I first heard the terms ‘unlearning’ and ‘beginners mind’ in early mindfulness seminars. At the time, It didn’t make a lot of sense to me but eventually I began to understand the importance of returning to curiosity and questioning years of programming.
We spend a great portion of our lives, especially in the early years acquiring knowledge and learning. While learning new skills is imperative to human development, there is also a dark side to knowledge.
As young children we play, explore and are happy – fully authentic. Seemingly perfect. As we grow and develop language skills, things start to change. It starts with our family and their opinions of us. We believe those opinions to be truth and we often copy our parent’s actions and behaviours. We create stories of who we should be based on our parent’s influence.
Then our teachers tell us what we should be. We hear things like ‘there are winners and losers, don’t be a loser’ or ‘do this or that and you will be a good boy or girl’. This is where the lie of perfection really takes hold. We start pretending what we ‘should’ be – it’s not ok to be the real me. We work hard to be good enough or perfect. We begin to agree that we are not good enough and we project an image of what we believe we should be. After years of practice we become wonderful actors – searching for appreciation. When we are not perfect, we can simply justify by saying ‘oh well, nobody is perfect’.
The lie of perfection is the image (and seeking) of what we will never truly be and for that reason we struggle and suffer. When we are present, we can enjoy life as it is, moment by moment. This unlearning process is entirely possible, we are all born this way. With greater awareness, we can change the story and step by step, return to truth.
If you believe this to be truth, then over time with practice and visualization, we can rewire and return to the authentic perfection of childhood, not caring about the past or worrying about the future. Fully present.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities but in the expert’s mind there are few” Shunryu Suzuki