The 9 Foundational Attitudes of Mindfulness
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” – Shunryu Suzuki
The “ beginner’s mind ” is a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time. It allows us to look beyond expectations based on past experiences, and to be receptive to new possibilities.
- Being aware of how our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ can stop us from seeing things as they really are.
- Cultivating a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.
- Being receptive to new possibilities… not getting stuck in a rut of our own expertise. Yesterday’s solutions may not fit today’s problems.
- Each moment is unique and contains unique possibilities.
- Try it with someone you know – next time, forget what you think you know about them and view them with fresh eyes as if meeting them for the first time, be present and try and see them as they are in that moment.
The concept of beginner’s mind has been really useful to me in various situations, both in meditation and in life. In meditation, beginner’s mind can prevent my practice from feeling stale and formulaic. When we have been meditating for some time, it can become predictable and, dare I say it, kind of boring. I can get into the habit of feeling that I know how a meditation will proceed. I stop paying attention. Beginner’s mind reminds me that I have never experienced that meditation before. It is a unique experience. Bringing an attitude of beginner’s mind to meditation takes more effort but makes our meditation far more interesting! For years I thought I didn’t enjoy mindful movement because I initially struggled with it. However, after bringing a sense of beginner’s mind, it became one of my favourite practices!
In the last few months I have been teaching mindfulness courses in various different venues. In one of these venues I had a couple of very challenging sessions. I noticed that by the third time I went, I could feel my body tensing up. I was preparing myself for another difficult session. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy! Eventually I realised that my attitude was impacting on the work. Next time, I practised entering the building, pretending that I had never been there before and tried to let go of preconceptions. I was less guarded in the session and was more resilient when challenges arose.
Finally, beginner’s mind in relationships has been a revelation. It is so easy to prepare for an interaction, based on the previous one. We judge people based on how they were in the past. I have wasted so much energy preparing for what I fear will be a confrontation, that turns out to be absolutely fine. Now when I notice I am doing this, I try to say to myself ‘beginner’s mind’ and see if I can be truly present in that interaction. Sometimes this is easier said than done but when I am able to, I save myself hours of worry and stress!