Beginner’s mind is one of my favorite qualities of mindfulness because it means to approach the familiar and unfamiliar things in life with a sense of curiosity, awe and wonder of a child—instead of the criticism of an adult. Whether it is riding a horse for the first time (like our granddaughter Ana in the photo), or sitting in meditation for the thousandth time, beginner’s mind allows you to open to all of the possibilities and fully experience the moment by treating it as brand new.
Zen Master Suzuki said, In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few. When you view yourself as an expert, you are limiting yourself by claiming, “I know that.” Beginner’s mind refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions, regardless of whether it’s new to you or not. When you practice beginner’s mind, you practice not knowing and not pretending to know.
Beginner’s mind is very helpful this time of the year. It allows you to let go of I should have, I never, or I always, and start fresh, remembering it is a new year, just like a new moment, and never can be repeated or duplicated again.
Beginning the new year with beginner’s mind means to focus more on the questions than the answers. The “I don’t know” mind leaves you open to receive and maintain a curiosity about your goals, visions, and dreams instead of focusing on judgments or regrets. Ask yourself these questions not just today, but every day and be open to what comes up for you.
- How can I keep my (work, relationship, or daily practice) fresh and interesting today?
- Where can I be more open and curious in my life today?
- What do I need to learn more about today?
- Which patterns and habits can I let go of that aren’t working today?
Whatever your goals, visions and aspirations are for this new year, I invite you to use beginner’s mind. This year is different because you are different, even moment to moment. When you remember this, you can rest in the power of not knowing and be open to a new and exciting adventure! Happy New Year!