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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

A Fundamental Attitude to Rediscover for Your Mental Health

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 27th 2009

 One of the fundamental attitudes that we seem to lose over the course of our lives is the attitude of curiosity or beginner's mind. Why might this be important to try and reintroduce in daily life? Our minds are massive interpreting machines, always on the look out to make sense of any situation. The problem is that over time the mind gets comfortable in well worn grooves to go down all-too-familiar paths that we stop becoming aware of. It may be more-often-than-not interpreting things in a negative light and missing some very interesting things that may make life more interesting and meaningful. How can we get this back and what difference will it really make?

In any of the Mindfulness-Based Treatment programs, the teacher's often start off with doing something called a Raisin Exercise. This is all about taking a raisin in our hand and pretending like you came down from a distant planet, never having seen this "object" (raisin) before. In this process, the group is asked to engage this raisin with one sense at a time (i.e., sight, feel, smell, hearing, tasting). In doing this, people inevitably say things like "I never knew a raisin crackled before" or "I noticed a stem on the raisin, made me think about how it starts off connected to something else" or "I've been shoveling raisins down my throat my whole life and never realized I really don't even like them." With this beginner's mind, with this mind that is stripped from pre-judgments, a whole new world is experienced.

This works the same way with us in daily life. We get stuck in habitual ways of living and often miss out on the warning signs that may be constant negative interpretation of events (a sign that depression may be visiting and coloring our sense of reality) or missing out on pleasant events because we're so focused on what we're automatically focused on. Practicing having a beginner's mind gets us back in touch with the wonders of everyday life. It also often helps us to slow time down and come down from our busy minds which help us become more present and often reduce stress.

Another way to get back in touch with beginner's mind is to engage with an infant. Begin by telling that infant all the things s/he will likely encounter in life. In a nonjudgmental way, tell the infant about what it might be like to experience food for the first time and all the different kinds that are out there. How some will seem pleasant, while others unpleasant and yet others more neutral. Continue with letting him/her know the range of emotions that will be experienced in this life. What about all the different forms of nature and how there are so many different trees and flowers to notice. Tell him or her about the sky, sun, clouds, snow, and rain. Tell him or her about how sometimes people can be kind and at other times people can be aggressive and how he or she will experience what that is like. Go on and fill in the blanks if the mind keeps going. It is really an exercise in seeing how many experiences this life has to offer. It can really be quite amazing.

Try it out and share with the rest of us what you find. Your additions below provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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