The Beginning of Knowledge
Jon Kabat Zinn uses the concept of the Beginner’s Mind in his 9 Attitudes of Mindfulness. This way of thinking asks a person to come into a situation without assumptions or expectations, and it’s the posture for true learning. The Beginner’s Mind allows for “I don’t know yet” and frees you to listen deeply before making any decisions or judgments.
Practicing the Beginner’s Mind is essential because it’s not natural to our brain’s protective wiring. If you have ever researched buying a new car, you may have experienced that suddenly every car you see on the road is the car you’re considering. The world did not suddenly produce more Honda Odysseys once you decided you wanted one, but rather your brain picks up on that information, positive or negative, and associates it with the information it’s currently processing. We do this – pick up information and associate it with our daily experiences, beliefs, and behaviors – because the mind tends to be dualistic, categorizing things into good/bad, safe/unsafe, and other groups.
The Beginner’s Mind asks us to momentarily set aside what we already know for the opportunity to learn something new about our present situation.
Over the past several months, the Beginner’s Mind has been one of our best friends. Taking such an approach, we can offer ourselves grace. The Beginner’s Mind reminds us we’ve never been here before. This is new. And there is always something to learn from newness.