Beginner’s Mind, Imagination, and Expanding What’s Possible


I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And I believe that wholeheartedly. It’s the reason representation, and not just diversity and inclusion, but equity and justice are so incredibly important.

But what if what you want doesn’t exist yet? What if the world you want to live in is very different from the world you live in now? How do you bridge that gap when you can’t actually see what it is you want somewhere in the world?

This is where, if we give it power, our imaginations can change everything.

This is the radical potential of storytelling: to craft a future that is so enticing, so beautiful, and so resonant that we can’t help but draw people to us who are willing to help create it.

Sometimes, as a jaded, aging anarchist, I hear about an idea that feels so enormous, that would require such a paradigm shift, that I feel myself dismiss it out of hand. Because, my inner voice asks, “How would that even work? What would that even look like?”

My expert-mind what-about-ism kicks in, and the possibilities seem small, limited. My love of strategy and logistics and taking things step by step wants all the answers before we can move forward.

Let me be clear: while she has the best intentions of protecting me against disappointment, that jaded energy is not what is going to get me (or anyone else) free.

It’s in those moments that I try to soften, to call up the endless possibilities of my beginner’s mind. I use my imagination to remember the goal: collective liberation and recognition of our inextricable interconnection.

In the last year especially, I have been practicing with ideas that seem impossible. I call them things that “aren’t possible yet.” These are the ideas that, on the surface, I agree with. I would love to see them come to life. But I just don’t know how we’re going to collectively get there.

I don’t believe in them wholeheartedly yet, because I can’t see the whole board and how it will all play out. But I’m willing to try these ideas on. I’m willing to play with them, and to let them live in my mind. These are the ideas I’m willing to practice believing. And each time I do, it expands me.

One of my favorite quotations is from Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Which is to say: we need to be quiet, we need to listen, and we need to remember that the sound of that more just world breathing.

It’s us. We are the ones who are breathing life into this new world, into these radical possibilities.

We are not only possible, we are on our way.


Christy Tending is an activist, educator, and writer. She teaches online courses about sustainable self-care to students all over the world, and hosts the podcast Tending Your Life. She lives on occupied Ohlone territory (Oakland, CA) with her family. You can learn more about her work at www.christytending.com.

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