Let go completely ♙ Beginner’s Mind

Summer again held Transition in store for me this year, like each of the last seven summers of my life. Driven by purpose, I left my job at Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch (prev. Vulcan Inc.) in late July. I am now committed in actuality, to what I realized some time ago is part of my life’s purpose: to create profound, lasting change with others for the good, by helping them access the most powerful part of their minds using hypnosis.

Since early August, I’ve been working steadily to turn my part time passion into a practice which will provide for my life needs, and to assure the highest quality of interaction and best, most current resources to my clients that I can. As such, as you can imagine, I gave up my some-time passion for rock and alpine climbing short-term.

I miss climbing! I do. Not as the obsession it was to me, or for the sense of achievement it fulfilled, but for the long days on foot, the fatigue of exertion, the sun and the cold, the escape to high and quiet places, and the feel of rock on my fingertip pads. I miss it for the strange mix of calm and exhilaration I felt when engaged in climbing — like I was supercharged — but I admit to myself I simply cannot do both in this season. So for now, having dirt under my fingernails is quite literally a luxury I cannot afford.

During this transition, from a corporate career into full-time private practice as a hypnotherapist and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, I set up an experiment. I asked of myself 30 days of only taking beginners yoga classes. Needless to say, I am not a beginner at yoga, hah! I am a certified yoga instructor. But this commitment served many purposes at once: it would engage my mind in the absence of externally imposed structure; it would strengthen my body which I had allowed to weaken; and it would spite my itch for accomplishment (personal favorite reason). The most important reason I set myself to this task however was to learn more about something I ask of my adult clients every day: Beginner’s Mind.

The results of this month were interesting, so I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first, quickly, you might be asking, “Mandy, what is Beginner’s Mind, and why is it so important?” I looked it up just to make sure I’m explaining it right… From Rhett Power’s intro to his article 11 Ways to Develop a Beginner’s Mind, on Inc.com:

Zen Buddhism teaches a concept of “Beginner’s Mind”, Shoshin, as a positive attribute, something to cultivate. Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki said, in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice,In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

Relevant to someone seeking answers their subconscious already knows, here are my thoughts. My adults clients are experts: they are complex problem solvers and critical thinkers who are usually very aware of their environments. They are skilled at more than one thing, and are highly intelligent. Whatever their goals through our work together, if those could be achieved using their standard tool kit, they would not seek help! We must learn a new way of seeing the obstacles in order to clear them, and that is where Beginner’s Mind is necessary.

When a client contacts me, sometimes there are many firsts happening all at once. We might be meeting and working together for the first time, and as often as not, clients are trying hypnotherapy or NLP for the first time. Some are reaching out for therapeutic assistance of any kind for the first time in their lives! We must develop skill working together. We must develop hypnotic sophistication in the client. We must be comfortable not knowing, so that we can know. We truly explore together, and we must be patient and appropriately gentle, because as an adult there are many intelligent parts of the mind that proclaim, “I know the way to go!” when navigating everyday life. To learn something new, those parts must be taught to let go. And this skill too we develop in the client’s intelligence.

So in any case, that’s what I did: I spent a month intentionally avoiding anything labeled “advanced”, in pursuit of a little gold nugget that I wasn’t sure existed. Three weeks in, this is what happened.

I walk into Sally Carley’s Level I class on Monday afternoon last week at 8 Limbs Yoga Capitol Hill. I had not exercised over the previous four days for various reasons (save for walking around Capitol Hill to stock my fridge). So by all measures I was in need of some movement. Truth be told, more than one voice in my mind was letting me know that I could use a good butt-kicking on the mat — or the treadmill. So, I made it to class! Ready for yoga! I was there!

When I placed my mat down, some of the props students had out looked different. I asked my neighbor about that, and she explained that this would be a Restorative Class… A smile came across my face, but I detected no other response in myself. A little context might help: a Restorative Yoga Class consists of about 8 poses over the course of one and a half hours. Most of the time you’re seated or lying down. It’s kind of like giving yourself an awesome massage while dismissing any mind chatter, and it’s about as low-exertion as you can imagine. Whatever my internal dialogue might have been a month ago, or whatever frustration I might have experienced at other times in my life, it was not present now; I felt like my whole self was just saying, “Cool”, and all I felt was happy.

It was a wonderful class, which I’m so grateful that I was able to be present for. The only thing missing was my expectations, and that made all the difference. At the end of class, I packed up my things, and walked the three blocks home, feeling truly restored. I recalled a quote that Sally read to us, which has been resonating through my thoughts ever since:

If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely, you will be free. -Ajahn Chah

I just love that.

Mandy has been writing since she could write… and practicing non-judgment since 1983. To learn more about the author, click here