After losing my sight, I’ve had to learn how to do everything again but in a completely different way. This includes the day to day basics of preparing a meal, getting dressed to getting around the city independently. It has taken nine months and the world is a very different place. I now use my other senses to get around or recognise danger instead of my sight. Through noting how my daughter is experiencing her surroundings and it’s contents for the first time, I too have learned to approach life and all it has to offer with a beginner’s mind. This outlook has been an extremely positive and powerful practice indeed for my rehabilitation so far.
A lot of our difficulties can be solved by this simple practice. That includes people in my situation and anybody else for that matter. A lot of happiness can also be found by this same mindset too. It truly is simple to implement. Everyone can practice experiencing life as a beginner and it is more fundamental than we realise. It’s not just a process to embody whilst we are learning something new though – it’s something you can practice during every single moment of your day.
But what exactly is it?
It is dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something and seeing things with an open mind, just like a beginner. If you’ve ever learned something new, you can remember what it’s like: you were probably confused because you didn’t know how to do whatever it is you’re learning but you were looking at everything as if it was brand new, perhaps with curiosity and wonder. That’s beginner’s mind and that is how I’ve approached relearning my day to day tasks. Take eating breakfast for instance: Imagine the activity as if you don’t know what to expect, as if you hadn’t done it thousands of times before. You feel around for where your items are in your mind mapped kitchen. You feel around for your food, your bowl, your spoon and you take in the details that you wouldn’t otherwise acknowledge. Details such as how your cupboard door feels and where your cereal is kept in that cupboard in line with yourself as a measurement.You now truly notice the textures, the tastes, the smells of the food and it’s packaging in order to recognise what it is. You pay close attention as if you don’t already know how the food will taste. Everything seems new and full of intrigue. You don’t take anything for granted so you appreciate everything. It’s all temporary, fleeting and precious. This process can transform an activity and move your focus away from the frustration of not being able to do it as you once did.
But why does it matter?
1. It provides me with better experiences. You aren’t clouded by prejudgements, preconceptions or fantasies about how you’re now doing something or assumptions about how it will be. If I have no prejudgements about how to put my trousers on the right way by looking at them, I simply find the front fastening or label with my hands to know where the front and back is. Then I put them on the right way. When I don’t have the thought of holding them up and seeing what way they need to go, I can’t be disappointed or frustrated because there’s no preconception to compare it to.
2. My relationships are better. If you are talking to others about what you are going through instead of being frustrated by them because they aren’t meeting your ideals, you approach the situation with a different outlook. You notice that people are simply striving to be happy and have good intentions (even if they differ to yours) and they are struggling just as you are.
3. It stops me from procrastinating. If you are procrastinating on a task you can look at it as a beginner. Instead of worrying about how hard the task will be or how you might fail at it, you can be curious about what the task will be like. You notice the details of doing the task instead of trying to get away from them. This has enabled me to do so much in regards to sharing my views online. getting out of the house and arranging to go back to work.
4. I experience less anxiety. If you have an upcoming event or meeting that you feel anxious about, instead of worrying about what might happen, you can open yourself up to being curious about what will happen. Let go of your preconceived ideas about the outcome and embrace not knowing, embrace being present and finding gratitude in the moment for what you’re doing and who you’re meeting.
So, as you can see, approaching life with a beginner’s mind can transform any activity, get rid of a lot of our difficulties, allow us to be more flexible, open, curious and present. I’m not saying all of this happens automatically. It takes practice. But it’s worth the practice.