The Beginners Mind
Harnessing the beginner’s mind is so important on and off the mat. It opens us up to a world of opportunities that the expert or all-knowing mind cannot experience. Once we turn up with assumptions and preconceptions then we have already put walls up from experiencing the Here and Now. Each and every experience is going to be different as we are continuously evolving people; spiritually, physically and mentally. Today perhaps your body is strong enough to come into a pose you previously believed was too hard for you like headstand for example. Or perhaps it’s a mental barrier, perhaps today, this afternoon you turn up with your beginner’s mind on and manage to have an open and honest conversation with your co-worker who you previously didn’t give a second look to because other people had told you they were awful.
Employing a beginner’s mind lets up be open to learning new things. Just like an infant, innocent to the world, their brain is developing at the fastest rate it ever will over the lifetime. Between conception and three years old, a child’s brain undergoes huge changes. At birth, it already has most of the neurons it needs. It doubles in size in the first year, and by 3 it has reached 80% of its adult size. Adult learns are a lot slower then infants and children as they already have a huge amount of prior knowledge and experiences they must sift through first before contemplating that the information being presented to them sits with their prior understanding and values. What if we could simply sit with thoughts without criticizing them against our own values immediately. What would happen by embracing the infants mind.
‘Shoshin’ is a Zen Buddhist concept which is the practice of accepting things the way they are, without layering on our own preconceptions. It translates to the beginner’s mind.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Suzuki, Shunryu (1970), Zen Monk
Firstly, we must realise within us that we are holding onto preconceptions about things before we can identify the need to let these go. Perhaps you may be like me and have some of these fixed views:
- I am not flexible; my back is injured and will never be as bendy as other yogis
- My mind constantly wanders during mediation no matter how dedicated I am so why waste my time
- I do not like reading non-fiction, so I have not picked up any non-fiction books since university
By carrying around these views I have held myself back from some amazing experiences. I’m sure there are plenty of non-fiction books that I would have learnt so much from. And having finally let go of my flexibility issues I can now back bend with no issues.
“Once we noticed the fixed views that we are carrying around with us, the preconceptions that we are carrying around with us, then it is possible for us to let them go” Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Zen Buddhist
This week in our Wednesday Beginners Yoga class we tried to leave our previous beliefs and feelings about yoga at the door and enjoy the session for what it was in the moment. Listening to where our body was at in that class rather than where they might usually get in their forward fold.
It is a lot harder than it sounds. I endeavourto take this philosophy with me on and off the mat, through yoga and meditation practice. Have a go.