I am reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. So far, its fabulous and I would suggest it to everyone. Early on in the book, there is a small section on The Beginner’s Mind. Some summarize the concept this way:
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.
I think I am fairly good at this and it has been one of my core traits, my entire life. It got me thinking how one would get good at this. It got me thinking how I became good at this. I believe practice makes perfect, so I must have practiced this technique accidentally. Speaking with Katie, I think I discovered where the practice came from. Puns.
For as long as I can remember, I have done this mental trick. When someone speaks, I hear their words and in the back of my mind, I rhyme words to mirror like a U.N. interpreter. Words, Birds, Turds, Blurbs. When doing this, I often would see patterns in the rhyming and that would spur thoughts. Look at the words I rhymed again…now think about what you are reading. If you like it, then lofty statements like birds words would spur to mind. If not, maybe turd words or just blurbs of words. These phrases can often form puns from double meanings. Often, they are very funny.
The technique is basically to let your mind wander when experiencing ideas. It doesn’t mean to pay less attention. It means to pay MORE attention to what is being said so you can follow and explore at the same time.
Sometimes I call this “Squinting”. Squint your eyes at the screen right now and imagine what COULD be, not what IS. Squinting allows you to explore ideas based on imagination, not the limited view of what is in front of you at that moment. In the show House, the “insight” often comes from someone saying a sentence completely unrelated to medicine, but our “genius” House is always looking for inspiration and his mind makes the connection. The beginner’s mind allows simple unrelated ideas to inspire very relevant insights.
Everyone has something to do, every day. Try to let go of the way you are doing it, ease your mental grip. Let your mind wander about it. What are some completely crazy ways of doing it…ways that are “impossible” but would be cool if it were possible. Rhyme words with the task at hand for fun. Set your mind free and it will reward you with a valuable insight. I do this every day, and I promise you that there are rewards. Whether the reward is a breakthrough product or a great funny pun; you will get something out of it.