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

Tell Your Brain To Shut Up and Listen!

As promised, I embarked on the practice of mindfulness meditation to learn useful techniques on how to change our state of mind deliberately. The practice serves as a navigator through the ups and downs of life, transcending the fear and seeing things or the problem as they are. Meditation takes you to a place deep within yourself, a bridge to your inner wisdom that helps you stabilize distress—the optimal formula to nurture the best version of yourself.

At its core, the concept of mindful meditation is nothing more than being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. It is not always about sitting in the Burmese position (mind you, it does help) and chanting a mantra but to be present at the moment. As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in “Catastrophe Living,” unless you change your way of looking at things, no type of meditation will be useful in the long run. He frames a set of 7 fundamental attitudes that will help with the practice of being present. Non-judgingpatiencebeginner’s mindtrustnon-strivingacceptance, and letting go are to be part of your frame of mind to channel your energies and reach an alpha state. I will dive deeper into each of these attitudes in my upcoming “Mind Series.” 

The practice needs commitment! In the beginning, it will be very hard to include the above attitudes in your thought process, but merely keeping them in mind and applying them in small increments in your day-to-day ways, from eating habits to rituals or working systems, will eventually be ingrained in your thinking.

  • A good place to start is to take notice of your daily habits. For instance, pay attention to what you are eating as if it is for the first time that you are seeing or tasting that food. You can try with just one fruit or any other produce that you like. This exercise involves minding one moment to another and can be extended to other tasks and routines. 
  • Intentionally, build up your efforts and set aside a time during the day to quiet your mind and focus on your breathing.
  • Taking notice of the breath is the anchor that shifts our battling mind and anxieties to a relaxing and calming stage. The turbulence is still there, but even if it’s for a few minutes, this exercise enables you to reconnect to your ability to stay calm.

 

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Photo courtesy of rafyA creative art designs
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – the idea is to intentionally contract the diaphragm muscle and relax your belly during the inhalation to rise and deflate on exhalation. Lie down on your back or stretch out on a recliner put one hand on your belly. Bring your attention to your hand and feel it move. Practice for 15 minutes every day. (“The power of Breathing, Jon Kabat-Zinn) 
  • The other way of practicing mindfulness of breathing is to be mindful of your breath during the day.

 

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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com
  • Kindly observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment and turn your focus on your breath each time you start dwelling on them.
  • Note the persistent thoughts, detect the emotional threats of the self-centered sentiments, anger, hate, or different moods.
  • Recognize that what comes to your mind is only a thought. By redirecting your attention to your breath, you will detach any value to the lingering thought, and gradually, you will have the strength to intentionally let go of the negative emotions and calm your brain.
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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

The whole process is not about pushing the unwanted emotions or thoughts away but cultivating the courage to see as they are. Meditation is about accepting the contents of your mind, regaining calm to reach the peaceful brain wave, and finding clarity.

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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

Explore your rhythms and pulses, and in concert with your restyled thinking at the same time integrating gratitudecompassionkindnessforgivenessgenerosity, and tolerance, steadilyyou can lead a robust lifestyle.

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Art of Alex Gross