Mental Reboot! 4 Ways to Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind

Mental Reboot! 4 Ways to Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind

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The other night I told my son to go wash his hands for dinner as I do every evening. The next thing I knew he is saying “mom watch this!” He proceeded to create a soapy, magnificent bubble blown from between his hands. It was very cool and quite beautiful. Why is it that children are able to approach the seemingly most mundane tasks with a mind full of possibility and curiosity?

In yoga they talk about “a beginner’s mind.” It is really about looking at your yoga practice and each experience in your life as though it is all new. It is the idea that every pose, task, adventure, moment along the journey is one that is essentially unknown which allows for the ability and desire to explore, deepen, try and play. Our minds are filled with chatter and distraction and often negative self-talk and self-doubt. If we can begin to really pay attention to these thoughts as they come up honor them and then let them pass without judgment we can make space for an open-minded, positive, curious and creative approach to what’s at hand.

As a writer, I know that there are 2 ways to look at the blank page. One is with fear and dread knowing it has to be filled and what if it’s filled with absolute crap and what if I have run out of ideas and what if… Or a blank page is a possibility for ANYTHING and everything. It is a clean slate, a chance to play and explore and see what happens. It doesn’t mean that everything put on paper is a masterpiece, hardly. It just means that with the fear and judgment lifted the task becomes an exciting one! A beginner’s mind provides an opportunity to see the possibilities.

How do we cultivate a beginner’s mind?

1) Mindfulness
Practicing a non-judgemental awareness of the experience present moment can make everything feel new. By noticing the thoughts and emotions that we have without becoming attached to them we can let them pass. That means that fear, boredom or thoughts of inadequacy have no weight and won’t stop us from approaching a task with wonder.

2) Hitting the “pause” button
When you have a daunting or mundane task ahead of you or find yourself in the middle of doing something you’ve done “a million times” before make a point of pausing. When you give yourself a moment or 2 you can find the “newness” within your circumstance. In a yoga pose there is always a something different you can find in your body and breath. If you allow yourself a pause you can engage a new muscle or bring your attention to a different part of your body or listen to your breathing. There is always something different to do in a pose you have done over and over. If you are making your bed as you do every morning pause, and try to see something different about your task. Perhaps you can challenge yourself to make the corners tighter or feel the softness of the sheets or really stop to acknowledge how good it feels to have completed this task and how awesome your bed looks

3) Accentuate the positive and let go of the outcome:
We are called upon to do both challenging and mundane things each day. Whether it’s within our yoga practice, as parents, at work or school, or with our friends and family. We do have a choice about how we approach what is being asked of us. Trying to find the positive in what we have to do can help create a sense of excitement and curiosity. When doing something as repetitive as walking the dog think about how what you are doing is physically good for you and the dog. Take this as an opportunity to connect with your breath in the fresh air and be sure to look up! The sky is always different and awe inspiring when we remember to see it. When given an assignment that is difficult it’s an opportunity to try, maybe make mistakes and learn from them. If you let go of what the outcome should be and enjoy the process you can always find a way to experience something as if it were the first time.

4) Practice, practice , practice
It’s work and like anything it is never 100% but the more we practice cultivating the mind of a beginner the easier it becomes. Like the mind of a young child when all is new, the mind that doesn’t get stuck on the chatter, the mind that is open to trying, the mind that doesn’t judge itself, the mind that is curious and sees the possibilities. And maybe if we can look at life this way there will be a lot more soapy, magnificent bubbles blown between the soapy hands of kids of ALL ages.

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Susan Verde

Susan Verde is currently living in East Hampton, New York with her twin boys Joshua and Gabriel and her daughter Sophia where she writes children’s books and teaches kid’s yoga and mindfulness. Her children, her practice and the ocean at her doorstep keep her constantly connected and inspired. She is the author of the picture books The Museum, You and Me, I Am Yoga and the forthcoming The Water Princess with illustrations by Peter H Reynolds (due for release in September of 2016)

Classes by Susan Verde