“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
When we act like experts in the realm of love, we live in the past.
We are unable to be fully present to the latent possibilities that exist in the here and now.
By the time we go on our first date, it’s not just you and the other person nervously gazing at one another. We are bringing in cartloads of our own baggage from past rejections and relationships. We’re bringing in the hypothetical opinions of others, and our ego is on high alert like the Sherlock Holmes of character defects.
The room is crowded with exes, family members, friends, and Sherlock who is ready to examine every imagined flaw with a magnifying glass. Simultaneously, we draft a storyline and cultivate a fantasy of our potential lover’s potential. All of this debate and posturing is to protect and boost the ego—no matter which way the date unfolds we can still “win.”
Well, this week, I didn’t have time for such analysis because I didn’t realize I was going on a date.
It was a frigid Monday in Minnesota. I had a lunch date with my friend Sondra, but little did I realize I was actually going on a date with Greg. How do you go on a date without realizing you’re going on a date? Well, when I received the Google invite for lunch, I just replied yes without looking at the details or the guest list. I was being set up. So I go to pick up Sondra, and she tells me, “Oh, Greg is so nervous for this!” And then it dawned on me… I was going on a date in 10 minutes. Chaperoned by Sondra.
This was a first.
There was no time to prepare. I was wearing what I would wear to lunch with one of my girls—a down puffy jacket, leggings, and snow boots. Nothing says “hot date” like wearing snow boots. And I was going on a date with a former pro athlete who still worked in the world of professional sports.
If I could make a list of all the prejudgments and stereotypes around dating a professional athlete, it could circle the earth 13 times. Thankfully, there wasn’t time for the mental gymnastics that I normally put myself through during my pre-date preparations. All I could do was laugh and brace myself for what was going to be an adventure.
This was the perfect opportunity to practice beginner’s mind.
Shoshin is a concept from Zen Buddhism meaning beginner’s mind in Japanese. It is the ability to cultivate awe, openness, and eagerness without prejudgment. And perhaps most importantly for dating, being open to all possibility.
How do we cultivate presence with our potential beloved with all these other voices at the table? With our baggage parked in the corner? Let it be spacious. Let it be undefined. When we go on a first date, make room for possibility of love. Let us be beginners. And if anyone shows up uninvited, recognize their presence and let them drift away. Be present.
1. Set aside your beliefs and expectations. For now. Put them on a shelf and you can always come back to them later.
2. When judgments do arise, let them pass by without identifying yourself with them. For all you know, it may be a made-up story from the past that no longer carries truth. It could be an outdated theory. Simply see the judgments as clouds passing by in the theater of the mind.
3. Rely on the intelligence of the heart rather than the intellect of the mind. How do you feel in the presence of this person? Our attraction to someone has a far greater pull at the subconscious layers rather than from the checklist of the intellect.
4. Let it be. Breathe. Be yourself. Be willing to be seen for your true nature. I believe in putting your best foot forward, but if you end up wearing snow boots, roll with it. One sure way to a dating disaster is to have someone fall in love with the projection of your false self. Come as you really are.
5. Remember, the only thing you need to decide is whether or not you want to go out on another date. That’s it. No need to plan and live into the unknowable future. Be here. Be present. Greet each moment through your five senses and your heart. Let your aliveness ring forth. There’s nothing more captivating than pure presence and the way it feels when someone looks at you with curiosity and wonder.
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
By dating with beginner’s mind, we trade in the armor of the ego for the openness of compassion. Let us always be beginners. From the first date, to the last breath. And when we extend this compassion to others, we are infinitely more compassionate towards ourselves.
Begin again. And again. And you will be showered with the magic of possibilities beyond your wildest dreams.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kristi Kremers
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Boston Public Library/Flickr