The Beginner's Mind
“The beginner’s mind sees many possibilities, the expert’s only a few.” Shunryu Suzuki
The beginner’s mind or (Shoshin) is the simple mindfulness practice of seeing life through a beginner viewpoint. A concept which originates from Zen Buddhism, this concept has been practiced for many years and it’s a state of mind that the west is starting to pick up on.
The mindset is simple. When you experience something for the first time, you adopt a natural state of mind which is free from judgments and expectations and filled with curiosity and acceptance. Think children learning something new, they often ask lots of questions and bring a natural sense of play and exploration to a new experience.
I know with restrictions still in place across the world, and for those of us living with physical or mental limitations, it can sometimes feel that we aren’t moving forwards with life – feeling somewhat stale and stagnant. Applying the beginner’s mind to our everyday lives can help to tease out a curious childlike nature that we often loose as adults.
Here are 3 simple tips to adopt this mindset:
Get curious: Emanate a child’s world view which is new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. A great way to do this is by asking simple questions when approaching a task or subject matter you believe to be an expert in. Asking questions is at the heart of beginner’s mind. Let go of the presumption you know the answer.
Let go: I wonder how many times the word ‘should’ comes up in your inner dialogue throughout the day? This is definitely true for me! Try removing this word from your vocabulary. Instead ask yourself, “how could I make this fun?” or “let’s give this a try” and you can see a positive shift in your attitude towards the experience.
Find the play in the everyday: I’m a big fan of embracing the inner child and letting your creativity and imagination flow in little moments throughout the day. The way I practice this is by laughing and being silly with those closest to me. Try finding the game and play in the every day.
There are so many benefits to the beginner’s mindset; deeper gratitude, more creativity, fun and playfulness to name a few.
Quite simply, the beginner’s mind is empty. That is, it holds no preconceived ideas or rules about what is and this allows us to cultivate a fresh and exciting perspective on life.
As the Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, writes:
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”