Begin with "Beginner's Mind"

“I’m just going to practice and see what happens…”

Most of what I learn on the mat or the cushion ends up applying directly in the rest of my life. In fact, as I write that I can’t think of anything that doesn’t.

In practice as in life, it’s very easy to start believing we know something – anything really - about how things are going to be – in the next moment, in two hours or next year… 

That’s understandable, as we’ve evolved to benefit greatly from being able to predict with some kind of accuracy, how things might be, could be, would be... The ability to consider possible futures has kept our species alive and thriving. The capacity to envision action and consequence comes in very handy when dealing with gravity and other physical world phenomena.  But even with that predictive ability, there are still plenty of times that our predictions are proven not so accurate - and when talking about the inner landscape of experience – well – it can get a whole lot less clear.

All that to say, while predictions have their place, and planning is often to the good, we don’t actually KNOW how anything will be in advance of the moment arriving.

I have had occasion to notice again lately just how persistent a habit is my mind’s desire to know and to predict – especially when I’m feeling challenged or wronged, angry or outraged... or just too tired. I feel the small squeeze in my heart when I lean-in to thinking I know how it’s going to be – the double-edged comfort in the illusion of knowing – but also a smallness of possibility, a narrowing of view, tuning some things out and some things in, filtering the moment through an expectation and invariably missing so much.

Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Which brings me back to the cushion, to the mat, and to the attitude we take in practice. Cultivating an attitude of "Beginner’s Mind" is one way we can work with the reflexive habits of our very busy, and sometimes very bossy, 21st century minds. This observing, curious, open-to-discovery stance is highly useful, not as a way of opting out – but as a path of opting in – way in – to what is actually happening right now.  

The attitudes we cultivate feed the nourishing tap roots of our practice. Just taking a seat or stepping onto the mat each day to offer attention and as much willingness as we can muster, to “just see what happens” and then to breathe with it and let it move - or breathe with it staying stuck…this is the heart of the matter.

Holding a space of possibility, of Beginner’s Mind, can be an act of real courage in unsettled times. And it takes practice. I’ve been practicing a lot these days.

Of course our minds will erupt in protest from time to time, or dull in drowsiness, or insist that we must, must, must do something else - and here - we begin again. Just that. Always beginning – life unfolding – in a breath, in a thought, in a remembrance,  in a smile, a pang, a longing…right now…what is here right now?

Become a beginner again. We lose something wonderful when it becomes more important to us to be the one who knows than to be the one who’s open to the everyday wonders around us

I would like to become a beginner again. Truly. Not just as a concept, or a good idea - but in this very breath - softening to the space of some possibility I might never have foreseen... practicing and "just seeing what happens".

Join me on Monday evenings at DAYA Foundation, as we explore Beginner’s Mind and other adventures in mindfulness, weaving gentle yoga, guided meditation and restorative practice . Beginning again...