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Beginner's mind

The present moment is full of life and experiencing it afresh every moment is essential for mindfulness. 
To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called "beginner's mind," a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.
An open, "beginner's" mind allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does. No moment is the same as any other.

Zen master Suzuki Roshi once said: ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.’ What does that mean?

Consider a young child. Children, if they’re fortunate enough to be brought up lovingly, are the greatest mindfulness teachers in the world! They’re amazed by the simplest thing. Give them a set of keys and they stare at it, notice the wide range of colours reflected in them, shake them and listen to the sound – and probably giggle too. Then, of course, they taste the keys!

Children epitomise the beginner’s mind. They see things as if for the first time because they’re not filled with ideas, concepts, beliefs, names or thoughts about what’s the right or wrong thing to do. Babies don’t intellectualise. They connect with the raw sensory data entering their mind, and love it. Young children, if lovingly brought up, are naturally mindful, and that 
mindfulness is a true joy for them.



When you experience the state of the beginner’s mind, you live in a world 
of fascination, curiosity, creativity, attention and fun. You’re continuously discovering and looking out with the eyes of a child. You’re in ‘don’t know’ mind. When you think, ‘I know what’s going to happen’ or ‘I know what the breath feels like’, you stop looking. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you just think you do. There is always a curious attention open to the many possibilites of the moment as they unfold one by one.

Each moment is fresh. Each moment is different and 
unique. Each moment is the only moment you have. 

If you’re a beginner to meditation, you’re in an enviable position. You really are in the beginner’s mind! However, by the time you practise your second meditation, you may begin comparing it to your first one – ‘It was better last time’, or ‘Why can’t I concentrate now?’ or ‘This is it. I’ve got it!’. You start to compare, conceptualise or condemn. When this happens, try to let it go – as much as you can – and bring your attention back to the here and now, the present moment, as if you’re engaging in this for the very first time. Do not misunderstand that the beginner’s mind is an easy attitude, but it’s fundamental to sustaining a long-term meditative discipline.


Try this experiement:

You might try to cultivate your own beginner's mind in your 
daily life as an experiment. The next time you see somebody who is 
familiar to you, ask yourself if you are seeing this person with fresh eyes, as he or she really is, or if you are only seeing the reflection of your own thoughts about this person.
Try it with your children, your spouse, your friends and co-workers, with your dog or cat if you have one. Try it with problems when they arise.




Try it when you are outdoors in nature. Are you able to see the sky, the stars, the 
trees and the water and the stones, and really see them as they are right now with a clear and uncluttered mind?
Or are you actually only seeing them through the veil of your own thoughts and opinions?



 
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