Beginner’s mind is a concept talked about in mindfulness and refers to seeing things afresh. Mindfulness itself refers to focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Think of a child and the way they are frequently coming across things they haven’t experienced before. The way an infant might be fascinated by a bunch of keys, whereas the adult might have thoughts like ‘they are the car keys, I don’t want the child to dribble on them or injure their mouth, I must put them away.’
Okay so maybe there are practical reasons for this at times, but imagine if we could sometimes see things afresh, without the ideas, concepts, beliefs, names or otherwise that distract us from experiencing something fully. See things as curiously as the infant does.
We often compare things and compartmentalise them, but in beginner’s mind we can really enjoy something as we feel fascinated, a sense of fun, creativity and curiousness.
Another aspect in using beginner’s mind is the concept of radical acceptance. When we use radical acceptance we tolerate something without trying to judge it or change it. An example might be:
Sarah was driving to town and was late for an appointment. Another driver pulled out in front of her, causing her to have to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing. Sarah, using radical acceptance was able to stay in the present moment and notice the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach as she carried on driving, and she also noticed feelings of resentment towards the other driver, but she accepted them, and they passed easily.
A different scenario might be Sarah yelling and beeping the horn, losing her temper and making a judgement about the person, or the type of car they were driving, and even thoughts such as ‘why does this kind of thing always happen to me?’ To use radical acceptance, she observed what had happened and then how she was feeling, without getting carried away by stories and judgements.
So you can see how beginner’s mind and radical acceptance relate. It might sound like a tall order, but worth a go. You might like to jot down times when you recall getting into judgement, concepts, categorising etc, and then consider what it might be like to use beginners mind in those situations.
Judgements, whether positive or negative, stop us from being fully in the present moment. Remember, at first you might find yourself judging yourself for having judging thoughts, but just notice these judgements for what they are and let them go.
Consider how you might try using beginner’s mind today. If you are having a busy day think about how beginner’s mind can fit into it. In mindfulness we learn to become the watcher of our experience.
I made an EFT video (below) for using beginner’s mind to help focus the mind while using energy work in preparation for trying out this technique.
If you have perfectionist traits, you will be familiar with some or all of the following:
You have trouble meeting your own high standards, it seems no matter how well you do something there is always room for improvement, and not in the nice, encouraging sense.
You have difficulty starting certain tasks or projects due to the worry that you might not do it to a high enough standard (procrastination).
You agonize over small details and worry about making a mistake.
You fail to appreciate what you have already achieved as you are always looking at what is still to do.
You have difficulty handing over certain tasks to others in case they don’t complete it that way you would like it done.
You experience black and white thinking, all or nothing. Something is all good or all bad, you use labels, particularly against yourself.
And there are lots more. Perfectionism is sometimes considered a desirable trait, and is even written on CV’s to entice a prospective employer. The trouble is though, it can be quite disabling and fraught with anxiety. Perfectionists suffer from a lot of negative self-talk and they can procrastinate sometimes as they are afraid of not getting it perfect.
So, how do we learn to survive as a perfectionist, and not live a life of misery? Well, know that your perfectionist traits are a result of beliefs formed early on, and that you are an adult now and may challenge old and outdated beliefs. We can choose to change thoughts, beliefs and old patterns. Many people don’t actually realise this.
Ask yourself just now, how are my perfectionist traits serving me in my life now? And what, if anything, would I like to do differently? Write down your answers as they are useful reminders to you.
Also think of the last time your perfectionist traits got in your way or affected you negatively. Now imagine that you had a different response, what it could be like and what it might feel like. For example, on failing his driving test, instead of beating himself up and telling himself he was useless Mike decided to look at how he might prepare better the next time, and acknowledged some of his recent accomplishments in his job.
Answer the thoughts back: just because we have a thought we don’t want doesn’t mean we can’t answer it back.
Example thought: there is no point in starting this assignment now as I don’t have all the books I need and can’t do it to my best ability.
Example answering thought: It might be worth me making a start on this assignment, I can always map out some of the points I’d like to cover and write a few notes with what I have. Then when I get the rest of the books I’ll have a bit less to do.
Set realistic goals, and be aware when you are putting far too much on your plate to be achievable and choose to change that. Many perfectionists do this and then give themselves a hard time for not getting everything done.
And here is the Energy EFT tapping video for perfectionism:
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