Going Back to School (The School of You)
Beginner's Mind is a zen teaching that is close to my heart and central to cultivating self-compassion. Shunryu Suzuki, who founded San Francisco Zen Center, coined the term and said, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." What does this mean for self-compassion and in your relationship with yourself?
Self-judgment arises when one part of you believes that it is an "expert" in who you are supposed to be. Usually, this means someone who is more ____________ than the person you are in this moment. Maybe that means more happy, more successful, more patient, more fit, more competent, more intelligent, more strong, more forgiving. Always more. For this internal "expert" (inner critic), who you are right now is never enough.
One of the trickiest things about this internal "expert" is that expertise is widely valued in mainstream culture. We are expected to know things conclusively ~ about ourselves and about the work that we do, for example. And, sure, sometimes we really do need to know things in a definitive way, particularly if we have a job where our decisions directly impact the well-being of others.
However, expertise is not the only thing we need in most situations. In fact, many times, particularly in our relationships with ourselves and others, we need curiosity. Curiosity is what enables you to consider that there may be other ways of understanding yourself or someone else; ways that are different from your initial opinion. This openness makes it more likely that you will respond with compassion, rather than judgment.
I often talk about curiosity as a potent form of kindness. Most of us live in such a way that we are identified with our internal "expert" and disconnected from our curiosity and our internal beginner. In many ways, cultivating self-compassion means recognizing the value and contribution of all parts of ourselves, not just the "expert".
This month, when things don't go according to plan, try experimenting with curiosity; with becoming a student of your experience. For example, if you feel disappointed with yourself about something and judgment arises, invite in curiosity. Ask yourself, "Is there another way to see this? Is there another way to see myself in this moment?" Perhaps this means considering how you might view and respond to a friend who was in a similar situation.
See if you can tap into your internal beginner, your internal student. As best you can, open up to the possibility of learning something new about yourself, rather than identifying with the internal "expert" (inner critic) and attempting to gather more evidence for why you aren't enough as you are.