A fellow blogger wrote a post recently about keeping an open mind and it reminded me of a concept that I first learned in yoga class, but which originated in Zen Buddhism.
To approach a task with beginners mind means approaching with no pre-set notions about how things should proceed. The task is wide open to many possibilities.
For instance, if you write stories a lot, you probably know about sentence and plot construction, grammatical style, etc. As you write, maybe you keep these things in mind and maybe it interferes with your creativity.
If you are just beginning to write stories, you might not worry about such complications. Your focus would probably be on getting the story down on paper before you forgot it. You’ll learn more as you continue writing.
For true beginners, embracing “beginner’s mind” is fairly easy. When you become a little more accomplished at your work, when you learn the tricks of the trade, and the small nuances that mark a hack from a pro, that’s when the real work begins. It’s a lot harder to be open when you “know” how everything is supposed to work. The possibilities narrow considerably.
I have struggled with beginner’s mind. I understand the concept. Still, I like to know what I’m getting myself into. I’ve learned to prepare ahead. Being prepared is sorta my thing. I like to do well when I’m new at something, and I like to be recognized for my expertise when I’m well-practiced. I have to impress you, don’t I? I can’t just walk around trying new things without researching them on the internet first and picking up a few tips, can I? I can’t just humbly listen while you prattle on about something you apparently know nothing about, can I? I can’t try things a new way. At my old school, we did it differently. The right way. This is the way it’s done, damn it.
Right? Are you with me?
When I was younger, I was more open to possibility. I believed magic could happen in this world. I believed in fairies and parallel universes and portals into other dimensions. I believed that I did not need to know how to do something before I did it for the first time.
On the negative side, I was a dreamy, magical-thinking, impractical hot little mess who once put an offer on a house without realizing that when you agree to purchase a house, custom dictates you hand over a deposit. I saw the house, got a prickly feeling, and knew I needed to buy it before someone else did. Then I did what I needed to do to make that happen. It all worked out. Had I known then what I know now, that purchase would not have happened. I would have researched, talked to my friends, made pros/cons lists, and scared myself with the financial concerns. Then I would have given up on the idea. But beginner’s mind saved me way back then and shortly after I moved into my own house. And then proceeded to became a second-guessing, scaredy cat know-it-all. Not all at once, mind you. It happened over a long stretch. I think it might be time to change my ways.
Let’s all be beginners today. I will if you will.