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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

I'm curious about why she thought that...

As the additional-person-in-the-room, I notice how easy it is for me to sit in beginner's mind with the couples and families I work with. I see one partner's soft smile and his tendency to look away from the Zoom screen. I appreciate the other partner's wry joke and her crossed arms. I don't make any specific meaning of any of it. I am open and curious to whatever might be developing, closing, shifting.

And, just as importantly, I notice how hard it is to sit my own butt down firmly in beginner's mind with my most cherished personal relationships. That sideways look feels personal when I am tired; the annoying language feels, well, annoying when I'm stretched too thin.

"What does beginner's mind even mean, Ricka?" you might very well ask.

For me, beginner's mind means entering into conversations and relationships - every single encounter actually - with openness and curiosity, and most importantly, by wiping clear the stories we have created about the other person and why they do anything. It means we stop taking things so personally, and instead get curious.

Beginner's mind feels open and joyous and spontaneous. It leaves more room for curiosity, for fresh viewpoints, for appreciation.

It can become a new habit to approach life this way.

Here's how to practice staying in beginners's mind, even when (especially when!) you are annoyed...

Become aware of the storyline in your head - then pause, place it in a nice little box, put a bow on it for safety and move it to the shelf.

  • "I recognize that it is easy for me to personalize his infrequent calls as a comment on our relationship (pause to breathe); instead I will get curious about what he is up to when he calls, but otherwise simply allow him to show up if and when he is ready..."

  • "I deserve more from my partners - ooops - that is my storyline coming up again and that tells me about me (pause to breathe). I will own my feelings and needs in our partners' meeting and through sharing with moderate vulnerability, model for others. I want to know how they feel and what solutions we might come up with."

  • "That employee knows better, she does this to bother me. Whoops, storyline (pause to breathe). My job, as her manager, is to get curious about what is going on for her - to listen deeply for needs that are and are not being met before jumping to my own story about her motives."

Be aware of when you are on autopilot and come back to the present.

  • "I notice how quickly I automatically jump to conclusions."

  • "I notice my body automatically tightening up when she raises her voice. "

  • "I notice an automatic sinking feeling when that midlevel approaches me."

Instead of being tied to being "right", experience the joy in simply learning.

  • "That was a surprise! I couldn't have guessed - I am so glad I listened."

  • "It's amazing what I hear when I am not trying to defend myself."

  • "I am learning a lot by recognizing what I don't know - she is an important teacher for me."

Behaviors aligned with values support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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