Tag: Buddhism

Beginner’s Mind as my mantra

I have worked with key words and recently mantra words in order to easier focus on what truly matters to me. During the weekend I realized that what I’m striving for is the concept of Beginner’s Mind. My current three mantra words are open-mindedness, presence (here and now) and gratitude. These words can, at least to me, easily be included in the concept of a beginner’s mind.

Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.

The phrase is also used in the title of the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, who says the following about the correct approach to Zen practice: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Source: Shoshin (Wikipedia)

Life is not about good answers, it is about interesting questions is a quote by Paulo Coelho that has the same mindset.

Now all I have to do is stick to the Beginner’s mind. I’m well aware of that it’s easier said than done. Still, it’s within reach and I’ll do my best.

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Your teacup is full (Empty your cup)
Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s Mind

Linda Eskin links to my post Your teacup is full (Empty your cup) from her post Beginner’s Mind – The Power of the Empty Teacup. Linda places the story in an Aikido context. I like her conclusions.

Beginner’s Mind is a sense of wonder, about skills, places, things, people, and even about ourselves. Practice it in all you do, whether learning Aikido techniques or talking to a friend, and you will find more depth and richness in your experience.

Keeping an open Beginner’s Mind is a good practice both on the mat and out in the world. Whenever you catch yourself thinking “Oh, this again,” pause and take a fresh look. Stay actively engaged with what you are doing. Ask yourself what about this situation could I be missing? What could I see in a different way? What does this teacher have to say that I have not heard from other teachers? What have I been assuming about this person that might not actually be so?

Beginner's mind
Beginner’s mind

Your teacup is full (Empty your cup)

The teacup story is around in different versions, here is one version:

Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.

One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

Here is another version:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

Like this cup, Nan-in said, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?

I like the tea story a lot, it is a great reminder that in order to learn we have to be humble, to empty our mind and make room for the new.

Here are some quotes about learning, I love the one about beginner’s mind.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few. – Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn – Alvin Toffler

When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before. – Henry David Thoreau

Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting something go every day. – Zen Proverb

This was originally posted at Zen And More, another blog of mine.