As the autumn equinox approaches, this time of year is just as significant as the spring for new beginnings.
As the prospect of a new project, a new relationship, a new job, a new house, or even a whole new life begins to take shape, it can feel both exciting and challenging. By adopting a new mindset, you also give yourself the best chance of success, so here goes!
Zen Buddhists call this state of mind, Beginner’s Mind. It’s a state of freshness where you experience everything as though it’s totally new and in the moment. It means having no expectations, no fixed views of yourself and believing that anything is possible. You are truly open and receptive, which means you see a new friend or a new partner with fresh eyes – without being tripped up by any negative or positive experiences you may have had in the past. Beginner’s Mind will help you to embark on this new adventure with a positive attitude. It’s a great way to let go of fear and anxiety and to boost your creativity!
So how do we harness Beginner’s Mind? I love the number 7, which is why you’ll find, below, seven magnificent ways to do this:
- Focus on attention – our ordinary mind tends to focus on future outcomes instead of focusing on the present, which can then lead to feelings of anxiety. So, if you’re climbing a mountain, don’t keep looking up at the summit! It’ll just keep reminding you of how far away it is. This trick is to focus on one step at a time without thinking about the whole journey. Whenever your mind indulges in fantasies of the future, or gets stuck in memories of the past, simply ask yourself the question, “what’s my next step?”
- Fallen down? Well, just get up again – anything new requires the discipline of practice, which means every time we fall, we have the sense to get up…… every single time! As day follows night and night follows day, falling MUST be followed by getting up, and vice versa, the latter being an absolute given as we become more and expert in our pursuit. Toddlers know this instinctively as they start to walk – why is it that we, so easily, forget this very simple life lesson?
- NO to negative thoughts – fear breeds negative thinking. You are just about to start something new and negative thoughts completely derail you. Wear an elastic bracelet and simply switch it over to the other wrist whenever a negative thought pops into your head. Train yourself to be more positive by doing this swapping over exercise every time a useless thought appears.
- Say, “I don’t know” – in martial arts this refers to the wisdom of the warrior, where instincts are key to survival. Set aside all existing knowledge when you need to get yourself out of a tricky, new situation – too much old knowledge actually creates more problems! Simply open yourselves up to “not knowing”, embracing this fully, thereby allowing your natural wisdom to come into play, which in turn will enhance your creativity.
- Be present – the stress response is natural when we’re faced with something new. Stress, however, is something that does not exist!! What does exist are people with a head full of stressful thoughts! A preoccupied mind, plus a tense body, and no wonder we have negative self-talk ruling the day. Walk through your metaphorical doorway of delight every time you become aware of this infernal, internal chatter. Move away from this thought-preoccupation and, instead, connect with all your five senses. When you become present by tuning in to sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, a mini miracle happens and a feeling of calmness returns, even if only for a moment…. so, make sure to keep it up!
- Stop saying, “should” – people are only too happy to offer their opinion, even when it’s not wanted! They’re also very good at telling you what you should or should not be doing with your life. “Shoulds” are simply other people’s ideas of what life is supposed to look like. Every time someone says “should” ask them, “says who?” Beginner’s Mind means letting go of all the “shoulds” in the world and making your own rules!
- Don’t be scared to fail – the fear of becoming a has-been stops us from becoming anything! Show yourself some compassion as you embark on anything new. Whenever you feel anxious, stop whatever it is you’re doing and bring your hand on to your heart area. Let it rest there for a couple of breaths and notice how you begin to feel more confident as you relax more.
Finally, if you just lift the corners of your mouth slightly and take three breaths, this little bit of “lip-yoga” will help you access Beginner’s Mind at any time of the day! Good luck – beginner’s or otherwise, just enjoy it!