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Finding Grace in Beginner's Mind

Over the New Year holiday, I attended a meditation and yoga retreat. I found myself lured into beginner’s mind, a goal in most spiritual traditions. This is a perspective that embraces the humble state of not knowing, which allows one to step into experiences as a child might. In spite of how many years one has spent reading, studying, or even teaching in some area of expertise, we have much more to receive and to offer when we inhabit beginner’s mind. This state of being says I know that I do not know, and I am open to this moment—NOW! Even in the midst of mundane or unpleasant experiences, we are eager to learn and enthusiastic about life.

Enthusiasm comes from the Greek root words en and theos, which translate into “in God.” In the experience of this emotion, we are in the realm of divine love. It is as if a blaze emanates from the human energy field—one that is often contagious. Whenever we are “in God” we are in grace. If we renounce beginner’s mind, we forgo this most powerful of experiences. We often do this unwittingly, out of fear, feeling too vulnerable and believing we should have all the answers.

Sadly, our western culture transmits this message—we should have it all. It can shroud enthusiasm from a very young age. As a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with children as young as four who were already overwrought because the “cool” kids dismissed them. No wonder so many people suffer from anxiety, depression, and narcissism today. We are either terrified, and collapse under the pressure that we should be gods, or we inflate the ego and bully the weak, believing we are gods. Finding the flame of enthusiasm in beginner’s mind is an antidote to this kind of fear.

In my novel, Finding Grace, I quote St. Francis: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” In our hyper-speed society, we need to remember to see the luminous around us, cultivate it within, and then allow it to radiate to others. People are in desperate need of authentic sources of light.

As I begin this New Year, I am challenged to remember, and I urge you to do the same. The image above may help. It is the picture of a baby with eyes wide-open, reaching out to the radiance, in wonder at the mystery before her. Can you do this, too? Take a breath and be present to the mystery of this moment, and then the next, and the next. Be in beginner’s mind, “in God,” in whatever way works for you. One of my contemplative practices is to sit and imagine my breath moving in and out of my heart chakra. Often I visualize a healing color, such as violet, with the breath. Sometimes I’ll use a loving-kindness meditation to connect me with the light. Here is a common one that you may find helpful. Take one inhalation and exhalation before each line.

May I feel safe.

May I feel strong.

May I feel happy.

May I live with ease.

Start with yourself, and then send it out to those you love, then to everyone—even those you may have difficulty with. Observe how you feel afterward. Hopefully, you experience more love and more light. I welcome you to share your methods for remembering. We can be in beginner’s mind and learn to find grace from one another.

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