Happy Monday, mindful ones!
Sho Shin is a concept in Zen Buddhism that means ‘a beginner’s mind.’ There are four states of mind in Zen Buddhism. This week, we’ll discuss the first state.
Sho Shin is characterized by an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a complete lack of preconceptions when studying a subject or beginning an endeavor.
Think about when you took your first yoga class. Or first 100 for that matter! You were excited and so eager to learn everything about this ancient practice! Your mind was like a sponge, simply and enthusiastically absorbing every thing you could about yoga.
When you are in a state of shoshin you are feeling enthusiastic, creative and above all optimistic.
It’s easy to be fired up about new, exciting endeavors. The practice is to remain open-minded and optimistic when you’ve practiced for many, many years and are considered an ‘expert.’
One of the key aspects of shoshin is an absence of preconceptions and a general sense of optimism. When you are in a state of shoshin you shouldn’t be thinking too much about what you think is going to happen, you should just be eager to accept whatever comes and assured it will all be for the best.
This release of preconceptions and attitude of viewing everything with fresh eyes is one of shoshin’s most valuable qualities. You can work on placing yourself in a state of shoshin even when doing something you’ve done before to keep each experience fresh and to ensure that you aren’t making poor decisions based on preconceived biases. It also helps train you to keep a positive and eager outlook about everything that might come your way.
For this reason, I always try to keep my teaching as well as my personal practice fresh with new and different sequencing and transitions. In order to do this, I MUST continue to practice with new and different teachers. I must continue to expand my knowledge base and work tirelessly to cultivate a state of shoshin. I often see experienced students turn on auto-pilot in class and assume they know where we are going next.
The danger of an ‘expert’s mind’ is that few possibilities exist in this mind. Less aspects of a situation are questioned and more are assumed. This often results in a narrowed perception and performing tasks on autopilot without room for a fresh, new perspective. Things are always done a certain way with no opportunities for improvement.
So how do we cultivate shoshin in our everyday lives and on our mats?
Just like all programs of thoughts in our minds, new thought patterns can be cultivated. Meditating and practicing gratitude are scientifically measurable ways to literally create new gray matter. Cultivating a beginner’s mind is exactly the same.
- Try to approach situations without assumptions or expectations.
- Don’t judge as good or bad. Be open to any outcome.
- Be curious! Question with interest and wonder!
- Switch things up. Drive a different route. Practice at a different time. Move your mat to a different place in the room.
- Empty your mind!