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Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." — Shunryu Suzuki

There is a first for everything. I remember the first time I tasted wine. Not the first time I drank wine - I had done a lot of that already - but the first time I actually tasted it, with the full capacity of my attention. I was in my early 20s on a date with an oenologist. Part of the date involved a private wine tasting class. The oenologist didn't last, but a seed had been planted for a lifelong love of wine and fascination with wine tasting. On that spring afternoon nearly two decades ago, a new power of observation had been awakened. By shifting my awareness to the present moment, witnessing the sensations provoked by the wine in my glass, my mind exploded with colors and memories and words and images. It felt as if a secret door inside my mind leading to new thoughts and connections had been flung wide open. Creativity sparked in new ways. Just by one simple shift of attention, wine tasting literally "lit" up my brain. I was hooked. In Zen Buddhism, there is a practice called shosin, or "beginner's mind”. It is the practice of approaching something with an attitude of openness, regardless of experience, in order to continue to learn and grow. It is based on the knowledge that like children, we are most open and receptive to information when we are discovering something new. However, as we become more familiar with an activity, our efficient brains, recognizing that less attention is needed to do it, redirect the energy of our attention elsewhere. The very act of thinking “I already know” closes us to new learning. In wine tasting, thinking we know what to expect prevents us from actually tasting the wine. "I don't like Chardonnay" "This smells sweet therefore will taste sweet" "It's red so will display ____ " etc. It happens automatically, without us necessarily knowing that's what's going on. It is the cause of many a failed blind tasting exam, and a thought pattern I conscientiously have to turn off if I really want to fully experience a wine. Cultivating shoshin and approaching the wine like it's the first time is one mindfulness technique for keeping our sense receptors open. I have other tools in my toolbox that I hope to share with you. If you're interested in learning more, why not take a class with me? In the coming months I will be announcing a series of one-hour introductory group wine courses. These classes will all be online and open to all levels. Stay tuned for announcements. I also offer private group virtual tastings by request. Gather a group of family and friends virtually for a customized wine tasting with curated wines by yours truly. Contact me to inquire. After all, there is a first for everything. Namaste & Cheers, Chiara

Mindful Breathing / Pranayama for Focus and Balance

Inspirational Words

"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them." – Thích Nhat Hanh

"Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them." – Alan Watts

For more messages of wine, wellness and wisdom, follow Chiara @theyogisommelier

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