If you are living with a chronic disease such as phenylketonuria (PKU), a Japanese concept called shoshin may help you view your life and your disease in a new way. Shoshin may be able to improve your outlook and encourage new experiences and joy.
What is shoshin?
Shoshin is a concept that comes from Zen Buddhism and translates to “beginner’s mind.” It is a way of looking at the world with a sense of openness and wonder, as children do, approaching life with a sense of curiosity and exploration, asking many questions. Their minds are free from preconceived notions and judgments. As we age and become more experienced and educated, we have a tendency to lose this beginner’s mindset and be more critical of new experiences or ideas.
How shoshin may help you
There have been no specific studies about shoshin in PKU patients. However, a Swiss study did investigate the effects of mind-body medicine on chronic diseases. According to the study, using a beginner’s mind can help improve mindfulness and may, in combination with traditional medicine, be able to reduce anxiety and depression, which PKU patients may experience.
Shoshin also may help you be more open to trying new things. It can help you avoid jumping to conclusions about treatments or experiences with thoughts such as “that will never work for me.”
It can help you let go of ideas of how your life could or should have been, and embrace the life you have now. Don’t focus on the limitations PKU puts on your life, such as a restricted diet, but instead focus on the opportunities it offers.
By having a beginner’s mind you may find that you have enhanced creativity because your ideas are less confined to previous information about how you think something should be done.
Shoshin can also help you form stronger connections with the people around you through more focus on what they are saying and what you can learn from them, rather than thinking of reasons that they are wrong or what you are going to tell them next.
Overall, shoshin can help restore joy and play in your life and possibly help you find more meaning in it.
How to foster a beginner’s mind
There are a number of areas in which you can focus on developing your beginner’s mind.
One step is to renew your curiosity about how the world works. Find an object around the house and think about about it as if you had never seen it before, such as “What is it made of?”, “How is it made?”, or “How does it work?”. Let go of the assumption that you know all the answers already and see what holes you might have in your understanding by pretending you have to explain every part of the answer to an expert. This will help you think of new questions to ask and help you learn more in the process.
The beginner’s mind also is full of awe and wonder. Take time to observe the things around you. Try viewing something awe-inspiring, such as a sunset, a skyscraper, or an ocean wave.
Next, try to find the awe and wonder in smaller, everyday things. At your next meal, focus on one of the fruits or vegetables on your plate, such as an apple slice, for instance. View the different colors of the apple skin and the small structures that make up the flesh of the apple. Take time to enjoy the smell of the apple. When you bite into it, feel the crunch and then the sweetness on your tongue. Being mindful and focusing on even seemingly mundane items can help you foster a beginner’s mind and make everyday experiences new.
Don’t be afraid to try new activities or opportunities. Instead of thinking of the limitations of your conditions, think of ways you can accomplish your goals. Think of what might be new and enjoyable about the experience.
You also can try to find the joy and play in activities. See the ways that you can turn everyday activities into games. For example, you could turn laundry time into a chance to practice your basketball free throws. Or you could be playful with others by arranging the lunch on you plate into a face.
Eventually, you may begin to see everything in a new light and make your life fuller.
Last updated: Feb. 25, 2021
Phenylketonuria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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