cultivate a beginner’s mind

May 15, 2018

I grew up in Ben Bolt, TX—one of those little Texas towns that I used to describe with six words, “If you blink, you miss it.”  Our high school had only a single side of bleachers at the stadium, which frankly was the iconic sign you’d see that let you know there was life along that 20 mile stretch of farmland-surrounded highway.  Those bleachers sat maybe 100 people.  I remember co-mingling with the opponents’ fans in those stands with particular friction in the air when playing a rival.  Small town life.

 

Going off to college was thrilling.  My family didn’t travel much when I was a kid, so seeing a city with all its spectacles and cultural diversity was extremely novel.  I remember oohing and aahing a lot, initially out loud and then eventually in my head because I seemed to be the only one constantly impressed. Literally everything triggered the part of my brain that sent dopamine surging and created that satisfying feeling newness brings.

 

Since then, like most of us, I’ve had countless adventures in life.  I’ve been to many far off places, sought thrills from extreme activities, tackled countless accomplishments, indulged in all kinds of nice things, been constantly entertained, met people from all walks of life, explored my deepest inner self and much more.  Throughout the ride, I have often watched to see how much of that small town kid is still present.  Not surprisingly, my beginners mind has diminished some, something that I now know started when I first hid my enthusiasm in my early adulthood.  For many reasons, the risk of taking things for granted in our culture is high.

Psychologically, it seemed I was hard wired to remain that wide-eyed youth forever.  Biologically, however, there’s plenty of science to demonstrate that dopamine levels decline with recurring exposure to novel items.  The tension between these two forces has been palpable for me, but because of my early life, I have been fortunate to have that beginners mind dominate my perception of the world.  It’s this experience of having psychology overcome biology that validates the power of intention for me.  Being able to iteratively refresh my beginner’s mind is a primary reason why I practice yoga.

 

So what is a beginners mind? It starts with a sense of curiosity and wonder. When we receive life with a beginner’s mind, we avoid our habitual reactions.  When we look ahead at our day and consider all the pedestrian activities, we often write the script of what will occur and are disappointed or frustrated when things go astray.   We wake up, cook breakfast, feed the kids, get them to school, drive to work, drink coffee, eat lunch, attend meeting after meeting – either moving along numbingly or riding the roller coaster that comes with our normal resistance to what is.  A beginner’s mind allows us to lean comfortably into our life as it unfurls, enjoying even the most seemingly banal experiences.

As we interact with others, we sink into patterns that normalize our relationships—patterns that unfortunately don’t always serve the situations that arise.  A beginners mind allows space for others, it doesn’t bring past experiences and associated emotions to the table.  It helps us to remember that people around us are also seeking the same peace and happiness we are, and frankly that they have a litany of “unjudgeable” (made up words rule!) struggles in play at any given time.

 

A beginner’s mind helps us to see all of our challenges differently.  Life’s demands can cause us stress and anxiety as we forecast ahead, often leading to avoidance or procrastination.  With fresh eyes, we arrive ready without the burden of expectations and can often try new solutions to long-standing challenges. Even when we don’t find a new path for old puzzles, our beginner’s mind helps us to navigate the world without expectation and frankly, with an attitude of abundance.

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Some years ago I came to the realization that “every moment is a point of origin”, which affords me a chance to seed anew what I most want out of life at anytime.  At this point in my life, I have recruited many friends to share in this mantra.  The “ah ha!” moment that led to this revelation was crafted during a pronounced valley in my life, of which honestly there have been many.  Now, I have come to appreciate the power and beauty of my struggles and no longer run from them.  I’ve also realized that life is littered with these teaching moments, big and small, but it often takes a beginner’s mind to help find new paths.  I live now with the belief that there is no such things as “failure”, there is only what you do and don’t do.  When I stumble or fall, my beginner’s mind removes the judgement that creates normative labels.  It helps me elevate my existence by embracing life with fresh eyes, knowing that the masterpiece of my life is not completed yet.

 

We are so happy to have you be part of our family.  Together we’re learning what it means to bring a beginner’s mind deeper into our everyday lives.  Often it takes the reminder of a warm smile from a loving heart to help us recall our real purpose—to live happy and free and to enable others to do the same.  We want to provide that to you, especially when you need it most.  You mean the world to us and we set our intention everyday to help us all grow together.

Many blessings,
Charlie

Gen Yoga Founder

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