Beginners mind in relationships
This series of blog posts focuses on some of my reflections on the nine foundational attitudes of mindfulness and how they relate to interpersonal relationships. This week is an exploration of beginner’s mind.
The longer we know somebody, often the less we pay attention. Instead, we rely on our assumptions about them. It is often easier to fall back on assumptions rather than to look at ourselves and others with beginner’s mind, bringing a fresh perspective to every interaction.
We often make assumptions about ourselves; that we will always be a certain way because we have always been a certain way. Maybe we have a habit such as being late, being untidy, or smoking, and we believe that we cannot change. When we approach ourselves and our habits with beginners mind we open up to the possibility of change. I have always believed myself to be an untidy person and that expectation of myself has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, when I recently moved into a small flat on my own I have been forced to learn to be tidier, and challenge my fixed view of myself. By treating myself with beginners mind, I am able to surprise myself.
When we first meet a new friend or partner, we take an interest in finding out as much about them as possible. After a while, we become complacent and we believe that we know our friends inside out. Every time you see your friend, why not see if you can find out something new? Ask a new question about their experiences or opinions.
Just as we can make changes in our lives, so too can our friends. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to notice these changes. See if you can make a point of noticing the ways in which your friends have grown and changed since you first met them.
I have recently started a new romantic relationship, with somebody who I have known as a friend for a long time. Suddenly I am seeing an old relationship in a new light and am finding that I am seeing my partner with beginner’s mind. Although we have known each other for a long time, there is a sense of newness It would be very easy to lose sight of this as the relationship develops and I hope that I can maintain this sense of beginner’s mind into the future. At the moment, each time we see each other is different and I never quite know what to expect. We have not yet gotten into a routine. However, in reality, it is always like this in relationships, no two interactions are ever the same; we can simply convince ourselves that they are because of habit. Watching a friendship blossom into something more, something unexpected, has taught me a lot about beginners mind.
When we don’t know someone very well or have a strong opinion about them, it can be difficult to take an interest. Next time you see someone that you would consider to be a neutral person, why not see if you can notice something interesting about them. You might even try paying a compliment.
When we find people challenging we often overlook their good qualities. And yet we all have something positive. Maybe use beginners mind to imagine we are meeting this person for the first time, without the negative preconceptions. Perhaps this can help us to see the positive and help us to see all that we have in common. Just because someone has been challenging once, doesn’t mean they always will be. Use beginners mind to open up to the possibility that this person can change too!
The next post of the series will look at non-judgement.