Beginner’s Mind

January 2, 2010

Father Richard today is writing about Beginner’s Mind. The concept comes from Zen and in particular from the work of Suzuki who wrote Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.” If I have understood Suzuki corrently I think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. “I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?” Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgement, just asking “what is it?

‘“Beginner’s mind” is most simply someone who’s not in their mind yet. They are people who can experience the naked moment apart from filtering it through any mental categories. Such women and men are capable of simple presence to what is right in front of them without “thinking” about it too much. This must be what Jesus means by little children already being in the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3-4). That clear teaching alone should have told us that Christianity was not supposed to be about believing doctrines and moralities.  Children do not believe theologies or strive for certitudes.  They respond vulnerably to what is offered them moment by moment. This is pure presence, and is frankly much more demanding than securing ourselves with our judgments.

Presence cannot be easily defined. Presence can only be experienced. But I know this: it allows the other to change us and influence us.

Beginner’s mind is pure presence to each moment before I label it, critique it, categorize it, exclude it, or judge it up or down.  Wow!  That is a whole new way of thinking and living.”


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