“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the experts, there are few”.
‘Beginners Mind’, is a concept derived by Jon Kabat-Zinn and it is one of the essential attitudes or elements to Mindfulness. By far, I feel that it is one of the trickiest attitudes of Mindfulness to integrate into your daily living but it is definitely one of the most life changing and liberating attitudes when you do!
Living with a ‘Beginners Mind’ approach to everything you do means that you allow yourself to live each moment of your life as if it is the first time you are seeing, hearing, feeling, moving, working in the very moment that you are in. In theory, this is very true, as each moment and experience we have lived are now in our past, they are now gone, we can’t touch them anymore and each moment we have yet to live or experience are in our future, they have not yet happened nor are they guaranteed to happen.
This is a very liberating way of living your life, as you purposely choose to detach yourself from any of your mental, emotional or physical experiences and responses from your past and also from any preconceived or expected outcomes that you may have generated about your future. This in turn helps to switch off the activation of the stored memories and experiences in the hippocampus part of our brain and helps to engage the pre-frontal cortex in our brain, which helps us to make better, more informed, regulated responses and choices in any moment.
Thus, the sky’s the limit, possibilities are endless! You are setting yourself free from any fears, worries, anxieties or traumas that you may have experienced in your past and you are giving yourself liberated space and freedom to just live in the moment. You can then experience whatever it is you are doing, without all the negative and fearful chatter and critic in your mind and live as if it is the first time you are doing it, because it actually is the first time you are doing it in this moment!
This way of living does require awareness and commitment from you, so that you can catch the activation of your past experiences and intercept them before they determine how you ‘think’ your day or experience is going to turn out, based on your stored memories and sensations from your past experiences. A quote I love to illustrate this is:
“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning”.
For example, I am not a keen flyer so when a family wedding arose abroad a few years back, the first thing that happened me when I heard about it was my fears and anxieties from previous flying experiences, deeply stored in the hippocampus part of my brain, activated and paralysed me with similar fear I felt in the past. I didn’t feel I could take the flight because of my past worries and experiences. But when I started to prime and condition my brain with a ‘Beginners Mind’ attitude, that being that I had never taken ‘this flight, on this day, to this place’ before and that I had no way of scripting or predicting how this flight would turn out as it hadn’t yet happened, I found the mental, emotional and physical strength to take this flight and to remain very calm, while engaging my regulating breathing practice. This was a changing point in my life, as I freed myself from my own mind and what it ‘wanted’ me to believe. I just lived in the very moment, second by second and it was all ok!
Another quote I absolutely love in relation to ‘Beginners Mind’ and find very empowering is:
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them”.
(Thich Nhat Hanh)
I always say that I learn some of the most important life lessons from watching and listening to my own children and the children that I work with. All children have the most incredible ability to be present in their moment, to see the natural beauty and awe of each moment they experience. As quoted by ‘Katrina Mayer’, “there’s joy and wonder everywhere when you see the world through the eyes of a child”. They allow themselves the freedom to laugh, play, notice, be curious and just experience their moment to the full. This is what ‘Beginners Mind’ is all about!!! Allow these precious little humans to teach you this amazing and fulfilling way of living your life every day!
A thought to leave you with:
“Children naturally live in the moment and they allow that moment to be what it is; magical and beautiful in every way”.
HOW TO ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF ‘BEGINNERS MIND’ INTO YOUR DAILY LIVING
The following is a guide on how to adopt an attitude of ‘Beginners Mind’ into your daily living:
- Upon awakening every morning, affirm to yourself that ‘this’ day is a ‘new day’ and that you have not yet lived or experienced it.
2. Commit and allow yourself the mental, emotional and physical space and freedom to live and experience each moment of your day through the ‘eyes of a child’, full of wonder, awe, natural beauty an excitement. See the lighter side of life!
3. When past experiences and memories start to activate and hi-jack you, take 3 regulating breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth (if possible) to anchor yourself back to your present moment experience.
4. While anchored back to your present moment experience, affirm to yourself that this is the ‘first time’ you are in this moment, in this exact moment of time, and continue to use your breath or your senses to help you to live liberally in your moment.
5. Notice the beauty and simplicity of nature – flowers, plants, shrubs and trees start to bud in Spring bringing a beautiful, simple but yet powerful and innocent hope of new life dawning in each new day, just being present and fully embracing the present moment experience!
Thank you as always to Brian O’Loughlin at The Westmeath Examiner and his team at Celtic Media Group (https://www.anglocelt.ie/, https://www.con-telegraph.ie/, https://www.meathchronicle.ie/, https://www.offalyindependent.ie/, https://www.westmeathexaminer.ie/ and https://www.westmeathindependent.ie/ for all their wonderful help!
As published by The Celtic Media Group w/c 15/02/2021