The Fear and Magic of Beginner’s Mind

The Fear and Magic of Beginner's Mind

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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,

 

Better Than Self-Love?

It’s that time of year again – where hearts and cupids are everywhere we look, and the self development world is plastering quotes on self-love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love. But why does it have to be centered around buying more stuff, and what the heck does self-love mean anyway?

Love can mean very different things from one person to the next. And the road toward self-love can be long and hard, and is very personal. Yet, self-love is often spoken of as if it were a switch that could be simply turned on. And even more so, we often paint the picture that self-love is an idealized state where we only feel positive feelings towards ourselves.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Loving ourselves does not mean our inner critical voice is suddenly shut off, or that we never suffer, or that we don’t become disappointed in ourselves.

And from my experience, you can’t just decide to love something or someone and immediately have it be so. It takes intention, nurturing, and most of all time. Trying to force an end result without first focusing on the steps to get there can be disheartening.

What happens when you fail at something, or don’t meet your own expectations? What happens if you kind of hate a part of yourself? What happens when you decide to love yourself, you struggle with it, and then perhaps you start to think thoughts like: “Why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?” What happens when you think overly critical or hateful thoughts, then turn it around and say something loving – but it only makes you feel worse because you don’t truly believe it?

It’s exactly in moments like these where telling ourselves to be more loving might actually backfire.

So what then?

What if instead, we focused more on being compassionate toward ourselves?

Doesn’t that already feel oh so much lighter? Self compassion doesn’t ask us to judge ourselves, it’s simply a way of relating to ourselves kindly. It allows us to embrace ourselves as we are right now, flaws and all. It gives us permission to feel the way we feel without shame. It gives us a more solid sense of self worth because it’s there for us when we fail. It deeper connects us to others because it reminds us that to be human is to be imperfect.

You already have the roadmap and the skills to be compassionate. I can bet that you at least try to be compassionate with your good friends and loved ones. So there’s nothing more you need to learn; it’s simply a softening in to include yourself in the encouragement, understanding, empathy, patience, and gentleness you offer others.

I believe that once we stop treating ourselves so differently and show ourselves the same compassion as we do others, we will come to truly acknowledge our shared nature of our imperfect humanity – thus opening our hearts even wider to others and ourselves, in turn creating a more loving world all around.

Much love to you!!

{Creative} Soul Truths #5

You already have everything you need. Your authentic Soul voice is bright, beautiful, and patently waiting to freely express itself.

Its quiet voice is always speaking to you, through what we call intuition, even if you can’t quite hear it now. We all have intuition… it’s our inner knowing, or what I like to call the language of our Soul. It’s the part of you that speaks the truth about who you are and what you want. So basically, it’s your life road map to living your purpose, and your most fulfilled, joyful life!

If we get present and follow its urges when we sit down to create, we will develop an art journaling practice that can ultimately bring us more confidence, happiness, self-awareness, healing, and a newfound sense of wholeness.

If doing that feels impossible for you right now, then for one reason or another, your mind is trying to protect you from letting your creative spirit free, from letting your intuitive Soul lead the way. (You’re not alone! It’s a totally natural part of being human.) The key then, is to go gently, with compassion, and start to build trust between your mind and your intuitive Soul.

Your mind is so used to being in control and predicting outcomes. For us to truly get present and follow our Soul’s whims one step at a time, means to step into the scary unknown. That place of unknowing, of uncertainty, can feel dark and filled with monsters. We will hold on for dear life and fight tooth and nail not to be thrown off the edge into that scary space!

So the only way in, is to start slow, start gently, hold that compassion for the part of you that’s scared sh**less, celebrate yourself every step of the way, and build trust that when you listen to your intuition, everything will indeed be okay.

TIP: Practice being present and becoming an observer of your thoughts. When fears or judgements come up, acknowledge it without running away, then choose courage – what one step are you willing to take next?

I so hope that you have found this Soul Truths series to be helpful and inspiring!

If you would love to get more support around connecting to and building trust with your creative, intuitive Soul so that you may express yourself more fully in your journal (and in life!), then I invite you to join me and a community of other Soul Seekers in my 6-week program Creative Soul Roots. (We start Sept 28th, 2019!)

In it, I’ll guide you through a series of fun, creative exercises that will help you to put these Soul Truths into action, nurture your creative Soul, and develop the skills needed to get out of your head and into your heart.
Click Here for more info & to reserve your spot!

Whether you decide to join us or not, I know for certain that if you’re here, then creative expression is the path you were meant to take to help liberate your Soul. I know you can do this, don’t give up!

Much love to you!!

{Creative} Soul Truths #2: The One Thing That Often Keeps Us Creatively Stuck


There's one thing that people tend to get stuck on when they crave a nourishing art journaling practice ---> trying to "figure it out".

Look, I get it. There are SOOOO many drool-worthy artists out there sharing addicting how-to videos, so many different fun supplies to try out, and yeah, I totally geek out on research.

But the truth is, practicing in an art journal isn't about figuring out how to do it, it's about learning to navigate your inner world and the unknown.

You don't have to know what you're doing, to know what you're doing. You may never discover a formula. And when expressing yourself, you will never know where it will lead. But what you will discover, is what works for you in terms of feeling into your intuition, getting past the hard parts, finding the joy, and navigating the fear monsters.

We often crave rules and step-by-step instruction because we want to do it "right". We want to know what to expect. We want to know what we're heading into. Predictability feels safe. Control feels safe. But with true, authentic creative expression, there is no right or wrong. There is no step-by-step guide. We need to embrace the unexpected. We need to be open to mystery and surprise!

In fact, the less you know, the better.

I know all too well how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of art journaling - delving into the infinite possibilities of techniques, and exploring how other people approach their journal. We tend to over complicate things (at least, I know I do!), especially when we want to learn something new. We dive deep into learning everything there is to know about it, searching for the one "right" way to do it. We start comparing our work to others'. We get hung up with how-to's and perfecting… unintentionally squashing the fun-loving, curious part of ourselves that just wants to create and play with child-like freedom.

But for your Soul to shine through onto the page (and into your life!), you must get out of your head, and into your heart.

You must step into that space of the unknown… That place where you have no idea what to expect next. That place where anything can happen. That's where the magic lies!



Always in curiosity and love,





P.S. Here's a TIP: Approach your journal without a plan and without a vision. You don't (and shouldn't!) know how you're going to start or where it's going to lead. Instead, follow your intuitive urges one step at a time, allowing something to emerge naturally.




{Creative} Soul Truths #1

Welcome to my mini series – Soul Truths! My hope is that if you’ve been feeling creatively stuck, what I share will help you get clear on why that is, and inspire you to start trusting in your Creative Soul once more!

Without further adieu, here’s your first Soul Truth:

Just in case you’ve ever doubted it… YES, your Soul is inherently creative!

But, that doesn’t mean you should be creating gorgeous art right out the gate. If you’re just returning to your creativity, or just starting to learn to create from your Soul (versus copying others or an image), then you’re going to suck at it. But that’s okay!

Here’s the deal – We ALL were born as curious, creative beings. If you’re human, you have the ability to be creative. You can think of it as a quality within you that’s perhaps been stifled, or you can imagine that there’s a stream of creativity that’s available for everyone to tap into – you just gotta learn to do the tapping in. We all started out trusting our creativity (have you ever watched children create!?), but for one reason or another, that part of us got left behind. So to begin our journey of learning to authentically express ourselves with art, we must start from where we left off… as beginners.

You can’t expect to be able to do something as well as someone else who’s been practicing for years. Don’t let other artists’ work intimidate you or make you feel not good enough… They’ve likely been practicing for much longer, and if you stick with it, you’ll get better at it too.

Your inner artist, is most likely a young child who’s so eager to play, to create, to explore, to have FUN! It doesn’t need criticizing or judgment from you, only encouragement. We must allow our inner artists to be that child, that beginner; paying less attention to what our expressions look like, and more attention to how it FEELS.

The more you allow yourself to play, experiment, and make mistakes, you’ll start to build a foundation and understanding of how things come together so you can start finding your own authentic style!

TIP: Don’t isolate yourself. Find community support with other beginners and have fun! (And perhaps step away from Pinterest and Instagram for a while!)

Much love to you!!