Mindfulness: Beginner’s Mind at the Ball Park
Today while watching a college baseball game I caught in my field of awareness a toddler and her Mom. The toddler would start to walk away from the bleachers and her Mom. The Mom would call the little girl to come back in a soft yet firm voice. It seemed that it was the Mom’s eyes more than anything that called the girl back to her safety zone. Still the toddler tried to go a little bit further each time, almost like stealing a base like they were doing in the game in front of her. I found it interesting to note that there seemed to be something in her mom’s eyes that always brought the toddler back to the bleachers.
Next time my team wasn’t at bat I again glanced at the toddler and her Mom to see who was winning at their game of sorts in front of me. This time the toddler was very proud. Her Mom had figured out a way to entertain the toddler and at the same time keep the restless little girl in her safety zone. Now the toddler was drinking from a plastic water bottle that was about 1/3 full. When the little girl wasn’t drinking the water the girl was working on figuring out how to screw the cap back on. This appeared to be possibly the first time the girl had experience with drinking from a plastic water bottle, and from my observation screwing the cap back on the bottle was a new experience for her as well. The toddler looked surprised when the water came out too quickly yet she still held the bottle up to her lips with stubborn determination, and surprised when she accidentally tipped the water bottle too much spilling it on the bleachers. Proud when she got it right.
The little girl although unaware of it was teaching those around her a great lesson in Mindfulness. When was the last time you just drank water from a bottle and really were just drinking water from the bottle as you were drinking it? I mean, seriously,just drinking from a bottle and really drinking from a bottle like the little girl was. Her full attention was drinking the water from the bottle. Not lost in the past somewhere or thinking about 10 other things she could be doing. Mindfulness, being where you are while you’re there, with no regrets.
In addition a bonus lesson the little girl was teaching all of us watching a lesson in Beginner’s Mind. In Mindfulness this means doing something as if you have never experienced it before, fresh, new, with an open mind, beginner’s mind.
I’m sure watching the beautiful relationship the toddler and her Mom had captured my field of awareness in part because this summer my first born is getting ready to go off to college. Because I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation for quite some time now, I feel it might make me more aware at how quickly my daughter has transformed from the tiny baby girl I brought home one cold December morning 17 ½ years ago, when I carefully wrapped her up in a receiving blanket, like the best present I had ever received. The miracle of my baby daughter. I remember when I first held her in my arms in our living room 3 days after Christmas. I was so filled with love for her as I still am today. I remember how her little head snug in a cap nestled in my neck felt. I remember when I’d pick her up she felt like a little bundle of fluff, so light. And now 17 ½ years later this beautiful baby girl has transformed into the beautiful, intelligent, stylish, practical, amazing, young woman she’s become today.
This summer is a huge milestone for both of us. It will be remembered as the summer my daughter transformed from child to adult and started her freshman year in college. As I watch my daughter separate from me, I feel like a mother bird watching her baby bird getting ready to leave the nest and fly away. As my daughter likes to remind me it’s the last time she will ever be living at home. In this economy, I wonder if that will be true.
Yes, while I was watching the Pearl vs the Glory game at the ball park today my eyes kept drifting off to the toddler and her mother. They seemed to have a beautiful relationship like the one I have with my daughter. I was also reminded of what a great Mindfulness teacher the little girl was and couldn’t wait to get home and write the examples she gave me to teach the beauty of beginner’s mind and why I feel it is one of the many reasons everyone should incorporate a practice of mindfulness meditation into their busy lives.
In teaching Mindfulness and what I like to think of as gifts of Mindfulness, bonuses that tag along with a practice of Mindfulness, one of the gifts of mindfulness is being non-judgmental. Or I guess you could call it emotional intelligence. Or self-compassion. Sometimes I explain it as word impact that we assign certain emotions and ideas to words. Just like thoughts words on their own have no power until we assign emotion or ideas to them.
The toddler gave me a great example of assigning word impact. When the toddler first entered my field of awareness she was proudly pushing her stroller with a look of determination while suited up in pink play clothes and a ruffled sweat jacket and pink strappy sandals. Her Mom, an attractive woman in her mid to late 20’s and pushing- stroller-girl walked by me several times. I kept smiling at the little girl. I looked around me and noticed I wasn’t the only one smiling at the little girl. And it got me thinking. Would we be watching her and smiling if she were in her 80’s and the stroller was a walker and she was going back and forth in front of the bleachers? And if that same girl was now a woman in her 80’s would she still be excited and happy to be using a walker like she was now pushing the stroller? Probably not, although she may still have a look of determination, this time probably of stubborn determination for a different reason, her look of excitement and happiness would most likely be replaced with frustration and fatigue. Her face would most likely show years of wear and erosion of life experiences, like waves eroding sand from the beach.
It made me wonder can a Practice of Mindfulness and the gift of Beginner’s Mind that it gives you — the ability to look at every moment as if you were seeing it for the very first time — just like the little girl I was watching today as she really was experiencing everything in her life for the first time –- add extra years to your life in a sense? Is that what keeps people flourishing well into their 90’s because they aren’t worn out. They still see things with Beginner’s mind? I hope I will find out. I hope you will find out too. I do know,Beginner’s Mind is one of the best gifts that comes with a Practice of Mindfulness.
As you go through life’s journey, and I hope you will have a long, healthy and joy filled life, well in to your 90’s and beyond, I wish you keep beginner’s mind. When you are having a difficult day, breathe and smile 3x, and remember the little girl at the Ball Park I told you about for inspiration. I wish you great happiness and peace.