We all have an expertise in a certain area of our life, where we are proficient in this dimension of our daily routine and feel we have mastered this realm. After years of practice and discipline, you may now be brilliant in the kitchen, raising children, working out and/or your career. This is to be commended as it takes tremendous dedication to master an endeavor.
But the risk is we can close our minds to new possibilities by being an expert. Our comfort level is high and we therefore navigate it effortlessly which can mindlessly trap us into falling into autopilot mode. The joy slowly fades as our comfort level increases; our curiosity diminishes and the task becomes more mundane, perhaps even boring. As Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” The same can be said in any mundane routine that ceases to become an adventure and feels more like a chore.
Beginner’s Mind means bringing a spirit of curiosity, without getting caught up in preconceived notions. You approach things with inquiry and an open mind, rather than stubbornly adhering to patterns and opinions. Easier said than done, as it’s our natural instinct to want control and ensure a predictable outcome. Our minds want to neatly categorize and put each experience into a box – we know our routine and don’t want to disrupt the process.
But by viewing things with a fresh attitude and a curious mind into your field of awareness, we can easily rediscover the joy and wonder. Perhaps the best example we’ve all experienced is seeing things through someone else’s eyes. When I took a friend from Italy – who had never been to America or seen the Pacific Ocean! – to my favorite California beaches, I saw the world through her eyes. White, sandy beaches with palm trees waving in the perfect California sunshine. She marveled in wonder at the beauty I had once fully appreciated too but now had totally taken for granted. Her perspective changed my experience by viewing the panoramic landscape with fresh, new eyes. If you have introduced your expertise to a child trying it for the first time, you most likely will rediscover your own passion simply by observing their wide open gaze. When I showed my nephew how to play a few cool tunes on guitar – and I’m no expert – I’m quite sure my joy exceeded his as we both learned something new in the process. I remembered why I loved to play and strummed the chords with a renewed rock star fervor.
Next time you take a walk in the park, see it as if for the first time; next time you cook a meal, do it as if for the first time; next time you sit at the piano, play it as if for the first time; next time you work out, feel the energy for the first time. In fact, try to practice this attitude of renewal in all your daily life. If your mind is free of resistance, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything and the endless possibilities. Bringing a Beginner’s Mind to any activity you have done for a while will enhance your experience with renewed vigor and appreciation.