If you’ve ever tried meditation, you know that one of the biggest hurdles is finding a quiet space in a busy mind. In her new book, Soul Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation, author Sarah McLean says one of the keys to opening and clearing your mind, priming it for meditation, is adopting what she calls “beginner’s mind.” In this excerpt, she explains and provides three exercises to help you make the shift.
Beginner’s mind is a way of perceiving things with an open attitude. We’ve all been in this mindset before, when we were experiencing something awesome and inspiring for the first time. Maybe it was something you saw, like the vast Grand Canyon or the glow of Sedona’s red rocks. Perhaps it was something you felt, like the soft fur of a puppy or kitten, or something you heard, such as a live orchestral performance. Whatever it was, you met it with your beginner’s mind, a state of complete freedom from preconceived ideas. Nothing got in the way of your experience, and it delighted you.
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Beginner’s mind is a peaceful perspective to have both in meditation and in life, and is an essential ingredient to being soul-centered. As you let go of ideas, judgments and expectations, the simplest things appear new and exciting—even if you’ve experienced them many times before.
There are many ways to cultivate a beginner’s-mind perspective. Here are three suggestions.
- Go out to dinner at your favorite restaurant. When the waiter comes for your order, say that you’d like the chef to make you whatever he or she wants. Then, when the food comes to your table, savor it fully, enjoying the surprise that comes with having no expectations.
- Choose a day during which you accept whatever anyone offers to you. Say yes when you ordinarily might say no out of habit. If someone invites you somewhere, say yes. Whatever food is offered to you, accept it gratefully. If someone asks you to do something, say yes. Keep a childlike awareness, free from expectations. You never know where it will lead you.
- At a movie theater, or on your own TV, view a nonviolent movie you know nothing about. As you watch, notice how your narrative mind might want to judge it one way or another, even as being good or bad. When you notice the labels or judgment, bring your attention back to your direct experience. Enjoy the movie as it unfolds, and simply experience it and yourself as you watch.