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Photo by Lauren Luton Stinson

I got to ring in 2009 with family, including my fabulous new niece, Elisa, who is just a few weeks old.

I watched her experience everything in the incredibly complete way only a new mind/body can experience things. She can get lost in an interesting pattern on someone’s shirt, or the contrast of black and white in a picture. Watching her process the sensation of being lowered into a warm bath was amazing (she still isn’t quite sure how she feels about the whole bath thing).

I was reminded of the practice of beginner’s mind, which entails putting away preconceptions, beliefs and expectations in favor of experiencing the moment fully and directly. At this point, Elisa has little choice but to experience a great deal fully and directly. She brings her new mind, her new body, to everything. We lose this new mind of ours quickly; we have to if we are going to thrive in the world. We can’t be endlessly fascinated with things all the time. But I also believe that developing into an adult doesn’t mean we lose our younger selves. We still carry the ability to be fascinated by simple experience on that level. We can chose to go through the world that way for short periods of time.

Watching Elisa’s beginner’s mind at work at the start of the New Year provided a timely image for me. Usually the new year is my time to return to basics. I clean up my living space, throw out what I don’t need, incorporate some new ideas, and remind myself of how I want to live my life.  This year, I returned home with a powerful reminder of what beinnger’s mind is, and what it means to experience life fully. I take that into the new year with me.

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