Beginner’s Mind & Mindfulness

(Transcript / Excerpt from TT Mindfulness™; Become a Certified Mindfulness Coach)

Welcome to training session #10. Today, I’ll talk about one of the most fundamental approaches to practicing mindfulness effectively. You start by practicing it as an essential part of Active Focus, but the idea is to gradually incorporate it into all mindfulness practices – formal and informal – and, most importantly, apply it to different areas of your life over time.

In mindfulness theory, this approach, or as I prefer to call it, this mini-skill, is usually referred to as “Shoshin” or Beginner’s Mind.

Beginner’s Mind means observing something or someone without expectations or preconceived notions, even if we’ve encountered it many times before. It’s not just a matter of our choice, but a skill that we can gradually develop through regular training. Beginner’s Mind means looking at something with “new eyes” as if we were seeing it for the first time, no matter how many times we’ve seen it before. It means looking at things from a new perspective.

The Beginner’s Mind perspective offers us a range of possibilities that we couldn’t perceive before. It’s the foundation for all creative expression. Author and meditation teacher Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Unfortunately, Beginner’s Mind isn’t the natural way our minds work. Instead, our minds tend to automatically associate each new experience with something familiar or relatively familiar. Scientists often use the term “automatic association” to describe this phenomenon.

Our brain is also not a fan of Beginner’s Mind because our brain wants to conserve as much energy as possible and, by default, always chooses the path that requires the least energy.

In some ways, this makes our lives easier. But on the other hand, it severely limits our creativity, potential, and quality of life. For example, when you see a river for the first time, you tend to open your eyes and mind to notice every detail. Your senses are engaged to the maximum to better perceive the river you see. However, the next time you see the same river, you tend to put it in the “river” compartment that you’ve already created in your mind, and your senses become much less sensitive. Each time you encounter the same river, your senses become less and less activated and are replaced by concepts that you’ve already stored in your mind.

The lack of perspective offered by Beginner’s Mind is one of the main reasons we feel monotonous, whether at work or in relationships. And the more time goes by without training, the more rigid our minds become, and the fewer things fascinate and excite us.

You see, what we see around us is often not based on an “objective image” but is merely a reproduction of memories in our minds. Most of the time, we don’t even see the streets we walk on or the people we talk to. We see an image of them that we’ve already created in our minds, and that image automatically reproduces itself, like the “thoughts that think themselves” that I talked about in the introduction to this program.

And that’s actually sad, especially because it doesn’t have to be that way.

In my opinion, one of the main reasons why people like to travel is that they feel energized and alive in a place they’ve never been before, accompanied by a sense of freshness and a desire to discover and learn new things, customs and cultures. However, this feeling of freshness, enthusiasm, and vibrancy has basically nothing to do with a new city or place. It comes about because we temporarily put aside all expectations and concepts and unconsciously look at the world around us through the eyes of a Beginner’s Mind.

The famous French novelist Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Of course, travel is a wonderful thing, and this is by no means an argument or suggestion that you should stop traveling and exploring the world; however, I use the example of travel as an analogy to explain the importance of cultivating a Beginner’s Mind. The same thing happens when we meet a new and exciting person or start a new hobby.

I hope I’ve convinced you to invest your time and energy in developing this wonderful mini skill, so let’s find out how to practice it.

(Transcript / Excerpt from TT Mindfulness™; Become a Certified Mindfulness Coach)

© Tomislav Tomic – 2022. All rights reserved.