“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki
I recently finished a course in Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Reduction. Most people I meet think they could never meditate because they think they’d have to sit cross legged and try to have as a “clear mind.” If that was the case, I assure you, I have been expelled from the class by the end of the first day. Instead, the point of Mindfulness Mediation is sit and to watch where your mind goes, label the thoughts (“Oh, now I’m planning”, “That’s my worrying mind”) and gently turn your mind back to paying attention to your breath. It’s not considered “bad” to have distracting thoughts. In fact, the more time you can repeat the pattern of thought/label/return, the more you’ll build your mindfulness muscle.
One of the things the course taught me is the value of the “beginner’s mind.” The beginner’s mind is why I was able to take up running. Instead of being consumed by the usual story the voices in my head that tell me (“you’re to fat to run” “you’re no runner”), I just lace up and run (but seriously, do I have to run in this heat?….return to breath…). The simple definition of Beginner’s Mind from this site is quite useful:
Take all of the things you know–all of your brilliant opinions, all of your reason and logic, even your cherished beliefs–and you put all this stuff on the shelf for awhile
I’ve found this approach to be incredibly helpful in my work at Hypenotic. Of course Barry and I still have our battles and I can get pretty tense (I’m just saying this to preempt our coworkers from calling me out). No one is perfect and I don’t fart rainbows, but I’ve definitely benefitted from Mindfulness training and the Beginner’s Mind. Here’s a few ways in which I’ve seen a difference:
- A Beginner’s Mind is Your Best Brainstorming Friend: When trying to come up with creative ideas it’s easy to get bogged down with practical issues, or all the reasons why the idea wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t work. The Beginner’s Mind lets me keep those at bay so I can stay creative. This frame of mind also helps keep me at arm’s length from what’s existed before or my first good idea that I can’t seem to get away from. Steve Jobs put it best. In a Wired interview he said when speaking about the value of the Beginner’s Mind in building technology: “There’s a tremendous open possibility to the whole thing. And it hasn’t been confined, or defined, in too many ways.” Imagine you could approach brainstorm sessions with that thinking. Creativity overdrive!
- The Beginner’s Mind puts the Relations in “Client Relations:” Sorry folks, client relationships can be stressful. The wants and needs of clients can put alot of pressure on us communications folks who are doing our best to deliver on time, on budget, etc. Like a marriage, these relationships can fall under the spell of predictable patterns where you think you know what the person’s going to say even before they’ve said it. This is not a good for any relationship. The Beginner’s Mind helps me approach each new client interaction with fresh eyes and that allows me hear what they’re saying and not react to “old tapes” or the noise in my head.
- The Beginner’s Mind is Good for Business: In case you haven’t noticed, the motley crew at Hypenotic has come up with some pretty interesting ideas about how to run a business (need a refresher? read this) I’m not predisposed to risk. In fact, I’m pretty risk adverse. But, the Beginner’s Mind has given me faith that anything’s possible. I approach new ideas with the curiosity to explore. If my heart says its a good idea then I’m willing to go with my heart until proven otherwise. It’s a very liberating feeling.
- Jon Kabat Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners
- Fast Company article “Will the Beginner’s Mind Save Sophisticated Corporations?”
- Zen Habits “Live Life to the Max with Beginner’s Mind.”