“In the beginner’s mind there are so many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
As children, we’re taught that having all the “right” answers holds the key to success. But unlike kids, each new stage of adult life isn’t marked by fresh back to school supplies, classrooms and growing an inch taller. Instead, our growth processes are more subtle and internal, with few outward signs to prove that we’re actually moving forward. So how do we know we’re still growing?
For many mindfulness practitioners, the key to spiritual evolution is simple. Instead of focusing on having the “right” answer to every question, the task is witnessing and accepting that which is unknown. Through detachment, surrender and grace, we can expand beyond current habitual patterns, feelings and beliefs into a broader experience of who and what we truly are. With an attitude of openness, eagerness, and humility, we can embody what many Zen Buddhist practitioners call “Beginner’s Mind.”
To ignite the magic of your beginner’s mind, try practicing the following techniques in your everyday life:
Be Present. So many of us live our lives in the past or in the future, hoping to change what’s already happened or control what may come. Practice being fully aware and awakened in the present moment, living life just one step at a time with all of your senses engaged.
Practice Detachment. When we’re fixed on achieving a particular outcome, we can block ourselves from being open to other, more expanded possibilities. By letting go of our personal attachments, desires, ambitions and opinions, we make room for the Universe to fill our needs beyond any preconceived limitations or expectations.
Be Curious. Instead of jumping to find the “right” answer to every situation, practice living in the question. Be a detective of your own life. Ask yourself what you don’t already know. Let the question drive you. This is the beginning of true wisdom.
Eliminate “Should” Thinking. The creative process of inquiry requires an open mind that is able to respond intuitively to circumstances as they arise in the moment, not how we assume things should be. Remove judgment and give your beginner’s mind permission to unfold.
Enjoy the Adventure. Each day, take an emotional risk: switch up your usual routine and try something you’ve never done before, whether it’s playing a new sport, learning a foreign language or striking up conversation with a stranger. The point is getting out of your known comfort zone. By finding comfort in discomfort, we make space for ourselves to grow on our spiritual journey and uncover new parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed before.
Embrace Failure. To truly win at life, we have to be willing to risk total failure. This means courageously embracing the possibility of personal disappointment and public humiliation, which may result if our efforts are unsuccessful. Whether in relationships or our professional lives, great reward often follows great risk. Though it takes tremendous faith and courage to open yourself up to rejection and the chance of falling flat on your face, not getting what we want can teach us the life lessons we need to help us grow and eventually emerge victorious.
Whatever you begin, remember: the most magical journeys emerge from the road less traveled.
“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
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“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
- MARCUS AURELIUS