I have belonged to the Aikido Dojo here in Reno, Aikido of Reno for about a year now. I don’t get to go as often as I would like, with work, school and family to juggle, but I keep going when I can because I love it.
Aikido is a complicated martial art rooted in the deeply spirtitual philosophy of its founder Sensei Morihei Ueshiba and one of the main reasons I enjoy Aikido is because I can see that philosophy in the application and practice of the art of Aikido.
One of the teachings of Aikido is the concept of the beginner’s mind. Beginner’s mind in the simplest terms, is the ability to approach all things with the mind of the beginner as open to the possibilities as that of a child. This state is one where the ego is let go and you are completely in the present moment.
Julius Aib, Founder of World Aikido-Yoga in Australia discusses the concept of beginners mind in an article on his Aikido website.
First he speaks to the opposite condition of beginner’s mind. I would term it the “experts” mind:
“Our ego, however, does not give up that easily. Even after many years of training we can still fall into the trap of complacency, and stop paying close attention to what’s happening in our heads. Without continually cultivating a beginner’s mind, where infinite possibilities always exist, we can get trapped in an “expert’s” world where we constantly make judgments about the ‘right’ way and ‘wrong’ way of doings things. This mentality severely limits our possibilities.”
I think this ego position is default for most of us, especially in our work lives where we depend on being experts because we are knowledge workers. It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to think, or at least have other think, that we “know it all”. This is not to say that those years of work experience haven’t taught us something and made our skills valuable, but it is too easy to get caught up what we think we know while being blind to what truly is. In this mind set we are not prepared to listen to others, becoming inflexible because we’ve seen it all before.
I can see a correlation to how a project manager with the clarity to apply the right methods to each situation, can be more effective. Without this beginners mind it would be difficult to clearly see any given situation.
And this leads me to Julius’s description of the beginner’s mind,
“A “beginner’s mind” is empowered to just be present – to explore, observe and see things as they really are instead of how you currently perceive them to be, or how you want them to be, or even how you would like them to be. The Japanese refer to this state of mind that remains ever alert, open and aware as “hoshin”. It is a state of awareness where you are always prepared to see things as if for the first time in order to continually gain deeper and deeper insight, understanding and practical application. Therefore, based on this attitude, you are encouraged to be comfortable with not knowing everything, and continue to search with the curiosity and wonder of a child at play. This also directly implies that the accountability for learning and growth therefore rests squarely on the shoulders of the student, who must “steal”each technique from the teacher and weave the principles of the art into authentic personal experience. This ancient and time-tested approach to authentic personal self-discovery taps you into a wellspring of collective knowledge and wisdom that pours forth from this inquiring, fresh and vital state-of-being we refer to as ”beginner’s mind”.”