Beginner’s mind

Once, a university professor visited a well-respected Zen Master to learn about Zen. The Master first invited him to sit for a cup of tea. The professor sat down and started talking about Zen. The Master quietly prepared and poured the tea. He kept pouring even though the tea filled to the cup’s brim. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.  “It’s full! No more will go in!” blurted the professor. Zen Master replied, “The same with your mind. How can I teach you Zen unless you first empty your cup? 

Zen Story

Most of us, if not all, resemble the professor in the story. Our minds are full of our own opinions and preconceptions that we barely have any space to welcome anything new. Typically, we will analyze each situation instantly and hold on tight to what we know, failing to take in life’s offerings.

Mindfulness helps us to see life in a new light by encouraging us to be curious and in amazement about our experiences. The idea is to acquire more of a child’s mind, free of prejudices and preconceptions. This concept is called the ‘beginner’s mind’ 

With beginner’s mind, we learn to look at things as if we were seeing them for the first time, even if we’ve had numerous similar experiences in the past.

You might have waited at the TSA check for hours each time you’ve traveled. And now, as you are approaching the airport, you dread the long line you expect. And how can you not? You’ve always got stuck in long lines for numerous years. You become anxious, and your body tightens. 

But the truth is that this moment is new, and you have not experienced it yet. With the beginner’s mind attribute, you realize there is a chance that there could be no wait at the airport, a minor wait, or maybe a long wait. You actually don’t know and getting anxious and stressed before you even see what’s waiting for you only ruins your current moment.

The beauty of the beginner’s mind is that we give each moment a new chance to be different from what we’ve experienced before. We let go of the “been there, done that” attitude, and instead of clinging to how we think a situation, or a particular person is, we remain curious and open to life.

How does beginner’s mind help us in life?

* We become less prejudiced 

* Experience improvements in our relationships. 

* Reduced anxiety 

* Less procrastination

* A greater flow in life

So how can we cultivate a beginner’s mind?

  • Realize when you judge
  • Meditate
  • Get curious
  • Notice when you say ‘should.’
  • Keep an open mind
  • Let go of the need to win every argument

Each moment in life is extraordinary, but as we grow, we forget and get stuck in our habitual ways. With the “beginner’s mind” we start experiencing the richness of life once again.