immerse yourself into beginner’s mind is to watch a toddler in nature. If you don’t have a toddler on standby, imagine what it might be like to watch a toddler get lost in observing a butterfly or a colorful flower. She becomes attuned and mesmerized at the simple wonders all around her.
We were most likely like this as toddlers as well, but our adult minds may have etched out this ability to rest within simplicity. Yet allowing this part of ourselves to surface for moments throughout our day is not only restorative to the brain, but will free up your creative vast mind from the confines of the expert and open more towards a fresh outlook.
Bringing a quality of beginner’s mind into your day is an act of self-compassion. You are literally sending a message to your heart and mind to remain open, boundless and free. I have directly experienced the alchemy a beginner’s mind has had on seemingly mundane daily activities and I’ve also found it’s a surefire way to come back into balance each and every day!
Enjoy experiencing your beginner’s mind!
Nikki Levine, M.A, has a master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology; and for almost a decade has been teaching mindfulness in the greater Miami area. Her focus is on mindfulness in education and “educating the heart and mind” of young people. She is extremely excited about launching a Mindful Mentor program, where High School students will be going into elementary schools as part of their internship, and deliver mindfulness practices from Nikki’s Mindfulness Guidebook coming out very soon.