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A Beginner's Mind

You know those moments when a yoga teacher, or anyone really, says something to you, something you’ve heard a million times before, and for the first time it just. hits. different?    


I was in a yoga class recently and the teacher was sharing the importance of having a ‘beginner’s mind’ on our mat. For those of you reading this who might be unfamiliar with this concept, one way to describe a beginner’s mind is to think about approaching our life, in this case, our yoga practice, with a fresh perspective, unattached to our past experiences of a pose, our body, or our breath. It’s about having your mind open and curious. It’s about letting go of our very human tendency to make assumptions or judgments of our present experience, based on our memory of the past. 


This is an idea that I know well and love. It’s an idea that often informs my teaching and coaching. But when my teacher said the following, something clicked. 


“The past doesn’t determine our experience of the present. Just because something was one way yesterday doesn’t mean it will be the same today.” 


 At that moment, the teacher was referring to our tendency to compare our current experience of our body in the post, with that of the past rather than simply noticing what IS and marveling at it. 


It’s a simple concept. Yet like so many things, honing the presence and awareness to remember that this present moment is a new opportunity to be curious is one that takes practice.


It feels obvious, and yet over and over we get stuck.


Why? Because we’re human. And as humans, we love to tell stories. We tell stories to make order of our world, find reason in past experiences, and define our sense of self.  Each time you're replaying a past experience in your mind, or sharing about your weekend with someone, you’re telling a story. 


These stories define the ways we act and think and interact with others. These stories are narratives that shape our understanding of the world around us, our place in it, and our relationships. 


Consider this. Often when we approach something new, plan for the future, or, say, show up on our yoga mat, we do so informed by a story of what we believe is possible or true based on our circumstances and our past experiences. 


In a way, it keeps us safe. 


“I’ve done this before, I can do it again”


“This next time, it’ll be different”


But it also prevents us from experiencing the full beauty of life.


What if we show up today with a mind curious about what’s possible, without all the assumptions or judgments based on what might have occurred yesterday? 


On our mat, it might mean feeling ease in a pose that you'd labeled ‘not for me’ or ‘too difficult' in the past. Or it might mean noticing the sensation of an outer hip stretch without making the experience mean anything about your worth.


Off the mat, it might look like being fully present with and listening to a close friend or relative and truly hearing what they are saying.


Or it could look like giving yourself grace today for saying ’No’ to something you would usually say ‘Yes’ to because prioritizing rest is truly what you need. 

What else is possible when you set down your assumptions and judgments of how this moment, and the next, should play out and allow yourself to be whole-heartedly curious?

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