For the last two months I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to pick my daughter up at school almost everyday at 12:30. At first, the schedule change seemed daunting, “could I get all my work done in a ‘split’ shift?” But working in the early morning hours and later at night has been productive and rewarding, and the shift forced me to get creative, thoughtful, and far more intentional about how I spend my time. I look at my days and weeks in a much different way than I did before, and I am more fulfilled and happier because of the change.
My daughter’s schedule shift prompted a restart, enabling me to enter the ‘beginner’s mind’ with ease. I could look at the challenge of time and scheduling and priorities with fresh eyes. I could understand what things in life and work were true commitments, and which things were “good ideas,” but not 100% necessary right now. My training in Essentialism and mindfulness came back full force.
What is the beginner’s mind?
Our time together in the afternoons provided me with the ability to witness the true beginner’s mind firsthand. My daughter and I began a nature school curriculum, which mostly means we go to really pretty outdoor areas (including our own backyard) and do a variety of observation activities, art projects, games, and walks. Many of these things I’ve practiced most of my life, benefiting from my own dad taking me on nature school outings when I was in elementary school.
Brennan takes to almost every activity with curiosity and excitement. She asks questions, points out things I hadn’t thought of (or seen), and approaches moments, like playing in a really cold stream or closely examining the six different colors of lichen on one rock, with ruthless optimism. Her observations and her enjoyment are infectious. The beginner’s mind creates and flourishes within all this energy.
As we age or complete the same tasks over and over again or get comfortable in our routines or stuck in the same thought patterns, we lose some of that exciting energy of youth (this is a cliché trope, but incredibly true). Instead of firing up our brain we go into autopilot and cruise along. There’s nothing wrong with that entirely; for some parts of our life it’s probably incredibly healthy. But at other times, accessing the beginner’s mind can open our senses, our creativity, and our ability to overcome problems in new and effective ways.
By beginning again with my schedule I was able to see things that were “black holes of time,” as well as fruitful opportunities I was overlooking. The newness allowed me to put essentialist techniques back into practice that I had assumed I was enacting, but had really been ignoring.
Where might you renew? What activities or responsibilities can you renew with the beginner’s mind? Where might your energy and fulfillment thrive in a new way?