Sheridan Taylor Logo

Beginners Mind, Again

Sheridan Taylor

In which our hero reminisces on Sho Kosugi and Chuck Norris movies, and explains better how to employ the beginner’s mind. Like, with instructions and shit.

Okay, yeah, groovy, beginner’s mind. Holds all the solutions to life’s mysteries and miseries. Great, now… how do I do that?

Well, when I’m able to use the beginner’s mind, I try to pretend that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing for the first time. Not all day, every day. I’m not that good at it, yet. Not by a long shot. I still have plenty of problems accessing creativity, but exercises like this help. When I’m anxious over something, I try to remember to be a beginner. I try to remember that it’s not only okay to be a beginner and not know everything about anything, but that it’s actually necessary to be a beginner. I try to remind myself that it’s impossible to be an expert at anything without first starting at it, and that it’s impossible to know everything about anything.

If whatever I’m doing really is new to me, then having beginner’s mind is easy. But even if it’s something I’m reasonably familiar with, if I can learn to see it differently, then it’s the “first” time all over again, y’know? This helps because if it’s “new” to me, whether in actuality or just by trying to see it from a new perspective, I can relax. It’s new, so I can flush self-reproach if (when) I screw up. I drop anxiety about screwing up because I go in expecting to. Of course I will, I’m new at it! I stop worrying about other people’s judgments, and my own, and get shit done. Like a Master Corporal should, dammit!

I try to remind myself whatever I’m doing, it’s the “first” time I’ve attempted it. I ask for advice from others, like I would if it were my first time. That alone can be super helpful, because I may get a different point of view, and that develops cognitive flexibility. If it’s something I’m knowledgeable about, I still ask myself things like, “what if I didn’t…?” or “how would I …?” or “What else can I…?.” The big thing is to not immediately act on the answers I give myself. I’m not looking for answers, I’m trying to see there is no box. No answers are right or wrong, I’m just trying to see possibilities.

I try to say things like “I get to learn,” reminding myself to be grateful while reminding myself I’m a beginner. It makes me be grateful-not-depressed and curious-not-anxious. It takes away the feeling of “have to.” When anxious, I’d procrastinate out of fear of failure, When depressed, I couldn’t function. If I think I “have to do” something, I start thinking about “how I have to” do it. I get into the mentality of “there’s only one right way.”

I stop using “should,” “supposed to,” or “must.” When I stop saying “should have” or “should be able” I let go of expected results. My ego is uninvolved, so that’s good, because my ego is nuthin’ but a giant pain in the ass. Learning how to use beginner’s mind is like everything else. Change your perception through work, over time.