In mindfulness education we talk about the concept of a beginners mind. This is the idea that we strive to experience the now, by seeing it through the eyes of a beginner. Having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions. As if you’d never seen it before. How you would you look at something you’d never seen, experience your daily commute, or drink your morning coffee if you’d never experienced it ever before?
Navigating my busy life in Washington, I worked to achieve a beginners mind in my day to day life. Newly living in Cape Town, I am now reaping an abundant crop. Moving 10,200 miles across the globe is an accelerated journey to the land of a beginners mind.
My husband first said this but I’ve using it a lot, “I am like a really, really Big Baby.” Meaning I might look like a full grown adult that knows what the hell is going on; and how to navigate my world, but don’t let that fool you. I am really just as inexperienced and mystified as a new born baby.
When I’ve given talks and workshops on mindfulness an example that is easily accessible for people is driving. You’ve probably heard it before and I am sure and experienced this yourself. It the example where when you first learn to drive you perform your 16 point check and meticulously follow all of the rules of the road paying attention to EVERYTHING. Eventually you get to place where you can drive to and from work or school and home without noticing ANYTHING.
Driving is an area where this Big Baby is in the NOW. The rental car we have right now is a stick. You know manual transmission, clutch, etc. I drove is stick in 198something (won’t date myself here) but not in the last 20 years have I driven a stick. Welcome to South Africa Big Baby. You get to drive a stick AND on the wrong side of the car AND the wrong side of the road. Direct ticket to beginners mind!
Remember learning to count money? No me either, it was a long time ago. Well learning a new money system and exchange rate math is really good to get you into the present moment. My tactic on this one is to never pay with cash and don’t pay attention to prices. Not good for the budget or when the husband asks how much was the ice cream for the 5 kids you drove into town with your beginners mind. But I am working through it.
Not speaking the same the same language or even accent can also require focus on the now. There are 11 official languages of South Africa; and although everyone speaks English, I miss about 13%-66% of each conversation. Usually not critical unless you count someone’s name as critical to making a connection!
As I navigate my day to day in this new adventure, I say thank you for the ease of access to my beginners mind. The gift of seeing, feeling and doing things right now, as new. For my Big Baby-ness. She’s pretty fun to hang with and is giggling more than crying these days!
If you don't have the luxury of moving across the world, simply take a few minutes to bring a bit of mindfulness to your daily routine. Check in with your breath. Is your breathing smooth or jagged? Even on the inhale and exhale? Are you holding it? Try and focus attention the simplest most routine task in your day. What does your toothbrush feel like in your hand? Can you feel the bristles on your teeth? The tingle of the minty toothpaste. Invite your Big Baby out to play and see what she will find joy in!