“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
– Shunryu Suzuki
Beginner’s mind is our ability to approach each new moment with the attitudes of curiosity, openness, eagerness, patience, and lack of preconceptions. As with every moment in life, the New Year is a wonderful opportunity to enter with the intention of embodying beginner’s mind all year long.
Intentions are our heartfelt, intuitively based, and powerful internal agreements that we make with ourselves, and then express through our actions, whether it’s in our relationships, at work, or on our meditation cushion. Intentions foster focus, motivation, determination, patience, and perseverance—all qualities that enable us to sustain and deepen our sense of value, purpose, and meaning in life. If we don’t set and honor firm intentions, we can find ourselves wandering aimlessly off course in our life.
Don’t miss Richard Miller’s workshop on Beginner’s Mind to Begin the New Year: The Power of Heartfelt Intentions on January 4. Click here to register for the free live event.
A simple, specific intention can be to engage beginner’s mind all day long by taking one-minute reflection breaks throughout the day for ensuring we are staying on track, regardless of our state of mind or the length of our to-do lists. Or, we could have the intention to engage an end-of-day review for assessing how successful we were at living in beginner’s mind.
We could also set intentions to inquire into emotions and beliefs that draw us away from being in beginner’s mind, to develop our interoceptive awareness of all that’s arising in our body and mind that takes us away from being open and curious. No intention is either too small or too large. The point is to discover and affirm intentions that feel right.
Genuine intentions arise from our Essential Nature—the innate force that animates our body to breathe, eat, find shelter, or seek enlightenment wherein we realize our interconnectedness with ourselves and all of life.
Take time with the exercise below to discover and engage your genuine intentions. Keep in mind that intentions are concise statements that harness your life force and determination. It’s important, then, when building intentions to say what you mean and mean what you say. Instead of saying, “I may,” or, “I can,” or “I will,” affirm, “I do!”
To start, write down words or phrases that best describe your answers to the following questions. Take time to ponder each question. Your answers should be practical and realistic according to your present lifestyle and situation. Remember, it’s better to do little and succeed than to be overly ambitious and not succeed.
Now, reread your responses and pay attention to how true each intuitively feels in your body. For instance, when you affirm each statement, does it feel “right” in your gut or heart, not just in your thinking mind? Circle keywords or phrases that resonate with you.
Then, express each intention as a concise statement of fact in the present tense, as if it’s already true. This enables your subconscious mind to register your intentions as actualities, instead of possibilities, giving them the power to materialize. For example, instead of saying, “I will meditate five days a week, for 20 minutes each time,” instead affirm, “I meditate five days a week, for 20 minutes each time.”
Next, pick one, two, or even three intentions and shorten them into simple, easily remembered phrases. For instance: “I meditate three times a week, for 20 minutes each time,” can be stated as, “Three and 20!” “I’m kind and compassionate toward myself and others,” becomes, “Kindness!” And “I speak truth in every moment,” becomes, “Truth!”
Finally, repeat your intentions internally to yourself, at the beginning and end of each day, throughout your day, and at the beginning and end of every meditation practice. Always affirm your intentions with deep feeling and certainty, with your entire body and mind.
Follow the steps above and watch what happens this year when, for instance, you’re slipping into bed at the end of the day without having nourished your deepest heartfelt intentions. Your intentions will then prompt you to take a few minutes and re-state them to yourself.
Strong intentions keep you on track, no matter what’s going on in your life. Nourish and affirm your intentions with patience, persistence, perseverance, and love, and they will never fail you, for, as stated in the Rig Veda, your intentions “…line the path that enables you to overcome all trials, tribulations, and suffering. Following and affirming your intentions is the true path that leads to genuine happiness.”
Click here to register for Richard Miller’s workshop on January 4 at 8pm EST on Beginner’s Mind to Begin the New Year: The Power of Heartfelt Intentions.