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Beginners Mind

The Wheel of the Year has turned to a time of New Beginnings. I’m excited because I’m on an initiatory journey myself this year. I’ve started a 13 month “Witch Class” led by my friend Ani whom I’ve admired for years. 


I started on this path around five years ago and attempted to build practice based on Starhawk’s “Twelve Wild Swans” by incorporating the lessons into my herb class. Even with a roadmap it's not a good idea to try to lead a journey you personally haven't traveled. 


As an herbalist, I naturally have lived the cycles and the seasons and feel most alive when I’m in sync. 


So this new, in depth study and practice has me thinking about the Zen concept of Beginner’s Mind. 


It’s really a universal concept.


Jesus said we must become as little children because in their minds they haven’t been told they are sinners devoid of divine guidance and spiritual life. 


Ernest Holmes said “The life of a child is lived in natural goodness. God is natural Goodness. The prison walls of false experience soon build themselves into barriers, shutting out the light, and the child grows into man, often losing his sense of that inner Guide, leading his footsteps aright. We must become as little children who know that life is good and to be trusted.” 


That to me, is beginner’s mind.


As most of you know, my passion, my avocation in life is that I’m an herbalist. One of the most amazing examples of beginner’s mind I get to see is when I get to take someone out who’s never known the pleasure of tasting wild foods or finding medicine at their feet before and watching them not only trust but find the joy in learning about the wild things. 


Nothing like a group of middle aged women out on the edges of a parking lot, eating weeds to really exemplify beginners mind  and being like little children. Sheer joy!


To arrive at that place requires curiosity. For those of us who haven’t lost that childlike curiosity, the world wears a question mark.This attitude of wonder, interest, and investigation brings many rewards. For example, engaging our minds actively as we age helps preserve the functioning of our brains. Use it or lose it!Plus you gather lots of useful information - about yourself, other people, the world, God- by looking around. We also see the larger context, the big picture, the long game and thus become less affected by any single person or event itself: not so driven to get more of what you like, and not so stressed and unsettled by what we don't like. Equanimity. Curious people are typically not self-centered. Sure, they are interested in the inner workings of their own psyche - curiosity is a great asset for healing, growth, and awakening - but they're also very engaged with the world and others. Maybe that's why we usually like curious people.

How do we cultivate curiosity if we’ve become a little stagnant?

To begin with, curiosity requires a willingness to see whatever is under the rocks we turn over or tasting whatever weed your herbalist friend says is safe to eat.  


But occasionally you find something or someone that sets off your alarms. In this case, it helps to observe from a distance. Intuition is a gift of the spirit. Surround it with spaciousness, knowing that whatever you've found is just one part of a larger whole. With that willingness, curiosity expresses itself in action, through looking deeper and wider - and then looking again.Much of what we're curious about is really cool, such as the development of children, the doings of friends, or the workings of a new computer. And sometimes it pays to be curious about some sort of issue. 


As an illustration, let's say you've been feeling irritable about a situation. (You also can apply the practices below to different aspects of your mind, or to other people or to situations in the world.)

Looking deeper means being interested in what's under the surface. For example, what previous situations does it remind you of - particularly ones when you were young and most affected by things?Looking wider means broadening your view:

What are other aspects of the situation, such as the good intentions of others, or your own responsibility for events?

What factors could be at work in your mind? For example, have you worked too much lately, or felt underappreciated, or not eaten or slept well? Did you appraise the situation as a lot worse, or a lot more threatening, than it actually was? Did you take it personally? 

Looking again means being active in our investigating. Keep unraveling the knot of whatever you're curious about, teasing apart the threads, opening them up and seeing what's what. 


Don't take the first explanation as the final one. There's an underlying attitude of wonder and fearlessness. Like a child, a cat, a scientist, a saint, or a poet, we see the world anew. 


This curiosity applies especially to our relationship with Spirit as much or more so as the other aspects of our lives. The self knowing mind is our conscious mind change your thinking, change your life.  


Ernest Holmes tells us that to contemplate is to know within the self. To design, propose, meditate, In its deeper meaning, to become one with. Emerson said that the mind which contemplates God, becomes God.  


Spirit in me, as me, is me. Natural goodness. 


And so it begins.


Happy New Year!


Randi


*A note about my use of the word God: Please substitute any concept or name you are comfortable with. For me, I really mean the Sacred Energy that is behind everything, “The Manifest Universe is the Body of God” 


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