There’s a line in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” which goes: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. Interesting! The Bard understood that how we view the events and relationships in our lives can change and affect those same events and relationships. He clearly knew that if you can believe that whatever’s happening to you is happening for the best, then the outcome will be positive. But if you hold a more negative view of your issues, then it colours everything and life can become more difficult.
This is what positive thought and trusting and holding an open-minded vision of the future is all about. It’s basic foundational stuff in terms of personal development. And no matter how many books you’ve read on the subject or how many times you say “Oh yes, I know that” , it’s always good to go back and remind yourself about it. And to remember to do so again and again and again.
We can’t afford to not keep an eye on where we are with these basic understandings because it’s very easy to forget about them and let them slip. We are all too easily capable of becoming complacent and/or lazy. Equally, we can also allow ourselves to become inflated about what we think we know as pointed up by this wise and wonderful quote from Rumi:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”.
Ah yes, we all think we know certain things but it’s a very good exercise to let go of being an ‘expert’ every now and again. However, to do so means you have to be prepared to be open to not knowing. Essentially, what you already know belongs in the past, whereas the present moment is always unknown until it happens and may bring forth challenges. But the beauty of that space of not knowing is that it allows you to really open your mind to new things.
In Zen there is a practice called Beginners Mind. It’s the place where we say: “I don’t KNOW!” In martial arts, the ‘don’t know’ mind is the wisdom of the warrior. The ‘don’t know’ mind is wise because it doesn’t pre-judge a situation and make assumptions – which could be wrong. The ‘don’t know’ mind leaves us open to respond according to present circumstances and not to how we might believe things will be. And it leaves room for intuition and creativity.
I remember once years ago deciding to make myself a little pillbox hat for a wedding I had to attend. I bought a hat shape from John Lewis which would form the basis of the hat, but after that, I hadn’t a clue what to do. Nevertheless, I found some fabric and started draping it around the shape and something started to come together. I folded the fabric in different ways and decided upon a pleated effect. One step at a time, the hat took shape. Finally the addition of a few feathers (also bought from John Lewis!) and voila – a hat made with beginner’s mind (although I didn’t realise it at the time!). Amazingly I got lots of compliments about it and much admiration when people discovered that I’d made it myself!
So yes, one step at a time – and focussing on the process which is unfolding rather than letting the mind run ahead towards what we assume will be the end result. When you learn something new, you concentrate on first one step and then the next. Have you ever watched a toddler learning to walk? They stand up, take a few steps forward and then fall down. Then they’re up again, holding the same focus of attention and determination. One step at a time. And another and another. Then whump! All fall down again. That’s beginners mind, too. You get up, you fall down and you get up again.
Living in the here and now is another basic tenet that is a life art. Everyone is capable of living in the present, even if it’s only every now and again (!). You can do it easily, for example, in a dangerous situation like when you’re driving in fog. The mind instantly becomes intensely focused in the NOW. The same is true if you’re told you’ve got a life-threatening illness. Bam! The present moment suddenly becomes vital and the little things in life so precious and oh! so important! All the background niggles and complaints and the average ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (to quote Shakespeare again) which hum in the background of your consciousness simply disappear as they’re relegated to the “unimportant” file.
But we don’t have to experience negative events to be able to be totally in the present. Pleasurable, ecstatic and orgasmic moments will also keep you in the now. Being entranced or enchanted with an experience will do the same. I remember my first tour of Rajasthan many years ago. I was so utterly engrossed in the colours and sights and sounds that were coming at me every moment, I would often lose all sense of time. Why? Because right then, I was completely in the NOW.
Children are wonderful examples of people living fully in the moment. Give a tiny baby a finger to hold and it will do so taking all the time in the world and with awe and wonder etched all over its face. Nothing else is as important as examining that finger and feeling what it’s like to hold it! Likewise when a child sails a boat in the bath, blows bubbles, or stares at strangers on the bus, it’s all done totally in the present. It’s one pointed. It’s all- encompassing and meditational.
Are any of you held back in life through a fear of failure, I wonder? I know I have been!! This is fear about doing something you haven’t yet done because you doubt yourself and lack the confidence to do it. Starting something new can be a real stimulus for getting yourself out of a rut and experiencing beginner’s mind. You never know what you can do until you try! Use some EFT to tap away the fear and resistance. It really helps!
Going back to basics and looking at these foundational aspects of personal development is something we can all do, no matter how long we’ve been working on ourselves. I’m doing it myself at the moment as I find I’m currently in a space of not knowing due to my present circumstances of trying to find a buyer for my flat and move to Norwich as planned. People keep asking me what’s happening and I keep saying “I don’t know”. I suddenly twigged that this was a gift and that I should capitalize upon my state of unknowing! Whenever the future is uncertain, a back to basics attitude is very strengthening and uplifting.
Maybe you’d like to try giving yourself a refresher by going back to basics as well? Go one step at a time. Practice focussing on the now rather than thinking about the past or the future. Do what feels right rather than doing what you think you should do, or what you think others want you to do. Avoid assumptions wherever possible. Remind yourself to keep your mind open to whatever gifts the Universe may have in store for you. Witness the process of your unfolding and trust it will bring you everything you need. And remember: it’s OK to be like a toddler learning to walk. Just take a few steps and don’t worry if or when you fall down. Recall the words of that that old song : “Pick yourself up, brush yourself down and start all over again”. And remember to tell yourself all is well because essentially, it is!