Zen Master Shunryu 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.” The Zen Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind” refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, 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.
Approaching anything with a beginner’s mind allows you to focus more on the questions instead of the answers. The idea that “I don’t know” leaves you open to receive and to maintain curiosity about whatever the newness is, instead of judging or criticizing. It also allows you to let go of “should-ing” on yourself with thoughts like, “I should know this already; this shouldn’t take so long; I should be further along….”
If I am taking a yoga class or being coached one on one, I open to grace by getting out of my own way and practicing beginner’s mind. Even if I already know the material, I may not be practicing it, and it is much more interesting to listen with curiosity than superiority. The next time you read familiar information about a healthy lifestyle—those all-important basics of diet, exercise, or sleep—and find yourself thinking, “I know that,” try practicing your beginner’s mind by staying curious and playful and asking, “Why aren’t I doing that?” or “What would it look like in my life if I did change some things?”