One of the important mindfulness attitudes that Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks about is the Beginner’s Mind. As a recovering addict, having a beginner’s mind can transform your experience of life outside of rehab.
Our minds have a remarkable ability to build up huge stores of information that we don’t have to consciously access. Without this ability, we would not be able to interact with the world around us. Think about what would happen if you had to actively think about how to swallow every time you ate. You would choke if you ever let your attention wander.
However, clinging to everything we know can also stop us from experiencing life in the present. We see people and situations in the light of how we have experienced them in the past. Instead of living in the present, we play out old scenarios.
As a recovering addict, this can be necessary. We have to know how to avoid triggers and which people might compromise us. But in the same vein, we need to be open to newness if we are to live a life untainted by what has happened to us in the past.
How to access your beginner’s mind
The attitude of beginner’s mind asks you to experience each moment as if for the first time. And, in fact, you are! While you may have interacted with the same people, places and things in the past, you have never lived this moment.
With the attitude of beginner’s mind, you don’t have to forget everything you know. That is impossible and obviously undesirable. However, in environments of which you have no reason to be particularly wary, you can let go of it.
Try and open your eyes to this very moment. Thoughts and feelings will arise. Note them and let them go. Notice any assumptions and judgments you make and let them go. You may feel the urge to accumulate new insights or “make use” of the moment. Try and let that go too. Anything this moment can teach you will still be there in the next.
Beginner’s mind is an incredibly important attitude for recovering addicts, as we tend to see the world outside rehab as a difficult place, with hardship, triggers, and temptations. Opening ourselves up and experiencing this moment for the first time is a big step towards living in a world you can begin to love.