Choose Beginner’s Mind
Our brain processes information in two ways top-down processing and bottom-up processing. The former is when input comes in, it gets referenced by the brain via past knowledge and experience and the spits out a perception. “Ah, that’s a rose,” the brain says. The latter is when we notice something as if for the first time and we experience it fresh and new. A simple trick to refresh life is learning how to practice bottom-up processing a little more often, otherwise known as Beginner’s Mind.
Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”
Beginner’s mind is a practical approach toward getting back in touch with the wonder of life. One of the recommendations in The Now Effect is to take things in twice. In other words, you can smell a rose and the brain takes that in through top-down processing. The smell of the rose is being mediated by the brain’s olfactory references of many roses before. Then you pause, choose beginner’s mind, and smell that rose again as if it were for the very first time, practicing bottom-up processing.
Experience what beginner’s mind feels like physically, emotionally and mentally. In other words, how does the body feel when you take something in for the first time, what emotions arise, does the mind seem distracted or clear?
You can practice this while eating food, looking at a tree or the sky, feeling the skin of a loved one, hearing the sounds of birds around, or smelling your favorite dessert.
Whatever it is, after doing this for a while, maybe a day or a week, reflect on what difference it has made on the quality of your life.
Then allow your experience to inform if and how you want to integrate this in the days to come; getting in touch with the wise person who lives within.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.