Beginning Summer With Beginner’s Mind

Flower for Begining Summer with Beginner's MindImage found at https://flic.kr/p/eFPrAZAs

As I end this school-year, like many of you, I am asking myself: Have I really done all that I set out to do. Have I touched lives in the way I wanted to? Taken the chances worth taking? And although I’m wondering IF I’ve accomplished my goals, I’m also taking a look at WHY I want to. What is it that drew me to this career in the first place? Why is it that I will come back in the fall?

Of course there are obvious things like being a positive part of change, loving learning,  and working with amazing people. But there are many jobs that could give me this. Why education? In delving into this question I’ve come to realize that what sets teaching apart is its natural connection to beginner’s mind.

What is it that drew me to this career in the first place?

Why is it that I will come back in the fall? 

Why education?

Beginner’s mind is about having the wonder of the “first-time”, even when we are no longer novices. It is the hunger of possibility, even when we have traveled a path many times. It is a way of living into opportunity, even if we think we have experienced it all. When you meet someone with beginner’s mind they are wide-eyed with discovery, even if they are an expert. They bubble with the freedom of learning, although they already know so much.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind. It’s how we add the wonder of learning to the drive for achievement. When we promote the safe space to be a novice, we promote beginner’s mind.  When we reframe mistakes as first steps, we shape beginner’s mind. And when we exude our own passion, we exemplify beginner’s mind.

At the end of the school year it is easy to find ourselves all out of beginner’s mind. Given the best of intentions, the course of the year can diminish our intrigue. The day-to-day routine can become mundane. After months of putting in so much effort, we may be just-plain-tired. In any of these situations it can be hard to see the world through inspired eyes.

Summer is the perfect opportunity to jump-start beginner’s mind. Here are three things to try to help you get back into your beginner’s mind:

  1. Do something new – Trying something new immediately puts us in a place of beginner’s mind because, realistically, we are beginners. Doing new things can be valuable whether big or small. You may hang-glide or just try a new coffee. You might call someone you have never hung out with, or just take a different route. Either way, notice the feeling of newness and discovery. What would it be like to bring this feeling to your routines during the school year?
  2. Start small Begin to think about your day-to-day experiences as if you were just having them for the first time. Remember the first flower you planted that bloomed? How about the first time you drove a car on your own? What about when you got a new pillow and had the best night of sleep ever? How about the first time you traveled somewhere new? Starting with small ways to view the world in a new light sets us on a larger path towards maintaining a mindset of inspiration. What would it be like to keep first-time excitement at the forefront of your mind all throughout the school year?
  3. Practice gratitude for the regular – Renewing our appreciation for things we have come to take for granted opens up space in our hearts and minds. When we take time to practice gratitude we build new mental habits, new neural-connections. Doing so gives us energy where we might otherwise feel drudgery (doing dishes again?). What would it be like to feel grateful for that one thing that happened again and again last year? Could gratitude give us power in those moments?

As you begin summer, I hope you’ll consider ways to conjure beginner’s mind. No matter if you are just starting your teaching career, or have long-standing experience, beginner’s mind can help keep your passion alive. To help myself, and get others thinking along these lines, I have posted this quote by my classroom door. Maybe you will too?

The person that inspired this post

Suzuki Roshi “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

The book that inspired this post

 Zen Mind Beginner's Mind

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2 thoughts on “Beginning Summer With Beginner’s Mind

  1. As a teacher myself, I completely agree. What makes someone successful in this job is the ability to go back to when all of this was new and hard, so you can help people get from there to the next step. Well said.

    Like

    • I’m so glad to know this resonates with someone. I appreciate your comment. Is there anything in particular that helps you get that feeling back after a hard day, week, month, or year?

      Like

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