• Sean Fogler

Eight ways to find your “beginner’s mind” and live a better life

I hate saying the words “I don’t know”, and I bet you do too.

As a child I learned that “I don’t know” is a statement of weakness with judgement and shame close behind.

It really is an awful feeling, and a feeling I have spent much of my life trying to avoid.

The real twist is that the words “I don’t know” release us from life’s pressures, opens our mind, and allows us to connect with others in meaningful ways. In essence it’s an incredible act of humility and a powerful force for change.

This is the “beginner’s mind” (Shoshin), an amazing way to see the world and a powerful tool we all can use for a better life.

The power of the “beginner’s mind” is unlimited

When I sit and watch my son explore the world I am amazed. His curiosity and endless enthusiasm is nothing short of awesome.

He questions, and touches, and tastes, and experiences all the beautiful sensations of life. His mind is open, he knows very little, and he doesn’t care. He is in the moment—and connected to his “beginner’s mind”.

As children we start with an empty mind. A mind that is open, and free of preconceived ideas, interpretations, and judgements.

This mind allows us to explore and test our ideas about ourselves and the world around us, and it is a gift we don’t fully appreciate until it’s gone.

As we grow and the world places constraints on what we do and how we think, the “beginner’s mind” is lost.

When we say ‘I don’t know’, the feelings of guilt and shame can be powerful, and the fear that bad things will happen is very real.

When we do know, we believe good things will rain down on us. Some of these good things are listed below:

  • I am the expert

  • I become confident

  • My ego expands

  • I feel proud

  • I believe I am growing personally and emotionally

  • I am respected and admired

  • I will make more money

  • My relationships will improve and be more meaningful

  • I will be more attractive to the opposite sex

  • I become more lovable, worthy and valuable

Knowing makes it difficult for us to see things as they really are  

The irony is that when we know we are limited, and our ability to see things as they are becomes clouded.

Knowing tells us there is nothing more to learn or know or experience. It closes the door on opportunity because there really is always more to know.

Not knowing means not being limited by what we do know. Not knowing opens us up to possibilities. It frees us to explore and test our ideas as a child does. And it frees our mind to go in any direction at any moment, seeing things as they are.

Eight ways to reconnect with your “beginner’s mind” and live a better life

The “beginner’s mind” is a powerful concept that can be used to really enhance our lives. Below are some strategies to help make this happen:

  • Let go of expectations

  • Stop looking for solutions and let life unfold (stop trying to fix everything)

  • Ask more questions to understand

  • Learn to be alone and sit quietly just being with your thoughts (mindfulness)

  • Practice being empathic and compassionate with others

  • Try stream of consciousness (Hot penning) writing, just letting the words flow onto the page (mindful writing)

  • Practice losing the fear of uncertainty and failure

  • Let go of who you are and what you know and be open to the moment and the lessons to be learned in that moment

Reconnecting with the ‘beginner’s mind’ is a beautiful way to see the world. It takes us back to our mind as a child and helps us see the many beautiful possibilities that surround us. It really is powerful tool that we all can use.

© 2018 by Sean Fogler

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