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Groundhog Day and The Beginner’s Mind
“You want a prediction about the weather? You’re asking the wrong Phil.
I’m going to give you a prediction about this winter.
It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you for the rest of your lives!”
–Phil Connors, Groundhog Day, 1993
Today is Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow. Sigh– six more weeks of winter. What is more exciting to me, however, is that today provides the umpteenth opportunity to watch my favorite movie of all time, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray! For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (I thought everyone had seen it!) it’s about a grumpy, egotistical weatherman, who is forced to keep repeating the same day over and over again. The movie has become so popular that the phrase, “groundhog day” has become a euphemism for anything tedious and repetitive. However, I believe it has far more significance than that. It’s a wonderful example of mindfulness.
As I get older, I find winter to be more and more distasteful. If I could tolerate the sun, I’d become a “snowbird,” like so many of my fellow baby boomers, and move to Florida during the winter months. Instead, I look out of my window at the frozen ocean channel and count the days until spring.
“Every breath, new chances.” (Zen saying)
Mindfulness means accepting the opportunity to be present. Each moment is fresh and new and offers the chance to find happiness. Like Phil Connors, we are trapped by lifelong behavior and thought patterns that keep us apart from others and our own happiness. Alternatively, teachers of Buddhism suggest “the Beginner’s Mind,” an open-minded attitude that provides us with many possibilities. The beginner’s mind invites intuition and curiosity over analysis and preconceptions. As a retired university professor, this is quite a departure from a self-concept based on “expertise!”
As I write this and dwell on the dreary brown marsh grasses and ice-bound waters outside my window, I suddenly notice something. Granddaddy, our resident great blue heron, has alighted in the grasses nearest to our house. He sits, still and silent, gazing east toward the ocean. Is he meditating? He looks peaceful and comfortable, understanding how he fits into this wonderful place and that each moment contains all that is important. Watching Granddaddy, in all his magnificence, is all I need to get “unstuck” and adopt my beginner’s mind. Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen gives us a very helpful list of practices to help us develop a Beginner’s Mind. (http://zenhabits.net/how-to-live-life-to-the-max-with-beginners-mind/d)
- Take one step at a time.
- Fall down seven times, get up eight times.
- Use Don’t Know mind. Don’t pre-judge.
- Live without shoulds.
- Make use of experience. Don’t negate experience, but keep an open mind on how to apply it to each new circumstance.
- Let go of being an expert.
- Experience the moment fully.
- Disregard common sense.
- Discard fear of failure.
- Use the spirit of inquiry.
- Focus on questions, not answers.
The movie, Groundhog Day, may be a fantasy, but it represents a timeless, compelling vision of how to live with happiness in the real world. I plan to watch the movie again tonight. Below is part of the Groundhog Day movie script. Watch the movie again! It’s amazing!
Groundhog Day Script
Rita: I’m sorry? What was that again?
Phil: I’m a god.
Rita: You’re God.
Phil: I’m a god — I’m not the God, I don’t think.
Rita: Because you survived a car wreck?
Phil: I didn’t just survive a wreck; I wasn’t just blown up yesterday. I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned.
Rita: Oh, really?
Phil: [nods] Every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender: I am an immortal.
Doris: Special today is blueberry waffles—
Rita: Why are you telling me this?
Phil: Because I want you to believe in me.
Rita: You’re not a god. You can take my word for it; this is 12 years of Catholic school talkin’.
Phil: How do you know I’m not a god? How do you know?
Rita: Because it’s not possible!
Rita: There is something so familiar about this. Do you ever have déjà vu?
Phil: Didn’t you just ask me that?
Rita: What about me, Phil? Do you know me too?
Phil: I know all about you. You like producing, but you hope for more than Channel 9 Pittsburgh.
Rita: Well, everyone knows that!
Phil: You like boats, but not the ocean. You go to a lake in summer with your family up in the mountains. There’s a long wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing from the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone. You’re a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You’re very generous. You’re kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel.
Rita: How are you doing this?
Phil: I told you. I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
[Phil is carving a snow sculpture while Rita sits posing and freezing.]
Rita: Why can’t I see it?
Phil: I just want to give you your money’s worth. You paid top dollar for me.
Rita: Well… I think you were a bargain.
Phil: It’s sweet of you to say. You’re probably right.
Phil: [talking to a sleeping Rita] I think you’re the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never seen anyone that’s nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you… something happened to me. I never told you but… I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could. I don’t deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.
Rita: [muttering in her sleep] Did you say something?
Phil: Good night.
Phil: Why are you here?
Rita: You said stay so I stayed.
Phil: [laughs] I can’t even make a collie stay. Something is… different.
Rita: Good or bad?
Phil: Anything different is good. Do you know what today is?
Rita: No, what?
Phil: Today is tomorrow. It happened.
[Phil kisses Rita over and over, realizing that he has finally passed Groundhog Day]
Rita: [smiling] Phil, why weren’t you like this last night? You just fell asleep.
Phil: It was the end of a VERY long day.