THE BLOG
01/08/2015 04:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Beginning With Beginner's Mind

As a result on an ongoing right shoulder "project," I've switched my computer mouse to my left hand.

(Before reading on, try switching your mouse to your non-dominant hand. What do you notice?)

Mindless Habits

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At first, I was frustrated by my awkward attempts to right click when a left click was needed and vice versa. I actually had to ask what the right and left mouse buttons do when I am using my right hand; it had become so habitual that I no longer had awareness. I even wrote a note to refer to when I became frustrated.

My confused brain craved the familiar, mindless habits that previously made mousing effortless, despite the discomfort of the repetitive patterns. I would try to use the mouse with my left hand for short periods of time, then give up, willing to risk further pain for convenience.

Rediscovering Beginner's Mind

Finally, realizing the futility and cost of sticking with the old, I chose to let go of the familiar and approach this challenging task with openness. I was immediately rewarded with a gentle reminder about the power of beginner's mind. At once, I become more aware, curious, and connected to what I was doing. As a result, my focus was sharper and my energy level higher.

I playfully experimented with my two options: simply switch hands, or switch hands and which button does what. I eventually decided that the shortest path to competence was to switch hands and reverse the mouse buttons. (Thanks to my techy son, if you're interested, on a PC it is Control Panel > Hardware > Mouse > Switch primary and secondary buttons). My brain is amazing me with its ability to convert right vs. left clicking to index vs. third finger clicking. It's already beginning to feel less awkward and more natural.

Your New Beginning

The lovely lessons I've relearned through this process seem particularly relevant as we start a new year. In my work as CEO of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs and Training (and hence my need to be on my computer so much!), my mission is to change the way people think about eating. Mindful eating requires us to let go of old restrictive eating concepts, and approach each eating experience with curiosity and openness. By allowing yourself to let go of what you know or think you know about managing your eating, you infuse your entire body, mind, and spirit with awareness and energy.

Don't Make an Old New Year's Resolution

Beginner's mind brings a freshness, a newness to eating, physical activity, and self-care.

  • Rather than approaching each meal as a caloric math problem to be solved, allow yourself to be curious about what you want and need to eat.
  • Instead of dutifully and mindlessly eating fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, mindfully savor fruits, vegetables, lean proteins... and whatever else you love -- without the predictable guilt and penance required of restrictive dieting.
  • Rather than punishing exercise, rediscover the simple joy in moving your body.
  • As opposed to measuring your progress on a scale and postponing your life until you achieve some arbitrary goal, tune into the growing vitality and vibrancy of truly living in the body you have right now.
  • Instead of using food to soothe and distract yourself from life's inevitable challenges, recognize your cravings as a sign that there is a need that you can meet with your expanding repertoire of self-care skills.

Shunryu Suzuki said, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." I hope that in this new year, you will approach your intention to improve your eating, physical activity, and self-care with beginner's mind and discover limitless possibilities!