Beginner’s Mind: Knowing Our Not Knowing

As therapists, we are trained to listen to each person’s story with beginner’s mind. Similarly, on the yoga mat, we are trained to meet our body anew within each posture and breath. In meditation, we practice meeting our mind with a quality of not knowing, dropping our presumptions about what will reveal itself in each moment. With beginner’s mind, we become curious, open, and receptive.    

Beginner’s mind is of great service to us when it comes to loving and connecting in relationship to ourselves, to loved ones, and to others we’ve yet to meet. It’s of great service to us for loving and connecting in relationship with those that have similar views and values to our own and with those that have differing views and values than our own. The quality of beginner’s mind is especially useful at the height of conflict and suffering. In relationship, when we fall into familiar and unproductive dialogue that stems from the pain points of our personal stories, pausing in beginner’s mind gives us the chance to reveal where we are clinging onto the rigidity of knowing rather than staying open in the truth of our not knowing. When we can enter a conversation with another person with the knowing of our not knowing, space expansively opens up for resolution or peaceful disagreement. Within this greater open space, compassion and creativity are invited to join the dialogue, and we connect more intimately.  

When do our very best imperfect human effort to listen with the curiosity of beginner’s mind, we let go of our preconceived notions about what it’s like to be in the world. We listen like we’re hearing for the very first time and we inevitably start to hear in a new way. We hold some paradox here, understanding that each person’s story will touch on our shared human needs and condition, but that the lens through which each person looks is entirely unique and can only be their own. Indeed, it’s a lens of one in seven billion and counting. 

When we hear more openly, rather than through the narrowed filters of our own conditioning, experiences, and expectations, we give someone a chance to share their truth without putting ourselves at the centre of it. This requires diligence and humility, but also an understanding that even our best efforts to avoid inserting our story at the centre of someone else’s will fall short at times. In our humility, we can redirect ourselves back on course, knowing that our commitment to the not knowing of a wide open beginner’s mind is for the healing and good of our own hearts, the hearts of others, and in turn, for that of our wider world. 

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