Don’t let old ideas about how you should be dating ruin the present. Drop every expectation, and embark on that first date using shoshin—beginner’s mind.
It’s always bugged me when people say, “When you stop looking for love, love will find you.” It seems cruel to ask someone to put aside the search for what their hearts long. And what about being proactive? Aren’t we more likely to meet someone if we’re “putting ourselves out there?”
But despite my discomfort with this idea, I have to admit that it worked that way for me. I’d just finished graduate school and was preparing to move away from Colorado when I met a sweet man while walking our dogs on the Sanitas Valley Trail and the rest is history.
Why does this seem to happen so often?
I don’t actually think this happens because people stop looking, but because they often stop looking for coincides with a less grasping, more present state of mind. When I wasn’t obsessed with looking at every man as a potential partner, I was more able to clearly see each person in front of me. This state of mind is one that we can choose to tap into while in the dating world. Buddhism gives us a wonderful tool for this, and it’s called Beginner’s Mind.
With Beginner’s Mind, you practice dropping your “story line” before you enter a situation. You come with fresh eyes to fully experience and absorb the moment. In dating, this is enormously helpful because it gives you a chance to take it all in—to ask questions instead of assuming, to notice projection, to see the positive that you might not usually see or the negative that you might normally ignore.
Here are five basic tips for bringing Beginner’s Mind to a first date:
1. Consciously let go of your past dating stories.
We can easily go into a date from a mind-frame of “I hope this one goes better than the last!” or “This guy can’t possibly be as good as my ex!” By consciously letting go of the stories of our previous dates and relationships, we can make room to experience this new person directly as opposed to from the lens of comparison.
2. Focus on one moment at a time.
Sometimes we start the first date thinking more about the second date (or sometimes the potential wedding) than the moment at hand. Our minds attempt to prepare for the future, but in fact end up diluting the present moment.
3. Truly accept that bad dates are part of finding a good partner.
Letting an unsuccessful connection bring us down or feed into a story of being “destined to be alone” is another way of resisting what is. Delicious moments and icky moments swirl around each other on life’s path. The more we can breathe and roll with the ups and downs, the less power the downs have over us. When we’re more optimistic we can remember that most of us find good partners—even if it takes a while.
4. Don’t try to understand everything.
Our monkey minds can mislead us. Delay your desire to assess the connection or the chemistry. Let go of being an expert and see what happens. Life will surprise you. People will surprise you.
5. Immerse yourself fully in the moment.
You have a knowing which comes inherent with being alive and which is greater than your monkey mind. This knowing is in your body, in your soul, in what you don’t know yet. Practice mindfulness while you’re enjoying a walk with this new person or eating a meal. You’ll get more complete information and you’ll have a better chance of enjoying the date.
This practice takes some work and effort–just like all mindfulness practices. But the relaxation and aliveness that Beginner’s Mind offers are worth it. When we can drop our preconceptions and be more fully in the moment we get in touch with an inner strength that is recognizable to others. This is a double benefit—we’re more present, and this is more attractive to others as well.
[image: via Minoru Nitta on flickr]