starting over again and again

beginners mind tips for change

So here we are again… at the beginning of something new, another chapter, another fresh start. The control freak within me wants to take over right now, however I’m attempting to start this new chapter with a beginners mind. 

Beginners mind is a Buddhist term. It means to hold an attitude of openness and willingness, not allowing pre-conceptions to hold power over the present moment, task or lesson. There is a Zen expression that says “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, in the experts mind there are few.” 

We are each called to start over countless times in our lives. Change comes wrapped in many ways… it’s exciting, scary, nerve racking, joyful and sometimes sad. The essence of change is constant, everything around us and everything we are is in a constant cycle of change. Our very bodies and minds are literally changing – reforming and regenerating every moment.

Change can be really hard, like the end of a relationship or a job, the loss of someone dear, but it can also be wonderful, following through on goals, seizing a new opportunity, or finding new love.

I am no stranger to change or starting over. I am the kind of person who has experienced a lot of change through my life. I have changed cities and jobs, lovers and hairstyles. I really enjoy change. I have even had friends refer to me as a gypsy, slightly jokingly, as they have watched me move around and try on different lifestyles and locations.

And here I am, again, in the midst of great change. I have moved… again. This time I moved for clear reasons that will serve me (and my husband to be) as time goes on, but nevertheless I am smack in the centre of all the things that inevitably need to be resettled with a giant move… finding meaningful work, creating a nest that feels like home and connecting with a like minded community.

So here’s what Im experimenting with…take a deep breath (or 500), tame the expectation, put forward appropriate effort and intention and allow things to unfold.. tune into the ideas of what is called beginners mind.

When big life changes happen we often feel an incredible call to action, an opportunity to bring forward all kinds of “improvements” we’d like to make in our lives. With the essence of a fresh slate before us we begin to brew very clear ideas of how we want things to unfold. Naturally, we can no more control the infolding of events in the midst of great change than we can during our times of stability and consistency.

I am going to try to keep myself on track as I let this new life unfold focusing on these three ideas:

1. Presence (Yep that ol’ chestnut!)

Live every moment as fully as possible and take in as much as possible from each moment. Presence doesn’t mean everything feels awesome all the time, it means that we have the ability to be with whatever the moment is showing and sharing with us. Beginners mind here is being okay to just notice without having to deny, hide from, cling to, or change the moment.

2. Let go of knowing everything.

There is a Zen concept to arrive with an empty cup. The story goes like this:

A Japanese master receives a revered professor who is interested in learning about the teachings of Zen. To make his first lesson impactful the Zen master serves the professor tea. He pours the tea into the professor’s cup but instead of stopping when the cup becomes full he continues to pour the tea until it spills out of the cup and all over the table. The professor stares silently at the master, utterly confused. The master explains that you cannot come to learn Zen filled with your own opinions and speculations. To learn the way of Zen you must first empty your cup.

When we let go of knowing everything we leave ourselves true space for an open mind. This doesn’t mean that passed lessons and experiences don’t serve us, but instead we may see more clearly how to apply our experience to new circumstances.

3. Let go of failure of fear. Fall down 6 times get up 7.

Especially when trying new things there has to be wiggle room; room for trial and error. Sometimes this trial and error will occur multiple times, like watching a baby find their feet and learn to walk. They fall down and get back up, fall down again and get back up. And this process isn’t always easy or even pleasant but it is important, and when it feels like it is just too hard, refer back to beginners mind tip of presence.

I am far from a monk, but I believe these practices are just as beneficial to us, average people, as they are to monks living on quiet mountain tops. The practices of beginners mind are for life… challenging, imperfect, messy, beautiful life!

As I offer myself to this experience with an attitude of openness I am pretty excited about what I may discover!

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