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,

 

Answering the Call to Create

How to be creative againOne would think answering the call to create is as simple as 1-2-3:

1. Feel the urge.
2. Grab some supplies.
3. Go create.
Right?

Sometimes. But I know all too well it's not always as easy as it sounds. If you're anything like me, you may easily wake up one day with a nine-hour-YouTube-marathon hangover, knee deep in supplies you now feel guilty for buying because you still don’t know what the heck to do with any of it. And even if you did, you know it’ll never turn out the way she did it. Ugh, and let’s not even mention that huge pile of laundry still sitting in the corner and the dirty dishes in the sink. How do those artists make it look so easy??

Let’s face it - that deep yearning inside that’s pulling you feels so bright and promising and invigorating, but it can be confusing and frustrating as hell.

There’s two things that I know for sure:

Yes, You ARE Creative.
And you’re feeling that urge for a reason.

Because here’s the deal: In order to create or express yourself freely and authentically, it needs to come from an authentic place. From within.

Beautiful, you are so much more than you realize. Your Creative Soul is calling you back home.

Life can be harsh. But I want you to know that you always have the most beautiful, knowing, loving guide within you. Your Soul, full of infinite wisdom and creativity, patiently waits for you to come back home and nurture the flames.

So why does it feel so damn hard? And why do we keep getting in our own way?

Because your mind is the one running the show, and it's scared to let go. Our minds are 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 hold on for dear life and fight tooth and nail not to be thrown off the edge into that scary place!

When there's a calling to step into that unknown, many people turn to battle. They try to fight away the voices that tell them not to move on, that tell them they can't, or they're not good enough. They start to beat themselves up for beating themselves up. They try to ignore those inner critical voices, or tell them to shut up. When really, those voices are just scared.

The only true way in, is to simply start walking gently past that edge into the unknown while holding compassion for the part of you that's scared sh**less. Our minds need to build trust that when you listen to your Soul, everything will indeed be okay.


Always in curiosity and love,

 

{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!!

Enough of the Nonsense… Let’s PLAY!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

We look to others who seem free and full of life, playfulness and creativity, with a longing, hopeful heart. And yet we stand here, arms upon our hips, rigid and firm, struggling in pain to hold tight onto an identity that doesn’t quite fit.

Why?

If we so deeply feel the urge to let it all go, to dance in the rain, to feel the wind upon our face, to dip our fingers into the paint… why do we still stand here, pretending to value our nicely kept homes and hard work over our joy?

I know you can feel deep down how much you NEED creativity in your life. How much you NEED to just let loose and express yourself. Many of you have told me.

And yet, here we still sit. Letting our minds hold onto this rigidness and fear. And I say WE, because yes, I too feel this struggle day after day… even after years of honoring my creativity.

Our minds are funny that way… we can see the value in play and creativity, we feel the need to create; and yet our minds tell us we can’t. There’s too much risk, we’re not good enough, we have too much work to do.

We’re stuck between two worlds.

Society has shaped exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth; yet recent studies are showing us that play and rest are essential. Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and clinical researcher, argues that play is not an option.

He writes, “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.”

There’s a part of us that knows this is true. Yet there’s another part of us who still wants to fit in to the norm, to prove our self-worth through societal standards. We are stuck in between, and don’t know which way to turn.

But should we stay here, refusing to choose? NO. Our refusal to choose joy for ourselves right now in this moment, is our refusal to help shift our society into a new way of living that matches our beliefs.

It’s time to act on our belief that we need rest, that we need play, that we need creativity, that we need JOY.

Not only for ourselves, but for our children, for our community, for our world. We have seen enough pain and suffering. We’ve been feeling the confusion and doubt and uncertainty all around us. And yeah, there’s a part of me who just wants to crumble beneath it all. And still, there’s another part of me who wants to rise up and embrace the beauty and wonder and joy in this world… because I know creativity and play are powerful healers.

It’s time to shake loose my friend! Wiggle those fingers. Wiggle those arms. Roll your shoulders. Start to sway from side to side. Let the wiggles roll through your entire being! It’s time to consciously choose joy, one moment at a time.

Let us not wait until the day that permission is handed to us on a silver platter. Let us choose it NOW and help spread the word.

ColorPlaydate

Your mind will fight against it. But what I’ve learned, is that the more I choose play and joy and creativity, the more I remember that letting go will not undo me. The more I remember that this is what fills me up. This is what allows me to be even more productive. Allows me to love more. LIVE MORE.

Our letting go will not undo us. Let us prove our minds wrong, one baby step at a time.

Are you ready to say YES!?

Here’s eight easy ways to start saying yes to play and creativity (and start proving to your mind that there’s nothing to fear!)

#1. Make it a habit to doodle on the foggy mirror with your finger after every shower.

#2. Spend some time with young children – kids are masters at play and creativity, let them lead the way!

#3. Challenge yourself to do a little doodle each day – I’m in love with the book Year of the Doodle by Dawn Sokol! I can’t always remember to do it everyday, but when I do I don’t beat myself up for forgetting and I play quickly without worrying about what it looks like.

#4. Head out for a walk or day trip without a plan. Keep an open, curious mind and see what you can discover!

#5. Start super small. For example, if you’re called towards art journaling or another creative act that feels huge and overwhelming, start by practicing showing up and committing to just one minute of play with paints or crayons.

#6. Keep a brain-dump journal, or start what Julie Cameron calls “morning pages” – simply free write anything that crosses your mind without judgement. Don’t over think it, just write and spill everything out onto the page.

#7. Play with movement throughout your day – skip, swing your arms, twirl around… Have you ever noticed how children move about so freely in their world!?

#8. Join a supportive class or community to create with, such as Creative Soul Roots where we’ll be learning how to deal with our doubting/judging mind and stretching our play muscles!

Just remember: Take baby steps. Be gentle with yourself. Practice showing up for play at least once a day, if even just for a minute. Why not THIS minute? I know you can do it!

Much love to you!!

P.S. Don’t forget to share this with your friends! Let’s unite. Let’s stand together. Let’s Play!!

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.