Part II of the Foundations of Mindfulness: The Principle of Beginner’s Mind
Zen Buddhism teaches a concept of “Shoshin“, as a positive attribute that refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki said, in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice;
“In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”
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So, what is a Beginner’s Mind?
The concept of a beginner’s mind is the development of a mindset that is willing to see everything as though it is for the first time.
It is as though we are seeing the world through the eyes of a child; without predisposed judgments, opinions, or biases. Picture yourself as an empty cup that’s open and receptive to being filled with fresh perspectives.
The more time we spend on Earth living our human lives, the more experiences, information, and opinions we collect along the way. We tend to move through the world quickly, looking for the most effective path, not fully taking in each unique moment. This pattern of behavior can sometimes be beneficial because we learn to accomplish tasks efficiently.
The downside is that we can miss out on a lot of important things like new perspectives, ideas, or different ways of finding solutions. When you cultivate a beginner’s mind, you will be more open to possibilities, be more creative and connect with others in your life as they experience your interest in them and your appreciation for their thoughts and ideas.
We also free ourselves from expectations about future events based on past experiences because no two events can be exactly the same.
Listen to our Attitudes of Mindfulness Collection on the Muse app, with meditations intended to give you tools to become more mindful. Each meditation includes helpful instructions upfront to prepare for your practice.
Tips on Developing an “Empty Cup” Attitude
Often the imagery of coming with a “full cup” vs an “empty cup” to any new problem, conversation, or idea means showing up with no room for a fresh perspective because you’re already arriving at that moment with your own preconceived narrative – full to the brim and unable to fit in any new thoughts or ideas.
As you go through your day, try to catch yourself in situations when you show up with a “full cup” unwilling to make space for new perspectives, ideas, or opinions. Whether it be at work, home, or out with friends, come to theses experiences with a kind of child-like curiosity – the curiosity we might have if we had never felt any of these things before.
Though we may have felt and remembered situations like these many times in the past, this is the first time we have lived and felt this particular situation in this particular moment. Allow yourself to be a little amazed by all the sensations, feelings, and ideas coming and going constantly.