Going someplace with a "beginner's mind"

Having traveled to many cities in China I was curious about Carol Pucci’s perceptions about her own unstructured travel, “Get off the bus, revel in China,” (*see sidebar).  I was struck by the novel experiences she had just by approaching situations with what the Buddhist’s call the “beginner’s mind.”  This is a state of wonder and curiosity that is lost to many of us when we emerge from childhood.  It is an openness to experience without being colored by our own expectations, preconceived notions or stereotypic ideas.  

Being an inward traveler I tried to imagine having her experience and whether I had the temperament or personality to just wander and see what I encountered as opposed to the way I saw China, in a tightly managed tour.  It would take some work!  Here’s what Carol described.  ”Walking in Xian in the rain one afternoon, I noticed a woman selling steamed buns from her kitchen in the alley across from our hotel.  She spoke no English, so I held up two fingers to signal that I wanted two. . . . We chatted back and forth, me in English and she in Chinese.  Neither of us had any ideas what the other was saying.”  Both seemed to thoroughly enjoy the transaction and the social interaction that relied exclusively on non-verbal cues.

Remember, traveling near or far, one goal for the inward traveler is mindfulness about your own internal process.  Can you push the boundaries of your experience by adopting the “beginner’s mind?”  Can you stay aware of any judgments, limiting thoughts or uncomfortable feelings that get in your way of trying new experiences?  What will you have to confront in yourself to make this happen? 

Here’s an experiment: Pick a place within ten miles of your home.  Look at a local map and find a spot unfamiliar to you: a small town, nature spot, landmark or anything else that captures your attention.  Plan a “trip” there for a few hours or half a day.  With an inward traveler’s mindset this will be as much about a change from one state of mind to another as it is about going someplace new. 

This is travel as play, which unlike work has no goal outside of itself.  Play is childlike, open, and curious with no rules for succeeding.  Enter into the new environment and see, feel, hear, sense whatever is available.  Also notice any internal dialogue that sounds like evaluation (judgment, criticism) or comparison (better than, worse than) or performance (success or failure).  Try to let these go and get back to playing!