WHAT would it be like to forget all that we think we know and approach each task, each day, with the mindset of a beginner?
The question comes to me after reading Susan Ideus’s blog post titled “The Time Has Come.” For Susan, it’s all about how to approach a new lifestyle — that of retirement. But for me it’s a broader question: What are the pro’s and con’s of “beginnerhood”?
It seems that approaching each moment as a beginner would allow us to avoid the blindness of assumptions, to be more aware and open to possibilities. We would also be more open to learning from others, willing to hear others’ opinions and ideas. As beginners, we are wide-eyed and ready to accept what are told by those who are more experienced. There is a certain naiveté that is part and parcel of this state of beginner being-ness. And a certain attractiveness: if I am open to listening, I am open to creative power.
On the other hand, when I know what I know, I have a foundation upon which to build, and experience upon which to grow. I become the teacher. (I love to teach, because it feels that I am helping others by empowering them in some way.) I can climb higher if I’m not always at the bottom of the ladder. And yet, if I think I know all there is to know, I will not be open to new possibilities and ways of thinking.
So, there is a beginner’s mind and there is an experienced mind. Is there a third path, somewhere in the middle of the two extremes? I propose that there is. And I think this is what people actually mean when they talk about the beginner’s mind. This third path is humility: recognize and honor what you know, while recognizing and honoring what you don’t know. In practical terms, this means opening oneself to new information while, at the same time, weighing each bit of information in the context of experience. Open mindedness and the wisdom of experience combined. Beginner’s mind (humility) married to old soul.
That is the place I’d like to live — each sunrise a fresh experience, a new beginning, adding to the collage of beautiful sunrises stored in my memory and experience.
How do you define beginner’s mind? Is it a state of being that you’d like to achieve? Or do you think it’s overrated? Share your thoughts with us.
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