Cultivating mindfulness requires a little more than just following a set of instructions or guided meditations. In practising mindfulness, you will have to bring your whole being to the process. You can’t just assume a meditative posture and think something will happen or play a tape and think that tape will ‘do something’ for you. The attitude with which you undertake the practise of paying attention and being in the present is crucial.
These attitudes are both needed for practising mindfulness and are in turn cultivated by its practise. Each one relies on and influences the degree to which you are able to develop the others. Working on any one will rapidly lead you to the others.
In a series of small blogs, Urban Mindfulness will discuss the different attitudes that form the pillars mindfulness practise.
3 – Beginner’s Mind
The ‘beginner’s mind’ is the willingness to experience events as if it was the first time. By not adopting a beginner’s mind (sometimes called the expert’s mind) you conclude that you already know something and therefore don’t have to pay attention to it. This draws you directly away from the present moment and into the landscape of the judging-mind with all its assumptions, interpretations, preconceptions and so on. It hinders learning and serves to reinforce existing ideas.
Adopting a beginner’s mind can be a big challenge, both in ordinary day to day experiences and in formal meditation practise. It requires you to begin over and over again, every time with the same intention of experiencing it fully as it is, in that moment. A beginner’s mind allows you to be open and receptive and frees you of expectations.
Practising a beginner’s mind can be done in your day to day life by using your senses. For example, when you see someone you know – your partner, child or even your pet – try looking past the mind’s eye. Seeing with fresh eyes, marvelling at the details you might not have notices if you would’ve allowed the mind’s eye to take over. Try noticing how you expert’s mind is trying to influence you. Do you notice any thoughts on what you are doing? Any urges hasten your examination or perhaps even quit? Just notice this and return to your beginner’s mind.