Hearing the shrieks and howls I couldn’t help but set down my steaming coffee, the New York Times, and go to the window to have a peek. Their unabashed laughter, you could say, compelled me into action.
Outside for our annual August Block Party, a colorful ‘bouncy house’ had arisen over night, 12 feet high by 12 feet wide by 12 feet deep and fully buoyant, right in front of the house next door. Already at this early morning hour, on Sunday no less, it was literally bouncing with life and glee.
Watching the eight or so kids jumping up and down, squealing in laughter with each rise and fall, provoked me to smile–how could it not?
And, it evoked a more engaged energy. The kids were experiencing a deep sense of aliveness and joy and play as evidenced by the sheer number of shrieks alone. It was contagious.
They were so in-the-moment that I knew in an instant that they were my teachers for today.
I don’t know about you, but too often I can get caught up in constricted thinking about what should be—Sunday mornings should be quiet.
Or, what I believe to be the best course of action—don’t bother the neighbors so early.
Or, that what I know will happen—Mrs. Jones will come after you with her broom at this ungodly hour!
Giving sway to my constricted thinking, holding tightly to my beliefs, or convincing myself that I already know what’s so is a sure sign that I’m actually out of the moment.
In fact, my Already-Know-Mind not only takes me out of the current moment, from what is actually happening, but also from the myriad of possibilities that might be available, possibilities that might actually be filled with creativity, joy, aliveness.
At work my Already-Know-Mind often sounds like ‘I should . . . work harder, stay later, play better politics.
Or, I believe . . . it’ll never work, we’ll win that deal for sure, my co-workers don’t work hard enough.
Or, I know . . . she has it in for me, this is how he’ll react (client, boss, teammate), we’ll never make that deadline.
These habits of mind prevent us from “seeing” things as they really are. They drain our energies and rob us of our aspirations to contribute to life. Already-Know-Mind is no good for those of us committed to healthy workplaces, leading our teams, or advancing innovation in the workplace. No good at all.
Practicing Beginner’s Mind, that ability to experience this moment as if I’ve-never-seen-anything-like-it-before, allows us to be fully present and open to life as it unfolds. Now.
Beginner’s Mind at work, in point of contrast, could sound like this, “I wonder what would happen if I . . . took a lunch time today instead of skipping it,” or I actually left at 5 p.m. instead of staying late.”
Or, “I’m curious about . . . the outcome of the upcoming meeting,” or, “how my teammates will react when I tell them the news.”
Or, “I don’t know . . . the best course of action here,” or, “her motives for this conversation.”
Practicing Beginner’s Mind opens us up to the acquired taste of the present moment—at times bitter or sweet, sour or salty.
The kids that Sunday morning were practicing Beginner’s Mind, clearly enjoying the moments fully, despite a few bumps and bruises.
I don’t know about you, but their shrieks of laughter and life brought me up short and right back to Now. Hands down, their playful practice of Beginner’s Mind, the lessons learned, the new actions I’m taking as a result, all far outweigh the gravity of my Already-Know-Mind, full of its ‘shoulds’ and ‘beliefs’ and ‘knowings.’
Here’s to bouncy houses, Beginner’s Mind and young teachers! They’ve taught me a lot this Sunday morning.