If we were to look at things with a beginners mind, those things would be normal to us because there would be no perceived notion of what or how things should be.
It's an interesting concept and one I'm enjoying exploring through this mindfulness course I'm doing.
Many of the ways I am using mindfulness is to look at situations that would normally start out with a preconceived notion of being negative. Situations like waiting for instance, is normally not a good experience for me. Now I choose a beginners mind and go into the waiting situation feeling nothing. I observe what's around me with the curiosity of someone who has never been in that situation before. It is different I have to say. It doesn't make waiting pleasant for me but it does take away the feelings of impatience I normally feel.
We have been asked to use a beginner's mind when it comes to pain. That in itself is a very different approach. It forces you to focus fully on the here and now and not tell yourself the stories we normally would tell. As an example you may be going to visit a relative who always manages to hurt your feelings and you leave the visit with angry or offended. If you walk into the situation without any feelings of what happened last time and all the times before, and what might happen today, can it change the outcome? I'm not sure, but from what I am reading and learning about these things it tells me when we don't bring our baggage into a situation, it can in fact change the outcome.
The next step is if the person acts the way they normally do, you are to look at the behaviour in a curious way, without the feeling that is normally attached to the incident. It is a way of shielding yourself from their opinions and actions. There is a saying I love, what other people think of me is none of my business. Doesn't that just take the sting out of it? It is a practice as with all things mindful, but one that I think might be worth trying.
I'd like to give that same example now with physical pain. When those of us with chronic pain start to have a flare up we have a little conversation about it with ourselves. The conversation goes something like this: not this again, I can't believe that is happening now, it is going to ruin everything, what if it gets worse...I won't be able to go to work, school, on my date etc. The stories in our heads can go on and on. It creates discomfort in itself. Muscles tightening, shoulders rise, the mind becomes filled with negative emotions and stress hormones are released.
The method of looking at pain with a beginner's mind asks that the story never start. You feel the pain; you notice it for what it is, here and now. If you don't project what it will be like later or how bad it was yesterday, then you can sometimes stop it from escalating. It is an interesting concept and one that I have been trying. What I have noticed is, I do not spend as much time thinking about the what ifs’. I recognize the pain I am experiencing at that moment, and don't worry about the hours and days to follow.
I have heard from some of my readers that they don't have physical pain but what I am writing often describes the way they feel emotionally. I hadn't made the connection but I can see it now, so thanks for pointing that out.
Let's try approaching both physical and emotional pain with a beginner's mind.