You must have beginner’s mind, breathes the modern day yogini, face serene, eyes soft.
Quiet chanting wafts through the speakers to mingle with the faded scent of incense, creating an ambiance of wisdom.
Beginner’s mind, you think, yes…
But thinking is not the same as doing.
Which is not to say the things you tell yourself don’t have an influence on your reality, but if you tell yourself something which you don’t actually understand, your consciousness has nothing to shift toward.
The beginner is The Fool from the tarot deck, merrily traipsing toward the next adventure.
People like to say The Fool has no plan, but how can that be true? She has a sack over her shoulder, she’s packed for the journey. Packing indicates intent, even if it’s a foolish one.
It’s not the lack of planning that’s foolish, it’s the plan itself which seems pie-in-the-sky or ill-conceived to someone who “knows better,” who’s been there, done that or read every study ever written on the subject.
The Fool is in beginner’s mind. She knows nothing about what’s supposed to work and what isn’t… so she goes for it, one hundred percent.
When I was teaching second grade (many moons ago), I worked at a cool private school in Brooklyn, New York where we wrote our own curriculum. Not only were teaching degrees not necessary, they were actually discouraged. The Head of the Lower School believed teaching degrees were the death of the natural-born teacher.
And since I was deemed a “natural teacher,” I was given a second grade classroom and told to get to work! Because there was not set curriculum, I got to base my teaching on whatever topics were sparking my intellectual curiosity.
At the time, I was immersed in studying screenwriting and the arc of story as described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero’s Journey.
And so I decided my second grade classroom would be studying the hero’s journey through both story and movie.
Our blackboard became a giant timeline where we mapped plots and arc of character development. We huddled on the rug watching Willow and Star Wars. Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Snape were psycho-analyzed.
The final coup d’etat: each child wrote their own hero’s journey story. The shortest was 40 pages long. Okay, 40 of those pages where the picture goes on the top and the writing on the bottom… but still: 8-year-olds happily writing 40 pages!
At a Lower School meeting toward the end of the semester each teacher spoke to what had been happening in their classroom thus far.
We’re studying the Hero’s Journey, I began.
Multiple faces gaped at me. Dana blurted That’s too complex for second graders. They don’t have the cognitive ability to grasp those sorts of patterns.
Maybe I looked startled, maybe smug, but my answer was Really? ‘Cause they already did.
And this is beginner’s mind.
Beginners don’t know what they can’t do.
They don’t base their decisions on presumed cognitive abilities or known physical constraints or assumed emotional intelligence. Beginner's mind is more a state of the heart than status of the brain. Click To Tweet
Beginner’s mind is a space of having your heart is passionately wide open. You don’t have to do a risk assessment because risk is a concept of culture; it’s mental not emotional. You don’t check the studies or the surveys…
…You simply step merrily off the cliff.
In the Tarot deck, The Fool is not card number one, its instead designated with a zero. Stepping off the cliff is the action which leads to the first step.
And I recommend doing it at least once a year.
What Fool’s journey have you been on this year? What journeys are you planning for the year to come? How will you return to beginner’s mind?
Watching and waiting!
P.S. My favorite flower essence for fear of the unknown: Aspen. It’s okay to quake a little as you move closer to becoming who you are meant to be.