“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the experts there are few.”
– Shunryū Suzuki
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.