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.

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 11.08.22 AM.png
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.

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 11.08.41 AM
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

Non-Striving – Foundation of Mindfulness # 5

One of the pillars of mindfulness meditation is based on non-striving. An attitude that helps us disconnect our energy & emotions to the outcome of a task at hand or a pursuit. What it means is that the only thing worth striving for is to be in the moment. Like in a meditative state, you seek to stay calm and reach the highest point of being; the non-striving approach shifts your focus from the result to the action.

The idea is not to abandon your desires and goals in life. On the contrary, it is about you pushing that boulder up the hill and not looking at the peak of the mountain but have your eyes on the rock while using your energy to push it forward. Recognizing that you and your diligent efforts are good enough, no matter the outcome.

 

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 12.05.01 PM
Igor Morski Art

Nike’s slogan “Just do it!” is the perfect example of a mental state that has set a goal, is fully immersed in the performance, and is not controlled by the result. To give you a clear image of how to practice a non-striving attitude is to partner your goals to your intentions. Let’s say you have set a goal to complete a project at work by a particular time. Now, if you integrate your goal to expand your knowledge and nurture your team, then the stress will be reduced, challenges will be seen as opportunities, and the exchange of ideas and support will be welcomed. The reason is that intentions within you set the tone to move towards your goals and life in general. Once you are clear about your intentions, the focus on the course of action will drive you to do your best without anxiety or stressing over the unknown future.

Non-striving takes patience and a non-judging mindset. Every day choose an activity to loosen the grip to an outcome. For example, you go for a walk every day to lose 10 pounds. The goal is clear; now add the intention to enjoy the scenery and greet everyone you meet along the way. Pay close attention to your body and emotions when tension arises every time you think about your goal, and when you let go of the outcome. The exercise will cultivate the strength to detach and learn the non-doing attitude.

On the final note, the ability to stay focused is the driver to reach your goals. Never allow the feeling of worry or the uncertainty of an outcome derails you from materializing your dreams.

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

Acceptance – Foundation of Mindfulness #6

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.

Carl Jung

Developing an attitude to accept things as they are, makes life less complicated. Challenges and pains happen and how we shape our relationship with them is important. The process of healing or to find solutions starts with accepting reality. Indeed is not about tolerance or denial but the willingness to see things as they are. When you have pain, the feeling is real. You will not remain passive to the sensation, you feel it, and you do something about it.
We tend to abandon a distressing aspect of a situation and cling to nicer ones or withdraw from a tedious experience or look the other way to our conduct. This kind of attitude suggests that we refuse to see reality because we obviously do stumble upon dire circumstances or infuriating individuals. That being so, we cannot walk away or ignore every time there is an irritant. Acceptance is to acknowledge your emotions and not to avoid but to explore.

Screen Shot 2019-06-15 at 10.53.10 PM
Crystal Morey

Changing the habit of non-acceptance

  • Let the sensations come and go
  • Do not take things personally
  • Acceptance is not choosing over your preference
  • Let go of control; not everything is what we imagine nor what we believe
  • Do not react to the unwanted situation
  • Take your focus away from what you agree or disagree
  • Recognize that flaws do exist in life, in people, and your doings and point of views
  • Detach yourself from distressing thought by not giving too much weight to it
  • Create a supportive slogan for yourself to accept things as they are in challenging moments

Ultimately, by allowing things to be as they are and staying neutral, you will learn to cultivate an acceptance attitude to reduce your anger, remain calm, and eventually find solutions. Remind yourself that the sensations that you feel are magnified. Just like in a horror movie, the knife is on the kitchen counter, but it does not mean that you will be stabbed with it. Being mindful is to know that you don’t have to solve everything nor to change it at once.

To learn more refer to “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Letting Go – Foundation of Mindfulness #7

Changing the habit of non-acceptance

  • Let the sensations come and go
  • Do not take things personally
  • Acceptance is not choosing over your preference
  • Let go of control; not everything is what we imagine nor what we believe
  • Do not react to the unwanted situation
  • Take your focus away from what you agree or disagree
  • Recognize that flaws do exist in life, in people, and your doings and point of views
  • Detach yourself from distressing thought by not giving too much weight to it
  • Create a supportive slogan for yourself to accept things as they are in challenging moments

Ultimately, by allowing things to be as they are and staying neutral, you will learn to cultivate an acceptance attitude to reduce your anger, remain calm, and eventually find solutions. Remind yourself that the sensations that you feel are magnified. Just like in a horror movie, the knife is on the kitchen counter, but it does not mean that you will be stabbed with it. Being mindful is to know that you don’t have to solve everything nor to change it at once.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 1.09.32 PM.png
Art by Alex Gross

How to let go

The body

  • Observe your hurtful and discouraging thoughts
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing and imagine that the frustrating emotion flows away with your exhalation

Emotions and feelings

  • Instead of ruminating on the story and inflating the situation with fear and panic, take it at face value
  • Sometimes it is best to engage with the negative thoughts and to confront them with counter argument
  • Know that if something doesn’t go your way is not the end of the world, not necessarily other bad things will continue to happen
  • Set an intention to realize the root cause of the negative thoughts, tension and frustrations
  • Journalling your feelings is helpful and sometimes physical venting like yelling off into a pillow works
  • Recognize that you have a choice to bid farewell to the hurt
  • Create peaceful images to call to mind as a support system
  • Realize that you are not in the centre of the universe
  • In frustration ask yourself is this who you really are? Then align yourself with your peaceful and intelligent self

When you cultivate peace in your attitude towards life, you are diffusing fear. Instead of kicking yourself and others over mistakes, past hurts or old injustices, learn to detach and let go of the anxiety that is brewing from the fear, criticism or offence.  It is satisfying to expose with rage the wrongdoers, vicious people or storm over unfairness but letting go with compassion and forgiveness makes you stronger. The idea is not to ignore nor to tolerate or to yield to unjust but to see things as they are! Your strength to analyze the situation with its risks and being able to shut off the anxieties which cripple and bring you to a depressive mood gives you the control over your emotions and allows you to accumulate the best possible outcome.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 12.57.25 PM
Art by Merelle Fabien

For further information refer to “The Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Feature image by Michael Bergt