the Pure Immersions blog

Inspired posts to inspire growth

Maintaining Awe: A Simple Guide for Lifelong Learning

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In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

I watch her with incredulous expressions of interest.  One day it’s a new sound, the next a new movement; a little more comprehension here, slightly more capability there.  Hands stationed on my hips in full “adult pose”, coffee in tow, I try to not let the opportunity pass.

What IS IT about childhood that we lose as we age?

When and why does our innocent curiosity become conditioned response?

How come we associate learning with youth and as adults see ourselves as either: expert or incompetent?  How do we maintain a capacity to be lifelong learners?

How can we increase our receptiveness to the unknown?

It turns out, much is written on the subject of learning– ranging from spiritual to academic discourse.

Here are 2 insights that I love:

  • The Zen Buddhists refer to this state of being (learning is after all as much a process of “being” as it is a process of “doing”) as shoshin.  The Beginners Mind— which is essentially about cultivating a state of humility and openness to the infinite breadth of possibility in life. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin)

For a Beginners Mind daily practice try the following:

  • Practice the “half smile.”  When you wake in the morning (and whenever you feel necessary)–over the course of 3 breaths lift the corners of your mouth slightly.  It doesn’t need to be a full smile, yet your attention should be focused on those slightly lifted corners.  This is a slow-you-down practice that can add a little “Buddha space” to your daily routine.
  • Diminish your assumptions.  Look at “normal situations” differently by responding differently.  As is the case in many centering practices, pause and notice your breath.  Take 5 slow deep breaths, allowing your thoughts to pass.  If you need added assistance in particularly stressful “normal situations” try rubbing the base of your ears while gently closing your eyes.
  • Reduce the input of information in your life.  We have become conditioned to information, yet as Tim Ferris says in The 4 Hour Workweek: “Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources.”

           Learn to impede the flow of useless information so you may fill your cup with more valuable input.  Implement  self-imposed restrictions on use of television, computer, and other devices.  You’d be surprised how much “information” adds little to no value to our lives– stifling our capabilities towards creativity and learning.

…………………………………………….

Why does all of this matter?

All of the aforementioned advice is intended to bring us into harmony with our inner self, while dismantling deeply ingrained conditioned patterns of behavior.

Recovering our “childhood self” is not the impossible, nor unimportant, task society might have us believe.  If we can find our “inner child” we may experience life as wonder-filled participants, where each moment possesses an infinity of potential and joy.

Today, this is what I learn from my expert 1-year-old.

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