Beginner’s Mind – Foundation of Mindfulness # 3

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

Shunryo Suzuki

Past experiences and preconceived ideas have great value when it comes to making decisions about everyday activities. However, they are tainted to the degree that we cannot absorb the new reality of the present time or the face value of an action, a discussion, or a situation. It is always comfortable to skim through the information to support and validate our previous experience; nevertheless, we tend to lose the possibility of learning a new way of doing things or transforming our ideas for the better by seeing things with fresh eyes.

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Art by Magritte – The Human Condition

Everybody knows that some things are simply impossible until somebody who doesn’t know that makes them possible. - Albert Einstein

The real problem starts when you are an expert, one who has more assumptions than questions. Fending off new ways of doing things or not being receptive to new ideas happens to the experienced. An apprehension swishes and contaminates the mind, which in turn will end up either with cherry-picking to justify the established rules and practices or simply dismissal of the new approach.

When we adopt the mind of a beginner, we endeavour to look at things as if for the first time, free from the influence of the past or speculation about the future. We open ourselves to what is here now, rather than constructing stories about what we think is here. Much like a scientist who observes without bias, beginner’s mind allows us to collect raw data. This opens us up to new possibilities, rather than being confined by habits and conditioning. — Tracy Ochester.

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Art by Magritte – The treachery of images

A beginner’s mind is keen to meet a new person, have a fresh outlook on familiar people, or learn a new skill. Practicing beginners’ minds (or shoshin in Japanese Zen Buddhism) feeds a growth mindset. An outlook that refuses to have more of the same for the rest of its life knows well that the safety zone is not always the right place to be. It stales the mind and prevents you from growing and reaching your potential. By default, we prefer to stay in our comfort zone, yet adopting a growth mindset requires courage to embrace vulnerability and humility. To acknowledge that there is always a better way of doing things or when it comes to human relations, we give people the benefit of the doubt.

Ways to Cultivate a beginner’s mind

  • Adopt the notion that endless possibilities exist.
  • Switch off the autopilot mode. 
  • Be in the present moment.
  • Listen carefully when a familiar topic comes up; you don’t have to rush to express your opinion or add value; observe and ask questions like you didn’t know about the subject.
  • Explore something to re-experience the feelings; it can be basic as eating your meal or making your bed.
  • Stop labeling and notice that you are on auto judgment – Ask yourself why you consider things as bad, good, right, or wrong? Is it out of habit? Integrate seeing things in your life as they are!
  • Learn a new activity to integrate challenges to your comfort zone
  • Mingle with people who have a different view of life and explore their perspective and lifestyle.
  • Change a routine in your life, your walking route, exercise, or things you eat. 
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation – it weakens the habit of taking things for granted.

 

For more information, read “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Featured Image by aykutaydogdu

Make It Happen! How To Change Your Mindset & Thrive.

The present time is full of possibilities, so why can we not edit our thoughts to actually see the threads that can lead to a desirable experience? Almost always, the answer boils down to our inner struggles to keep things together! Every day, we are bombarded by stressful questions or circumstances, by the urgency of decision-making, or feeling anxious about the unknown future. We might have a master plan; however, we will encounter setbacks or disasters along the way. Often, the course of actions needs to be modified, adjusted, refined, or totally removed to be replaced by the new approach.

Appropriately, we all need supporting tools, strategies, and definitely a mindset that helps us manage stress, anxieties, and improve the quality of life and our wellbeing. Deep interrogation of our attitudes reveals how we see the world and what mindset determines our value system. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck distinguishes between fixed and growth mindsets. Her research clearly shows the difference between the two extremes. The fixed mindset has no safety net for challenges and disappointments, and the growth mindset develops tolerance in the face of adversity and frustrations. 

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If there is a seedling of desire planted in your heart, despite a voice in your head sending signals “No, this cannot be done,….”, make no mistake you are suffering from a fixed mindset! It’s time to pay close attention to your thought patterns. The good news is that you can develop a growth mindset.

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Art by Igor Morski

Invariably, we need to change our inner dialogue, identify our limiting beliefs, and cultivate a set of attitudes that will respond supportively and intelligently to uncertainties and setbacks. The amount of time we put into self-deprecating can be thrust into deliberate practice.

The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”

Carol Dweck

Consider the following steps to shape a growth mindset and strengthen your abilities:

  •  Mindful self-knowledge – consciously start examining your attitudes and your intentions. Detach yourself from your self-made identity. Take a bird’s eye of your inner perception and your destructive & hindering thoughts. Notice the triggers. Replace them with the desired mental pictures, value learning, and efforts more than innate intelligence.
  • Apply strategies into your daily routine– to develop a new communication network in your brain. Include mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, as an integral part of your day-to-day life, strengthening your neural pathways’ connections. Erase negative self-talk, create positive core belief that you can improve your abilities, and learn new skills.
  • “The power of yet” – (Carol Dweck) replacing the “I am not good at this,…” with “I am not good at this, YET,..”
  • Try new things – It helps with self-compassion and understanding of others, especially in difficult or worrisome situations. A beginner’s mind is curious, resilient, and creative.
  • Keep in mind that knowing is not enough! You need to practice!
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Next, I will look into “7 attitudinal foundations of mindfulness practice” for us to monitor our inner dialogue to make good use of our neurons and rewire our brain.

 

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Art by Sonia Rentsch

Featured image by Aykutaydogdu