Beginner's mind, or Shoshin, is the Zen Buddhist practice of setting aside prior knowledge and expectation for the sake of experiencing the present moment without your preconceived notions and judgment. You can read more about it here, or here. There are myriad benefits that can come from the practice, but today, I want to focus just on what beginner's mind can do for your relationships.
Are you the same as you were yesterday? A week ago? A year ago? Five years ago?
Maybe, but probably not.
I can remember, as a kid, meeting friends of my parents who would croon, "I haven't seen you since you were this big!" while holding up their hands like they were clasping a large loaf of bread. I can remember thinking, somewhat indignantly, "okay, well obviously I don't remember you if I haven't seen you since I was an infant, and I'm obviously not an infant now, so I don't really know why we're even talking about this." Even now, as an adult, when I see people that I haven't seen since I was a kid (childhood neighbors, distant family members, etc.), I can't help but sigh inwardly a little at the exclamation that the only version of me they can call to mind is a vision of me wearing too-big high heels, my dad's sport coat, and a bright blue feather boa around my neck. It's sweet to be remembered in an endearing light, sure, but I like to think I have a little more to contribute now than the "cute" I brought to the table as a five-year-old.
Every time I think about posting content on this blog, or anywhere on this website for that matter, I always feel that it's an introduction of sorts - and in a way, it is. We actually don't know each other that well yet, you and I. If you've followed me on Instagram for any length of time, you'll know that my internet presence has grown more and more transparent over time. This is especially true of the last year or so as I have become more deliberately interested in the conversation of vulnerability and full-disclosure honesty. But even if you diligently read everything I put out in social media, I still hope that we would show up for each other without assumption, without expectation. Just because I share lots of details about what's true for me in a given moment - that's just it, it's true in that moment. Now, that isn't to say that as soon as I hit "share/publish/post" it isn't true anymore. But, like everyone, my inner world is in development and in flux just as our outer world is. Inner seasons and tides change just as outer ones do.
In the context of relationships, Shoshin means you’re present for someone without clinging on to who they were yesterday or the day before. It leaves space for someone to change without fearing judgment, or to have a conversation without assumption of how it’s going to go. How many times have you not started a conversation because you “just know what they’re going to say”? (Notice if you’re thinking, “ok but you don’t understand, you don’t know this person.”) What if you could enter a conversation without anticipating the outcome? It opens this tiny window of opportunity for the person you’re talking to to speak their truth. In the context of my moral framework, it’s important for me to allow people the space to be exactly how and who they are. I hope that in doing so, I help to create a more authentic relationship where I get to be myself as well.
Maybe I always feel like I need to introduce myself because I hope that you are willing to receive my words in fresh new light every time. Or maybe it's because I want to give you the space to meet me as whoever you are today, in this moment.
However you are right now, whoever you are right now, it's nice to meet you - again and again.