Beginner’s Luck, or Beginner’s Mind?

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few.” – D.T. Suzuki

Oftentimes when someone is successful on their first try at something difficult, we say they have “beginner’s luck”.

I have this theory that maybe it’s not luck on their side, but instead something called “beginner’s mind”.

Beginner’s mind is a concept in Buddhism and other contemplative traditions. It is a state of mind with no expectations. It’s when your approach to something is not yet based upon previous ideas about how to do it.

Teachers will advise students to go into meditation with beginner’s mind. If you try to meditate with the idea that it will bring you a sense of peace and relaxation, or with the idea that all your thoughts will go away, then you may come away disappointed with the practice or yourself when these expectations are not met. You may come to believe that you have failed the meditation, or that this practice is not for you.

It is better to avoid this outcome by going into the practice with no expectations at all. This way, you can focus on the moment, and experience things for what they are as opposed to what you think they might be.

I have this experience at times while skateboarding. If I am trying a trick which is new for me but is accomplishable within my skill level, I will often get close or maybe even land it in the first few tries. But if I continue with the trick for too long, struggling to repeat it or get it better, then the quality of my attempts will start going downhill.

My body, my muscle memory, begins to build up a schema for how the trick should feel. I then try it over and over with this method in mind, instead of going at it with a fresh approach. I reinforce the same pattern when I should be trying new ones.

There have been other times when, after taking a break from skateboarding, I come back and tricks that were once difficult are all of a sudden easy. The break caused my habits to reset, and once again I was able to do things with beginner’s mind.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about from another hobby or skill that you’ve practiced a lot.

The beginner’s mind approach is a skill itself which is worth practicing. It can be brought into so many domains of life. Meditation is a great way to develop this skill, but you could also try applying it anywhere that you feel is relevant. If you can generalize beginner’s mind, learning to bring it with you wherever you go and into whatever you do, it will be a very potent tool.

Give beginner’s mind a try, especially if you find yourself struggling with something you feel should be easy. Maybe it’ll be the trick you need.

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