The other day I was driving across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco to visit one of our heARTful Kid's sites and I was deep in thought about our program when suddenly, with the magic of a great new song I'd never heard before, I was seeing the Bay in a completely new way; the same bridge I'd driven across thousands of times was suddenly yielding a view that looked totally new. I felt alive, grateful, and inspired. I took a deep breath in to savor the moment as the conundrum I had been ruminating on moments before melted away.
It got me thinking about the power of developing a beginner's mind. Cultivating a beginner's mind can help us see fresh possibilities in everyday situations. It can help us move through challenges with greater ease and it can unlock deeper levels of joy in a wider range of activities. This Zen Buddhist notion of seeing all situations as if for the first time can support greater creative thinking and lower our stress responses to life's inevitable challenges.
So, here are 5 tips for cultivating a beginner's mind:
1) Let go of the past.
This one may sound strange and even hard to do since our past experiences are what shape us, but moving on can help us shed the stories we might carry forward, especially those that limit our belief in ourselves. Our innate negativity bias means that our brains tend to emphasize negative events of our past over positive ones, so when we forget the past we can also shed any limiting beliefs that we carry with us into the future.
2) Spend time around children (or at least be open to emulating them).
For children so many experiences are new. Kids tend to meet even the most mundane moments of life with wonder and curiosity. They don't bring as many preconceived notions of what should be. They are also quick to share their emotions with others and are great examples of spreading unfettered joy. What moments brought you great joy as a kid? Try to recreate some of them and see if you can channel that same enjoyment. We can learn a lot by taking inspiration from kids.
Applying the word "should" to a situation implies a set of expectations or preconceived notions about what should be. This is the antithesis of a beginner's mind. It also keeps us locked into ego patterns that diminish new possibilities.
4) Keep a photo of yourself from childhood on display to see everyday.
Just as we keep photos of those we love hanging around our home to remind us of our love and joyous memories, we can remind ourselves to stay connected to our own inner child, to mother ourselves with compassion and to keep the wonder alive.
5) Develop a consistent creative practice.
Whether it's gardening, cooking, dancing, playing an instrument, drawing, painting or a combination of all of the above, art in any form " washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Even if you don't take Picasso's path to a beginner's mind, remember that "in the beginners mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
No matter the path, with a conscious choice to cultivate an ability to see everything anew, we are developing a greater capacity for resilience and joy.
This and many other invitations for coloring and doodling are available in our heARTful Activity Center.