Beginnings, Courage, Creating Awareness, Excavating Authenticity, Imprints

Having a Beginner’s Mind

Mystic pictures, ballet dancer stands on the cliff edge

I’ve had an interest in taking up ballet my entire life. So finally, on my recent thirty-something birthday I decided it’s now or never and I took my first class. Perhaps this was not the best way to celebrate gaining a year in age…

It was as if all this yoga, mind-body connection stuff went completely haywire. I couldn’t coordinate my movements fast enough to the time of the music. I couldn’t memorize the sequences completely nor get my head around the language of the terms tendu, piqué, demi-something. To top it off, the teacher realized this was my first class and I was given special modifications. I felt like everyone was made well aware that I was new…

I wanted to bust out a handstand at the end to prove I wasn’t this depiction of a totally clumsy, hopeless student. And as I sat with these feelings of insecurity, agitation, and vulnerability, I realized this was my ego taking over.

Zen Buddhism talks about a concept called “Beginner’s Mind” or shoshin and it, “refers to an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level.

Our minds are tainted with imprints, of preliminary predictions for how our skills and knowledge will work for us or how we might be perceived and accepted by others. It’s these subtle preconceived ideas that drive us to believe a moment or our circumstances should be different from what they are.

Being in these uncomfortable, raw feelings can send us grasping to return to what is familiar. Yet it’s these egoic labels of pride for what we believe we’re entitled to or how we need to define ourselves, that act as barriers, keeping us stuck in a fearful place of safety and security.

Having a beginner’s mind means to drop the thinking in terms of labeling our reactions and behaviors as foolish, gawky, or unintelligent and instead to play with childlike wonder, letting ourselves bask in the pure fun and joy of just doing something without expectations.

It’s when we give ourselves permission to be a novice that we have the most to gain because not only do we lose the ego but we allow ourselves to have an experience that grows us into something more expansive as we get more in touch with who we authentically are.

Isn’t that the true purpose of living? To be aware of every part of who we are to the very core? So take that baking class, study a foreign language, or start sketching. Following what you’re curious about is the trail of breadcrumbs that will lead to finding the composition of your inner being.