Life can be complex, frustrating, and hard to understand, and trying to always be in control is a futile exercise. Another approach is instead to cultivate an open mind which is free from all preconceptions and expectations. This is a state which the great Zen master Shunryu Suzuki has called the beginner’s mind.
In his book Zen mind, beginner’s mind, Suzuki writes “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few”.
Suzuki teaches us to be open to everything that arises. In the Zen practices this is cultivated during meditation, but it could of course also be practiced in our daily lives. “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything: it is open to everything”.
When we welcome everything we have experienced (good or bad, light or dark), without trying to suppress the experience, we align ourselves with our being, and with life as it is. A non-judging and non-emotional acceptance of our experience could then become a solid basis for a wilful decision whether to act or not on this experience. We will become masters of our actions rather than victims of the circumstances.
A beginner’s mind is also about freeing ourselves from expectations. When we act, we do it because it is the right thing to do – not because we want to achieve something in the future. Each moment is unique, and we should meet it with fresh eyes and an open mind. Each moment also bears the seeds of the future achievements, and if we focus on these seeds here and now we will find all the qualities of the final fruit. It is the present moment that is important, not the fantasies of the future.
We should also learn from the true beginners; the children. A child looks at all things with an undisturbed curiosity and awe of the beauty in the moment, without having the eyes clouded by the knowledge and experiences that comes with age. By finding your inner child, you will open yourself to spontaneity and new ways of experiences life.
The paradox of the beginner’s mind and the Zen mind is that the two are actually the same clear, unfettered and enlightened mind. The ultimate Zen experience is that all the wisdom is already there from the beginning, but just as the eye doesn’t see itself, this simple fact is deeply hidden and it may take a lifetime to realise it.
Inspired by: Shunryu Suzuki. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Illustration: Pixabay.com – ddimitrova