New Beginnings

‘In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few’
Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Frequent visits to India have gifted the opportunity to observe and embody what I now light -heartedly refer to as the ‘let’s see’ mind. Another name for the ‘let’s see mind’ is the ‘Beginner’s Mind’. Shunryu Suzuki’s work, ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ speaks about shoshin which means ‘beginners mind’ in Japanese.
Byron Katie refers to the ‘Beginner’s Mind’ and the ‘Lets See Mind’ as the ‘Don’t Know Mind’.
‘The don’t-know mind… doesn’t fear, has no wish to control or foresee, steps off the cliff of the moment with absolute trust that the next step will land somewhere, and the next step somewhere else, and the feet will take us wherever we need to go’
~Byron Katie

This writer is currently sixty-five years of age and has successfully raised 3 children (mainly as a single parent), been gifted 7 grandchildren, survived two divorces, bought and sold ten houses, and has had a successful professional career. Yet right now she is doing one of the hardest things she has ever done.
Freedom, adventure and conscious change require much discomfort!

Being a solo freedom seeker is the scariest thing I have ever done. It means I need to constantly live in the ‘let’s see what happens’ mind.
My students range from mid-twenties to mid-seventies. They are smart, intelligent and hardworking and yet I face constant cremation as my fear barometer threatens to either explode or implode!. My nights are peppered with being startled into anxious wakefulness, not knowing where I am or why I am afraid.
I constantly ponder why I chose such uncertainty in life, why am I doing “this” to myself? Why don’t I retire to the sofa like most sixty fiver year olds? Answer: I have no choice. I am propelled by and towards some indefinable purpose. For better or worse, I can’t go back to my original profession of Interior Design. The stress, sexism and alienation of the construction industry directed this personality into a mental institution – thank goodness!! Thank goodness I lost my mind!
That deep primordial instinct to “make a difference” is not interested in bargains”

The Buddha is believed to have said we are 99% conditioned – from birth to present. From an evolutionary perspective, learning from mistakes has served the evolution of the homosapien very well. However this evolution seems to have been at the expense of our spiritual and emotional growth.

Let’s face it: the ego bellows at people my age “you should know what you’re doing by now—especially as you are so frequently the oldest person in the room!”

In my youth, I was always the “scaredy cat”d and paradoxically a thrill seeker as well. Apparently this push pull syndrome is clearly depicted in my astrological chart.

It is unavoidable; excitement and freedom come with a price tag. Starting new careers, moving into new relationships, travelling to exotic places and in general living a free life, all require us to be a perpetual beginner, to constantly engage that beginner’s mind; to “not know” for uncomfortable periods of time.

Many people wish to reduce this sense of uncertainty and vulnerability as quickly as possible. Many of us resist new experiences including the ones we secretly desire. Many times we abandon our heart’s desire in favour of familiarity. The unfamiliar brings with it discomfort. On the other side, the very same discomfort enables vulnerability and the beginner’s mind to facilitate a more interesting life - a life that is ultimately a lot less stressful.
Be warned however, once you step in to the ‘Beginners Mind’ the ego is sure to fight back in an attempt to maintain the illusion of control. It is written: “The discomfort we feel is pure ego. Ego is the part of us that needs to look large and in charge at all times. It is not a fan of the ‘beginner’s mind’. Ego tells us we’re in danger when we’re not in familiar territory. Its job is to keep us “safe,” and if that means living a small and boring life, so be it.”

Experience has proven freedom seeking requires I often actively calm and soothe my anxiety and nagging doubts, which internally wail: “what do you think you are doing. Get back in your box”.
These anxieties generally scream loudest between 3-5 am, the time of day when the Lung Meridian is at it’s strongest. Not surprisingly from a Chinese Medicine perspective it is believed we are born karma and all via the Lung Meridian.

Practically, I have befriended the schizoid, frenetic stomach butterflies. In my case, the self-talk that works is the very same as the self-soothing I recommend to students” “It’s OK. You are doing an amazing job. Everything is going to be OK. Keep going. ”

Another great benefit of adopting the ‘don’t know mind’ is humility. Never underestimate the benefits of being humble. There is such a sense of freedom in becoming increasingly humble—a characteristic not always given the accolade it deserves in our Western society. Vigorous inflation of fragile egos tends to alienate and separate the very person seeking support and connection. This isolation is epidemic and quite cyclic in nature. Humility requires us to be vulnerable. This vulnerability allows us to teach and learn from a heart-centered perspective. I am hooked.

Humility and weakness is not the same thing. To be humble is frequently the mark of a self assured, confident, mature person who recognizes all human beings have their fragilities. Humble people often live by the paradigm that none of us are getting out of this life alive. Humility isn’t about falsely running ourselves down, but about seeing ourselves—our strengths and weaknesses—clearly. In my role as Yoga teacher specializing in heart centered learning; it doesn’t matter that I have a master’s degree in this and that (there are lots of people who serve others with master’s degrees,) What matters is that I’m willing to be humble and vulnerable and learn from anyone with the time to teach me.

‘Beginner’s Mind’, ‘Don’t Know Mind’ is all about lifelong learning, which can (and should) continue at any age. You can’t learn something new if you insist on being the expert.

For example, I have always had a fear of public humiliation. And yet I continue to learn and grow when I am willing to get “it” wrong: to make mistakes—in public. When that sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we are like a deer in front of the headlights it is hard to convince ourselves that the pay-offs of being wrong publicly will be many. However, the return on investment is high.
What is the alternative? Are you really willing to settle for the same, same for the rest of your life? Doesn’t your heart and spirit yearn in agony every time you choose boredom over freshness and freedom?

Shri Mooji states:
“You have come here (Earth) to meet the lion on your path”

We can ask the ego to embrace the ‘let’s see’ mentality and take a back seat for a while. We can take our courage in our hands, and step out into the unknown, over the cliff, trusting that the next step will land exactly where we are meant to be. Usually, the worst that can happen is that we will feel uncomfortable and need to access our infinite state of resourcefulness.

I fervently hope you may feel inspired to experiment with the ‘don’t know mind’

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