Joe: Hi Calliope. Here is my latest Sliding Otter newsletter, based on a theme from my book in progress. Hope you like it.

Learning to Approach Life with a Beginner’s Mind

Sculpture Play

Play Sculpture- Nantucket

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

Shunryu Suzuki

 When we are born, we have no idea what we are supposed to do about anything. Have you ever watched a baby looking around with wonderment at the people, walls, pets or anything else in the room? Everything is new, fascinating and unknown. As we grow up, we develop habitual ways of doing things.

We learn about life from what we see others do and from our experiences. Families, churches and communities have their own traditions, often surviving for decades or even centuries. We grow up with these traditions. But the traditional way is not always best for us or for those around us.

I am not suggesting that all traditions are useless. Many have worked for generations and continue to be effective. We find comfort in traditional ways of doing things. We do not need to think about how to act. Doing the “right” thing brings approval from others who share our traditions. Yet traditions can survive well past their expiration date if we never stop to reconsider them.

We go to doctors for checkups to see if the way we are living is good for our health. We rely on the doctor to tell us how we are doing and whether we need to make any changes in how we live. That doesn’t mean we will make the suggested changes or stick with them, but at least we have a way to gauge or progress. Yet doctors have their own traditions and sometimes suggest outmoded ways for us to live.

What about the rest of our lives beyond the physical? How do we make sense of our actions and know if we are on the right track? We expect religious leaders to be of help and often they are. Yet religions have their own traditions, some healthy and some not so much. Then where do we turn?

That’s where the beginner’s mind comes in. We can take a fresh look at our own habits, traditions and of course any ruts in which we find ourselves. For a little while, we can put aside what we have learned to take as truth. We can see whether our actions are consistent with who we want to be in life. If we follow our old path, does it lead us closer to our goals in life? We can also examine our goals to see how meaningful they are.

We don’t have to pore over our every action and analyze everything we do ad nauseam. But stepping aside from the daily grind on occasion to take stock of ourselves and our way of life can help us get back on course. Take time out and give it a try.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Find a quiet place with no distractions.
  • Set aside some time in your schedule just for you.
  • Think about what is important to you in life.
  • Is that still a worthwhile goal?
  • If not, what could you do different?

Calliope: Thanks Joe. Can’t wait for the book.

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