By Amira Posner
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki
The other day I went to get gelato. The café was jam packed, and the woman working the counter was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. I felt so impatient. There was such a long line and the café was clearly understaffed.
I noticed another person behind the counter, sitting and doing absolutely nothing. Finally, it was my turn and I couldn’t help but mention that the other employee should help out. The woman looked at me and gently said, “Oh, that’s my boyfriend. He shouldn’t even really be here.”
Too often our thinking mind and what we believe to know to be true prevents us from seeing things as they really are. It’s almost as if we wear a lens and filter reality through it. If we are in a good mood, we see things from a happy, positive perspective. If we are in a bad mood, we may perceive things in a negative way.
Imagine seeing things just as they are—no judgment, no like or dislike, just as is. Sound intriguing? A beginner’s mind cultivates just that. A beginner’s mind sees things with a lens of openness and acceptance. It relates to experience like it is a first time.
One could compare it to a young child playing with a toy, so present, focused, and lacking any judgment. The child is not thinking of his past or thinking of the future. That child is in the present, in the moment, noticing new things about the toy. The toy, as it is.
The beginner’s mind attitude allows us to be open to new ideas, and prevents us from repeating the way we relate to our experience. With a beginner’s mind, we naturally let go of expectations based on past experience. A beginner’s mind is present oriented as in the now. This moment. Hello!
If I were to have been wearing a beginner’s mind lens at the gelato café, I would have had no assumption about who should be doing what. I would have been too busy exploring all the colors and flavors of gelato as I patiently waited for my turn.
Putting Beginner’s Mind into Practice
There is a well known eating meditation that helps cultivate beginner’s mind. The idea was first started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his mindfulness based stress reduction program. It involves putting on a beginner’s mind lens and eating a raisin. You can try it at home in the company of yourself.
Take a raisin and put it in your hand. Pretend you have dropped off from another planet, and you have never seen a raisin. With an inquisitive, open, non-judgmental perspective, examine the raisin. Explore it. Smell it, feel it, taste it. Engage your senses, in the moment, in a non-judgmental way. With all your attention, be one with the raisin.
If you seriously practice cultivating a beginner’s mind, you will notice a positive shift in the way you relate to your experience. You cannot help but be aware of this change. You will relax into the experience, as opposed to showing up with expectations and preconceived notions.
A beginner’s mind is a practice and unfortunately, unless you are a baby, will not come naturally. Having said that, it is like a muscle and the more you practice, the stronger it will get.
Amira Posner is a Mind-Body Fertility practitioner. She is the lead counselor at Healing Infertility. She runs mindfulness based stress reduction groups for women and couples who are trying to conceive. You can finder her on Twitter at @thefertilemind.
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