By Berenice Boxler.
Have you ever been completely absorbed in watching a beautiful sunset, listening to a mesmerizing piece of music, or tasting something truly delicious that you had never tasted before? These are wonderfully intense moments, in which your senses are completely open – and your worries seem far away. Wouldn’t you wish these moments could last longer, or that you had more of them? As a matter of fact, that is possible, even in your everyday life.
The “beginner’s mind” or the “explorer’s mind” is a mindfulness attitude that you can consciously train, and doing so has many benefits. This attitude is about perceiving everything as if it were for the first time: getting up, taking a shower, eating breakfast, greeting your partner, seeing the sunshine come through your window. It carries with it a unique kind of magic that acknowledges that every moment is indeed completely new and fresh, that it has never existed before and never will exist again. Right here and now, the richness of life unfolds before you.
Why not take 30 seconds right now to try it out? Just look around you and imagine that you have never been here before – wherever you are right now. What do you see? What do you really see, through the eyes of someone who has never seen this? What do you hear, smell, feel?
If you allow yourself to do this from time to time, it helps you to step out of the autopilot, to break out of old thinking patterns and boredom. Maybe you noticed a little thrill when you did the exercise? Or maybe you noticed something you hadn’t really noticed before? With a beginner’s mind, countless possibilities open up to you. When you welcome a moment as fresh and new, you open your heart to the miracle of “life”, to the extraordinary in everyday life.
Of course, there may be this little voice that tells you that you are being foolish
Because you have seen this before. It’s not really new. Your whole life is full of moments that you have already experienced before. So you go through life on autopilot, going through the motions without being aware of what you are doing. So do I.
For example, if my son has been grabbing the same book to read before going to sleep for weeks, and his sister is moaning “Not this story again!”, then she is only saying out loud what my mind is thinking. If my children are arguing who gets their teeth brushed first – even though the cause of the dispute is actually a pleasant one – then my thoughts revolve around “Not again … Every evening the same fighting. I can’t bear it anymore.” When the washing machine is beeping for the third time today and is waiting to be emptied, I am at first annoyed by the renewed interruption of my activity. Doing the laundry again, how boring.
The term “everyday life” already tells us how it usually feels: every day is the same. If we look at it like that, we build up frustration and boredom.
The power of mindfulness practice
When we consciously choose to look at a new moment with a beginner’s mind, without waiting for the desired or expected result to come true, we can cultivate an inner curiosity, calm our judgmental mind, and experience the day with more joy.
Only in this way can I perceive with what enthusiasm and daily deeper understanding my son absorbs the bedtime story, and enjoy myself being there with him. Only in this way can I demonstrate the children with patience and understanding how to resolve a conflict (Who is “first” today? Why is it not important to be “first”?). To show them how to resolve a conflict peacefully and hopefully they will soon do it on their own. Only then can I make the conscious decision to use the laundry as a mindfulness exercise for coming back to my senses (What does the texture feel like? Which colours and shapes do I see? What does it smell like? What sounds do the clothespins make?).
And just like that, a “boring” moment turns into a little seed of happiness, peacefulness or gratitude.
It’s not easy to train the beginner’s mind, but it’s always worth remembering and trying it out – again and again. Then maybe your day will be different than you originally thought. In addition, a day full of curiosity and openness contributes to feeling not so exhausted at the end of the day and frustrated by everyday – supposedly meaningless – tasks, but feeling awake and inspired by the abundance of this life.
Would you like to learn more about this? Training the beginner's mind is the start of all our 8-week mindfulness courses. And that's only the start. We build on this attitude to offer you many more skills, techniques and attitudes to better deal with stress and lead a more joyful and purposeful life.