There exists a liminality to life, namely, where we are to where we want to be.
Sometimes we cross the threshold from this world to the next but, mostly, we're ensnared to an old, often arid (i.e. repetitious) life.
It's conjecture I know, but some people aren't compelled to embrace their life-in-potential ("[their] one wild and precious life" — The Summer Day, Mary Oliver), or if they were, they've long since abandoned it in a loving and gracious way.
One of the practices we're offered to cross the Rubicon is to adopt beginner's mind. In other words, to empty our mind (or is it emptied by a higher force?) of all past conditioning or future worries and assume we know nothing about the task in hand.
a) if that ever happens?
b) or can ever happen, given the depth of our past programming? and
c) if it ever works — i.e. we actually change our lives and for the better?
Take a step back for a moment (bear with me, please).
We say we're in charge.
Free will and choice and all that.
Are we though, in charge?
From an epistemological perspective, how do we know that? Have we ever tried to go to the root of our will or even, and this is the challenging part, to consider who or what wills our will?
I accept that there are certain parts of our actions that might appear to be under our control but if you start to investigate more than the superficiality of that assumption, certainly in my case, I've never been able to isolate any self-will, be that in respect of the decisions I've made — including becoming a lawyer: why that and not something else? — but also my interests and desires.
What does that mean for the adoption of beginner's mind?
It's a very good question.
What does it mean?
I think it's worth sitting with that and, just for once, me not foisting my opinion on you.
In fact, as I keep saying, we'd do well not to constantly seek answers but instead to find a question(s) that can't be annihilated on the anvil of our desire for solutions. It was Rilke who said (see Letters to a Young Poet):
"You are so young, you have not even begun, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer."
So before we lurch forward with the adoption of yet another scheme or practice to dig us out of our apparent mire, perhaps that's the place to start: to find the question that might save us from further and unnecessary angst.
As a primer, here's one I've thought about a lot.
What does it mean to accept the present moment as if I'd chosen it?
In other words, not to argue with or try to argue with the present moment.
Another way of seeing this is to sit with everything that's arising — including or more especially our crappy or indifferent thoughts — and not set up another dichotomy between where we are (in the moment) and where we want to be — all body, mind and spirit.
I'd love to know your thoughts on beginner's mind or any other regime we're offered to 'be all we can be' or whatever the slogan is right now.
Blessings and much love, Ju.