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What Is Beginner's Mind?

If You Want Time to Slow Down, Practice Seeing Things With Fresh Eyes

You know that sudden panic that overcomes you when you realize what date it is? Time seems like it's passing so quickly and you can't fathom how another year has already flown by. Thankfully, practicing something called a "beginner's mind" could be the solution to slowing things down and living more in the moment. In the reflection chapter of A Book That Takes Its Time, writer Otje van der Lelij digs deeper into this interesting concept.

When we're first born, we enter the world as a blank slate and approach everything with an untarnished perspective. When we now look back on our childhoods, we can recall many of those standout memories better than we can remember highlights from this year. And sadly, that's because we no longer see things with fresh eyes when we age. Our brains at this point have been overloaded with so much information and experience that it impairs our ability to simplify life's moments and appreciate them for what they are.

But when you see things with a beginner's mind, you're able to have a better grasp of time and enjoy a more fulfilling life. "Like a beginner, you have no expectations and no fixed idea of yourself," Otje wrote. "All options are open and you can go in any direction. With a beginner's mind, you're open to the world and the people around you, and you see things as they are, without immediate judgment." Otje best described it as "a state of mind that lets you enjoy life more."


She continued to explain how seeing with a beginner's mind also affects your perception of time. As mentioned previously, our earlier years are filled with so many firsts that it almost seems like our childhood lasted for much longer. According to Otje, that's because "time compresses when you do things you have never done before."

This is something I can attest to myself. My first year in San Francisco was filled with over 20 new experiences, and yes, I did count. It was the first time living on my own after college and I can still remember that highlight reel month by month. But as I became more familiar with the city and things didn't seem quite as exciting anymore, the events moving forward sort of began to just blur together.

"As we get older, we find ourselves in the monotonous grind of life, seldom discovering new things," Otje wrote. "The scenery stays the same while it seems the years fly past."

In the book, she mentions Douwe Draaisma, a professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who suggests actively creating new experiences. These firsts, or "core memories" for those who've seen Inside Out, "leave deep traces in our brain." Now, this doesn't mean you have to book the next skydiving class (though you totally should) or start to live life on the edge. You can fake these new memories simply by making an effort to be more aware. For example, during your next meal, pretend like you've never eaten whatever you're eating before and pay attention to the textures and flavors. That tiny observation alone will bring you to the present and chances are you'll remember that meal better than if you continued to eat without thinking about it.

"The key is to create memories because memories 'slow down' time," Otje wrote. "A beginner's mind is not only creative and happier, it also extends the perception of time, which often feels elusive."

Image Source: Unsplash / Larm Rmah
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