Beginner's Mind

Shoshin  is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind". It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. (Source: Wikipedia) The easiest example of this could be practicing meditation or any style of yoga, and although this concept seems simple on paper, it's often more challenging (and sometimes frustrating) to push through. The beauty of this concept is that it isn't limited to these examples. In fact, this could be (and probably should be) the way we approach our day-to-day activities. When you're in a constant state of wanting to learn, without judgment, you're spending less time talking and more time listening/reading/reflecting/researching. This leaves room for us to be curious, creative and to be open to possibilities that may not have appeared beforehand.

So I pose these questions: When was the last time you did or learn something for the first time? What did it feel like? What did you learn? How did it help you be better?

Recreate that feeling, especially if you felt nervous or even terrified just before starting the process.

I Meditated for 90 Days In a Row. Here's What I Learned.

  1. Stay the course. There will be shitty days. Even when you meditate. What I've come to terms with is that every thought and feeling comes in waves. Never get too high, never get too low - just stay the course.

  2. It's okay to be selfish. The more often that I make sure my needs are met, the better I show up in the world. Yes, this means to be selfish when it comes to self-care. If you're not happy, chances are others around you will catch the vibe and ultimately not be in the best mood either.

  3. Push through the discomfort. Twenty minutes in silence is no longer unbearable. Granted, there are days (see: when I'm premenstrual) where I fidget, where I'm cranky and focusing on breathing is the last thing I want to do - but that feeling only lasts for a couple minutes. When I allow the discomfort to pass, the process of meditating becomes easier.

  4. Begin again. There were a few days where I rushed to get out the door and didn't have time to meditate before getting the day started. Instead of beating myself up over waking up late, I used tools throughout the day that I learned from Andy to help set the tone for a better mood and clearer thoughts over the course of the day.

  5. Create better habits. More often than not, I look forward to meditating each morning. Over the course of the 90+ days, I've created better habits that have significantly decreased my anxieties and improved my overall health. Habits like drinking water first thing in the morning, reading daily affirmations aloud, writing 10 things I'm grateful for each night, and ending showers with a 5-10 second cold water shock. Still getting used to that last part.

  6. Reality is a myth...or something. The jury is still out. Meditating is a gateway drug to understanding your consciousness. The more I began to acknowledge the thoughts that arise, the more curious I became to figure out how the mind works. This led me to visits to the library where I read and checked out Life Visioning, Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change and Waking Up, as well as read dozens of articles related to religion, spirituality, and meta physics. It got weird and interesting quickly.

  7. Silence is golden. Listen intently to everything. A TV doesn't always have to be on, music doesn't always have to be in your headphones, driving in silence can actually be therapeutic. Absorb the silence around you and let it fill you with calmness.

  8. Listen with purpose. Conversations with friends, family and people I interview have been more constructive because I've learned to listen and be fully present in each convo.

  9. Speaking up, especially when you're not okay, is key. Prior to having a consistent meditation (and gratitude) practice I used to wallow in guilt and shame, thinking that everyone knew my thoughts, and I'd hide as a result. Now, I speak up if I'm feeling a type of way and go about my day knowing that I am not my thoughts or feelings. This comes from making a connection to what thoughts come up to what feelings arise from them, and not letting those feelings consume me.

  10. There is no rush. About two years ago, I purchased a pendant to remind myself to slow down. What I didn't know at the time, and up until recently, is that I'd become more aware of surroundings, people and situations that came up as a result of slowing down actions and thoughts. Life has always been pretty good, but now it's definitely more enjoyable - even in the mundane moments of silent meditation.

Bonus lesson: Pay it forward. I meditate for you. Life isn't always easy, nor is it always fair. A lot of people are suffering all over the world and I realize that I'm fortunate enough (you are too) to be able to breathe, to write, to express my thoughts to help someone else along this journey.

a taste of space.

My nephew who lives 2,300 miles away from me is 3 years old. He’s in this phase of having meltdowns and nightmares and although him and I don’t speak often enough, I completely understand what he’s going through. He just started school full-time, he has a baby sister on the way, and being 3 means that there are a lot of things that he can actually understand and remember – yet it may be difficult to actually articulate his feelings. It sounds stressful to be 3, and with stress at this age comes nightmares. So, to shift his mindset from scary to something more light-hearted, my brother & sis-in law have been asking him what he’d like to dream before bed.

The other day I got a text from her letting me know what he wants to dream about. My nephew said he wants me to take him to space in a rocket ship, to take the moon and bring it back home to eat. (Someone connect me with Elon Musk so I can make this happen, k thanks).

My nephew and I are tight, even telepathically. That same day, before I even received the text, I had spent 2 hours in a floatation, sensory deprivation chamber.

There were moments where I knew I fell asleep for what felt like an eternity but in reality was probably about 20 minutes; and there were moments where I knew I was awake and literally did not feel a thing.

Quick backstory. I’ve had back pain for over a year and am currently in physical therapy for it. There hasn’t been a day in over a year where I didn’t feel pain and aches throughout my body or tingling and numbness in my hands & feet.

Since time didn’t really exist while I was floating in this chamber, for the first time in what felt like forever, I legitimately did not feel a thing. I didn’t feel the water around me or any tension in my body for the majority of the session. I felt as if I were floating through space, defying gravity as each second passed by.

Floatation therapy is considered safe (still check with you primary care physician first) and I do feel that anyone could and should experience this, however I don’t recommend trying this if you haven’t spent time alone in your thoughts in the comfort of your home.

I have therapists, both physical and mental; I’ve been practicing yoga & meditation consistently for over a year and as a result, I have a great grasp on my body awareness. I feel everything and know how to articulate and pinpoint where the majority of these feelings stem from. I’ve channeled my depression & anxiety through these practices alongside Reiki, CrossFit, eating farm-raised and/or organic produce 80% of the week, and taking supplements & vitamins that enhance my focus & health.

Even with all of this “practice” I still entered the chamber with anxiety. I immediately tensed up and felt my upper back and neck tighten, the same areas where I’ve had pain for as long as I can remember.  However, what I’ve learned over the course of the year is that during moments of this intensity, I need to breathe through it. As in, focus on what I know is true to be constant for as long as I live – my breath. The moment I can channel my anxiety to the one thing that that I can control, is when I become more relaxed. The tension becomes less intense, and lying down in complete darkness and silence feels less daunting and more comforting.

I don’t think that I would’ve lasted 2 hours in this chamber had I not practiced meditating or therapy on my own. During my CrossFit days when I felt everything should be intensified x 1000, the thought of relaxing would’ve felt foreign and uncomfortable. There were moments during the session where I did panic and wanted to get out (nothing locked me in this space, by the way; the door is easily accessible and I could’ve gotten out whenever I wanted). And again, in the moments where my “fight or flight” sensors went off, I recognized this is the exact time where I not only needed to face this tension and acknowledge it, but to focus on breathing through it.

Floatation therapy is an incredibly useful method to navigate the spaces within your body and mind. I felt like I unlocked a dimension within my body, which even days later I’m still processing what I experienced and more thoughts are coming up from this session.

I find it interesting to only assume that my nephew already understands this feeling – of channeling his stress into imagining and tasting a place (that he has yet to see first hand, yet knows it exists) that’s free of the gravity of the world to alleviate the stresses of his physical existence.