Beginner's Mind

'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few' 

('Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind' by Shunryu Suzuki)

'The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all possibilities. It is the kind of mind which can see things as they are, which step by step and in a flash can realise the original nature of everything'. (Richard Baker, Introduction, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind)

'Beginner's Mind' has also been called 'Don't Know Mind', 'No Mind', 'Open Mind', 'Child's Mind'. It brings an   innocence, a freshness, a curiosity to life, replacing well-worn habits of mind with new perspectives. One has only to watch a child examining a daisy or a tadpole for the first time to be reminded of how it is to see the world through fresh, unclouded eyes.

In practice we can return to a 'Beginner's Mind' by experiencing each breath as new, unique; each moment as a fresh, new beginning, and any experience in the body and in our perceived world as a new experience to which we can bring curiosity and an openness to what is rather than what we think or believe it is. 

A useful practice can start with taking our place, being comfortable and alert, sitting or lying with ease, held by our support, open and allowing. Feeling the body connecting us through to the earth... head gently resting on spine ... eyes closed or gently open .. jaw relaxed .. tongue resting .. chin tucked in .. shoulders relaxed, dropping ... arms resting .. hands in lap or on the support. Our seats grounding us .. legs heavy .. feet connecting us to the earth. We are being soothed .. our nervous system relaxing .. body and mind calming .. at rest. 

Each moment is new and we are part of this newness .. all we experience is new ... we can let go for now of our thinking minds, our expectations ... for this time we can bring an open 'Don't Know' mind to our practice ... to each breath we can simply open and allow it all to be exactly as it is. No effort, no pressure .. each breath totally new .. each breath a new beginning... 

And so with sounds ... hearing anew.. as for the first time .. allowing each sound to register afresh, letting go of conceptual naming mind ... and hearing silence ... the silence before sound arises.. and after it goes.. effortless... simple resting in awareness ... spacious, open, wide, allowing ..

And so with any thoughts that arise .. letting go of judging mind.. simply being with what is exactly as it is.. nothing to fix or change .. allowing.. quietening... letting be..

Simply being here in the present .. in this fresh moment.. letting go of ideas of the past and of the future .. this moment is enough ... enoughness ... resting in not knowing .. .. 

And being aware of the heartspace .. resting, allowing contentment in things just as they are, in simply being. 


We can practice 'Beginner's Mind' in our daily lives. In his book 'Zen in the Art of Helping,' Davod Brandon writes (with reference to his role in social work):

'Helpful listening is simply listening. It is a form of meditation wherein the speaker becomes the object of the concentration rather than the breathing or a mantra. The focus of the helper's concentration is the sound of the speaker's voice and the possible meaning of his words.

Nowness closes no doors. It involves an openness which throws away fears and expectations It opens itself to risks, to new learning experiences and interpretations. it declares 'I am ready to see you in a fresh way. I wish to put no boundaries on what you might say or do.'

'Let go of the need to be right, and approach every situation as an opportunity to learn something about yourself''.

More contemporaneously, the practice of Insight Dialogue as developed by Gregory Kramer is about the same openness to be present, to simply listen:

'I invite you to take the time in your practice to speak from silence and to listen deeply. What remains when you step out of roles, even for an instant?' ('Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom').

Rick Hanson, in his current Wednesday meditation/talk series on living with each other promotes the value of bringing 'Don't Know Mind' into relationships, to bring fresh perspectives onto our usual, habitual yet often unhelpful ways and patterns of being with others:


In this way, the practice of Beginner's Mind, of listening anew, afresh, for once without judgement, could be seen as a radical act for the world.  




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