The Fear and Magic of Beginner’s Mind

The Fear and Magic of Beginner's Mind

Prefer to listen?


I have a bad habit of over researching. I tend to gently slip my way into learning something without committing to it. I watch, I read, I learn. And when it finally gets to be too much and I have to face the fact that it's time to actually DO... there's a clash. My mind and my body don't match up. I get frustrated with not being able to do it, because I "know" so much. I am thrown into the beginners seat, and into the realization that learning something with my mind doesn't make me an expert. Only doing it does.

If you've been with me for any length of time, you probably heard my story on how I researched mixed media and art journaling for TWO YEARS before putting a brush to paper. I thought I learned my lesson... but, you'll probably chuckle when I tell you this, I did it again. With karate. (Old habits die hard, right?)

To be fair, I had no interest or intention of doing it for myself when I signed my kids up and started intently watching the classes. But still, almost two years later when I realized I wanted to do it too, I had to wait until I was "ready".

Why do we wait so long
to begin something new that we're interested in?

Why do we "prepare ourselves" so much if it rarely changes the experience of beginning? Why do we try to cheat ourselves out of being a beginner, rejecting the beautiful, exciting state of beginner's mind?

Perhaps because of our intent focus on the outcome? Or maybe it's a fear of failure, or of looking uneducated or "stupid".

We know intellectually that we can't possibly be good at something if we've never done it before. That it takes time and practice to become good at anything. And the hard truth is, we are more often in a state of not knowing, than we are in truly knowing.

It's funny really, how we humans are pretty confident beings despite how little we actually know. I mean, I suppose we have to be in order to make any sort of decision; and we're faced with literally thousands of decisions each day. Our brains are magnificent, constantly making judgement calls to guide us through life, filling in our gaps of knowledge with the most likely information, and making calculations to predict the future. The problem is, we can only make those calculations based on what we already know or what we think we know, which leaves open the possibility that we're incorrect, especially if our information is faulty or out of date.

There is so much you know, and yet so much more that you don't know; and even more still... so much that you don't know that you don't know. This is true for us all, and yet we all work so hard at denying that we don't know something, we work so hard at avoiding or rushing through ever truly being an open-minded beginner.

The ironic thing is:

We can only learn and grow, and we are only ever really happy, when we dare to be naive, when we get present to enjoy the journey with fresh new eyes of a "beginner".

I've seen it for myself - The other week I was thrown into something new without a moments notice to prepare. I had joined my daughters in a new group karate class, and it just so happened to be the day they were practicing kata. (For simplicity sake, let's just say that's when you stand up in front of an audience on your own to demonstrate a series of karate techniques.) Now, I've been in the spotlight before - I've given a speech or two (in which I spent months preparing for), and I have shown myself on video (with approximately 20+ takes with each one) - but this was different.

If I had known ahead of time, I may have not gone. I may have told myself I wasn't ready. That I needed to practice more. Or maybe that demonstrating wasn't something I needed to work on right now. Or perhaps I would have sat in anxiety about it for days before it actually happened.

But alas, there I was in class, and my turn was approaching. I couldn't refuse. My heart was racing, I tried to calm myself. I knew the moves. It was just a matter of getting up there and doing it. So I took a deep breath, stepped up, announced myself with what felt like a bit of confidence. I could do this! I move into the kata, giving it my all. Then, half-way through, out of nowhere, my body starts shaking. My legs turn to jelly. I try to hit harder with every move, willing my body to turn solid again. But it was no use, my body trembled uncontrollably until I somehow made it through to the end.

Later I had a good laugh about it with my kids, then again with my Sensei. "Could you see me shaking!? I was literally trembling like a leaf!" But I survived. And what's more, in being open and honest about my experience, I received the support I needed to move forward and actually be excited to try again. They all knew just how hard it is to do something for the first time, to do something in front of an audience, to face your fears. They've all been there themselves, many times, as I'm sure you have as well.

One of the things we try to practice in martial arts, is something called shoshin, or "beginner's mind". So, doing my best to embrace this (and knowing that if I waited too long to do it again I'd probably loose my nerve!), I asked one of the other adults from my usual class to join me next time. I was curious to see how long it would take for me to be able to get up there and not be shaking in my boots! So every Saturday we faced our fears, stepped up in front of the group, and did our best. Over and over and over again. It got easier each time and it was exciting to see ourselves grow.

Reflecting back, I see how jumping into it in this way was way easier (and more rewarding!) than spending weeks, months, or even years preparing myself. I progressed much faster than if I had spent time "getting ready" to start, and I avoided all the anxiety that would have created. After diving in head first as a total unprepared beginner, I had the courage to keep going. And wouldn't you know - my partner and I got promoted soon after!

More and more I'm beginning to fully understand shoshin, and that it is the only way to journey on the path to black belt (and the path of life) - with a beginner's mind; not just when we start something new, but in every moment.

As we develop knowledge, our minds naturally become more closed and we tend to dismiss much of what we hear. Our minds are wired to search for confirmation of our current philosophy or previous experience, rather than being open to new information.

The Art of BeginningBut with a beginner's mind, open and free from preconceptions, we are willing to move forward and make mistakes, we listen more deeply and see more clearly, we are eager to hear new perspectives, we are open to question old beliefs, we are able to be present with what actually is, we see the world anew with wonderment and awe...

To allow yourself to remain as a beginner, opens you up to expand exponentially.

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

If you look to this moment as a new beginning, suddenly this moment isn't the same as all other moments. Suddenly you aren't confined by your brain's map of the world, suddenly possibility opens up. Things can be different than before. You can make a different choice.

And the beauty of life is, each moment we are offered the opportunity to begin again. And if we embrace it, life becomes an endless adventure of possibility.


Here's to new beginnings!

Much love to you,

 

{Creative} Soul Truths #4

Unfortunately our society tends to dismiss play for adults, and perceives it as unproductive, petty, or as a “guilty pleasure”. We’ve formed the belief that in order for something to be meaningful or legitimate, we have to work hard at it. Yet recent studies are showing us that play and rest are essential; it’s just as important as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercise.

Play helps us to relieve stress, manage emotions, connect deeper with ourselves, and create stronger and more meaningful bonds with others.

The truth is, we can simultaneously be productive, be helpful, be of service, finish our tasks, AND be light, playful beings. Because play has more to do with your willingness to be uninhibited, to be imaginative, to be joyful. Play is about allowing yourself to express your spirit without restraint. Play is about allowing yourself to be YOU.

Play is more than just being child-like, it’s a transformative, vulnerable state to be in. It’s surrender of the ego. It’s choosing curiosity and aliveness. It’s letting go of outcomes or expectations, and being fully present to the here and now. It’s responding to what’s happening with curiosity, instead of reacting – and there’s where real transformation can happen.

And when you pair play with expressing yourself in an art journal, it becomes a vehicle for powerful healing! Art journaling is a beautiful (and fun!) way to free your Soul, and to facilitate your self growth; allowing you to explore and express your inner self. It shouldn’t be put on your “guilty pleasures” list – with it directly linked to our mental health, it should be top priority!

It doesn’t have to be as hard and stressful as we sometimes make it out to be either. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it “right”, and to search for meaning. But change, transformation, and self expression can happen with ease and play! As long as you allow yourself to play and follow your intuition, the transformation you seek will naturally happen. So stop stressing yourself out about art journaling. You can’t do it wrong!

You are here to dance a splendid dance in this lifetime and to feel the fullness of who you are! Allow play to be the easeful, fun way in which you align yourself and your life with who you truly are!

TIP: Start by practicing showing up to your art journal and committing to just one minute of play with paints or crayons. And if possible, create with young children – kids are masters at play and creativity, let them lead the way!

Much love to you!!

{Creative} Soul Truths #3: Breaking Through the Stuck


A creative block can show up in many different ways... Sometimes it's avoidance or procrastination. Or the opposite - getting caught in the research trap, constantly watching YouTube videos or tutorials. Or maybe you start buying all the new supplies, gathering so much that you feel overwhelmed by the choices. Perhaps you have a loud inner critic that's telling you that you aren't good enough, so why bother. Perhaps you approach your journal tentatively, so afraid of messing things up or doing it "wrong".

However you experience your stuck, if you try to force through it or yell at your inner critic to 'shut up' (or ignore it!), you're only digging yourself deeper into the rut.

Look, we live in a world where the logical mind is King. Our culture, especially here in the US, relies so heavily on the mind and the "left-brain" way of thinking. We honor logic, structure, speed, control; so much so that we often let our minds run on auto-pilot. Your mind is used to being in control. To let go, so that you can create freely, is really scary and threatening.

If you're feeling like there's a force field between you and your art materials, you're probably right. Your mind (aka ego, aka inner critic) will do anything to protect you. It will do anything to stay in control, the way you were taught to. It will do anything to protect your inner child or inner artist from getting hurt again. So yelling at it, or trying to force it to stand down so your intuitive, creative Soul can lead the way, will only make it stand firmer in place.

Your mind is only doing it's job. And it's scared to let go. The only way to loosen its grip, is to face it bravely with compassion. (The climax scene in Disney's movie Moana comes to mind!)



Much love to you!!



P.S. You don't have to go it alone. We'll be facing our inner stuck with compassion, together in the journey ROOTS, starting September 28th. In the meantime, try this: Start practicing compassion with yourself in the little daily moments. Then, start exploring: What would help your mind to feel safe enough to play in an art journal?




Moving Past BIG (and little) Fears..

I’ve held a BIG dream to gather a community of women to support each other in exploring our inner landscape with creativity for so long… and now that I’m getting closer to realizing this dream, I’m feeling sick to my stomach.

So much fear and worry and excitement has been bubbling up, I can hardly bare it.

I’ve been finding myself getting lost in thoughts, worrying about details that don’t really matter, worrying about whether people will want to join me, worrying that others are already building communities, worrying that my dream will fail…

Noticing this pattern, I started searching everywhere for help or tools or something to guide me in moving past all this to get back to focusing on what really mattered – taking steps to get me closer to realizing this dream of mine.

I’ve been fumbling for months; muddling through the fear and searching for answers, while still trying to get closer to my dream. That is, until today…

After sending out an OH SO SCARY, vulnerable email to a select few women, it hit me… I knew all along how to move past my fear and realize my dream. I’ve done it before. I could do it again.

And the answer is so much more simple than I had realized.

(And of course, this answer came from within, and not from my endless search for help. Oh how easy it is to forget that we have everything we need within! Sometimes we just need a simple reminder of the truth we have within us. Which is why I share my stories with you, and why I want to gather women to share even more stories.)

Anyway, back to the truth of moving past fear…

I realized that the answer was simple: Stay in the moment and take one tiny step at a time.

Simple. Right?

But it’s not so easy to remember when we’re caught up in fear, lost in our mind’s thinking. But when we finally remember… oh how powerful it is!

It’s the same technique I used to get myself across the country for my first scary trip alone. And it’s the same technique I teach in my class Roots to help others get past their creative blocks – to simply get present and focus on the one tiny step in front of us.

I like to think of my mind as a computer that can only think about the past or the future (which often generates fear, or uncertainty, or guilt, etc). But when we get present in the here and now, that’s the realm of the heart and our intuition. That’s where we’ll find the courage to move forward.

When traveling across the country alone, I was only able to get past my fear by telling myself to just focus on that next step: “Okay, all I have to do is pack my bag.” Then, “Okay, all I need to do is set my alarm for 6am.” Then, “All I need to do is get in the car.” Next, “All I need to do is drive to the airport.” And so on.

Putting hyper focus on the one tiny step in front of you… there’s no room to think about what might happen next. There’s no room for the fear to step in.

And when you have that level of focus and forward movement, there’s no telling what dreams you’re capable of accomplishing!

What one step are you willing to take next?

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about my upcoming community, send me an email! I’ll only be opening it to a small group of women to become the founding members as we grow the space. Will you be one of them?

Dear “Ugly” Page…

Art Journaling 101 - a FREE e-course designed to gently introduce beginners to the basics of art journaling so you can find your way with more ease and less fearThis article is part of my FREE e-course Art Journaling 101 – which has been designed to gently introduce beginners to the basics of art journaling so you can find your way with more ease and less fear. If you’re curious about art journaling or overwhelmed with how to begin, sign up for the full free course HERE.


Dear Ugly Page

Dear ugly page,

I know you didn’t mean to cause such turmoil. But as you emerged within my journal, I was faced with so many thoughts and emotions that almost brought me to tears.

I guess I was secretly hoping that you would turn into something beautiful… something that I could look back on and smile, something I could share with the world. Because when you didn’t, I was flooded with disappointment and frustration. I began to worry, “Why can’t I create something I love?”

That’s when it hit me – I was putting conditions on my love for you … when all you’ve ever done was bring me joy, and insight, and relief.

What right do I have to withhold my love for you when all you did was become who you were meant to be?

What right do I have to tell you who you should or should not be?

You were created as an expression of my Soul. You are what needed to be released, what needed to be born. You are evidence that I have the magic to create something from nothing. You are the evidence of creativity flowing through me. You are the evidence of me honoring ME.

So I thank you.

I thank you for having the courage to be who you are without fear or shame, so that I may learn to do the same – flaws and all.

I thank you for reminding me to enjoy the process of creating, releasing, and expressing; and to relish every moment I have to share with you.

I thank you for showing me that there is much more in life beyond my thoughts, beyond my ego; and that there are discoveries to be made around every corner.

And I thank you for unapologetically showing up when you knew you weren’t what I was hoping for, to remind me to celebrate where I am today instead of always looking to the future. I thank you for being that physical reminder of where I am right here and now, so that I may look back on my growth as a creative, as a woman, as a human, as a Soul.

You have given me all of this and more. So I thank you.

With love,

P.S. Perhaps you are beautiful after all.