In this series I will write down some of my experiences of the journey towards a more mindful self and the process of building the mindfulness habit with the support of training from Mindfulness Association. In part it’s for myself to take note of the bigger bumps on the road during this journey as well as ink the reflections on learning that may be useful going further. Nevertheless a casual reader may resonate with my experience, be encourage to reflect on their own or simply find some value in it.
I came to my first weekend of training not as a newbie to mindfulness. I’ve had prior experience of practising, teaching and training it. And even though I consider myself to be rather open to new experiences, here came the judgemental mind: “Argh, these teachers, they could use better metaphors to illustrate their point”, “Ehh, last time I did this exercise it was different, better, yeah I‘m sure it was better”, “Argh, the voice of instructor is not that soothing”, “I know this stuff already, is it even worth being here?”… and on and on it went.
I guess it’s not so surprising after all as even science suggests that “self-perceptions of expertise increase closed-minded cognition” (Ottati et al 2015). In other words, if we consider ourselves somewhat competent and experienced in a certain area, our mind may resist new ideas, experiences and learning.
But the judgement spree softened up after lesson number one: adopt the beginners mind. Well it wasn’t a lesson per se, but was the first key thing I picked up that stuck with me throughout the course. Beginners mind is the attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of assumptions or preconceptions you approach experiences with. Well at least you try, as by no means the attitude shift happens at the snap of fingers. It’s always work in progress. And catching the small space between “woohoo, I just learnt a new thing” and “I’m an expert, I’m done here” and adopting the beginners mind again and again is… um, let’s just say tiring.
So why bother? Because, however cheesy it may sound, there is always something to learn from each experience and every person you meet, be it a pleasant or an unpleasant one. Pushing it away with pre-judgement would narrow down the scope of your experience and deprive you of the benefits and the richness of life. Be it a mundane encounter or a difficult moment, there is a pinch of value there, maybe for you, maybe for the other or the wider world. Let it happen, don’t scare it off.
Ottati, V., Price, E. D., Wilson, C., & Sumaktoyo, N. (2015). When self-perceptions of expertise increase closed-minded cognition: The earned dogmatism effect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 61, 131-138. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.08.003