Finding Freedom: A Return Home

The Catalyst

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a jump (head) first and let’s see where I land mentality.

I am not sure at this point if this approach has always served me well. But the hunger for more has driven me most of my life. As a result, I have found myself rejecting almost every path I have undertaken in search of something more.

I suspect many of us share in this urge.

At some point in our journey, we will lose sight of the shore we departed. And may not be able to see, or imagine, the shore upon which we will arrive.

We are adrift in the expanse. Seeing nothing on the horizon. Only gazing into the distance, and peering into the depths of the waters below.

It seems natural during this time that great doubt may arise as to whether or not there is any shore at all. We may feel simultaneously lost at sea, and trapped on our small vessel.

The Fly Swat Analogy – Changing Perception

Fly and swatter | Free SVGImagine for a moment a fly sitting on a wall. This is a newborn fly and has never seen a fly-swat before and for the first time in its life is confronted with a grid of “plastic death” rushing towards it.

Not knowing what to do, it immediately starts looking for a way out. It picks a square in the middle and starts counting, trying to find the end.

One, two, three, four. Counting up, counting down, left and right. All it can see is more fly swat in every direction. The fly swat is hundreds of times bigger than itself. It can’t count fast enough to figure out which direction to take. There is no way out.

The fly is trapped, doomed to a certain squishing.

Later on, the fly learns that the fly swat is actually limited in every direction. It’s finite. And what is actually surrounding the swat is space. It no longer needs to count grids to find a way out, it changes its perception of the experience.

Now, it is free in every direction and only needs to let its wings carry it in some way or another, and it will have evaded the swat with ease. Whereas, previously in every direction, our fly was trapped.

Transformation

For most of us, acquiring the strength to transmute our lives accedes over time. For others it can implode violently in an instant, pushing us into the next phase without complete understanding as to what happened, or what will happen.

The fear of this transformation is not derived from a place of weakness. Rather it stems from a lack of faith in our own fortitude and ability to endure the impending storm of change.

The Three Pillars of Zen: Great doubt, Great faith, Great determination.

Eventually, we may find that all roads lead back Home, learning all the while that the only terrain we travelled was within.

There is one Dharma, not many.

Good luck,
Jack

How to Cultivate Beginner’s Mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many opportunities, within the expert’s thoughts there are few.” ~Suzuki

As children, we experience an ability to learn that is far beyond what most of us possess as adults. As a child we learned how to read, speak, write, interact, play, think, emote, manipulate, and so much more. And all this, from nothing.

To get a better sense of beginners mind and the possibilities that arise from being in an open state of wonder, the below video may be valuable to you.

So what is “beginners mind”? Beginner’s mind is a concept from Zen Buddhism that encourages the practitioner to cultivate a sense of openness and eagerness.

It is simply an open intent to learn something new in any subject matter.

It first asks that we don’t pass prejudgement when engaging in an interest. This is independent of time and skill level. Each moment can be an open learning experience.

What are a few methods you can use to start observing “beginners mind” for your creative life?

Questioning and Contemplation

The essence of beginners mind can be found in questioning. Holding an open question as you engage in an activity keeps the mind focused on the act of learning and discovery.

Some of the core components of contemplation are:

  1. Presence
  2. Focus
  3. Openness
  4. Intent

By adhering to the above components, we can focus our mind on the open discovery of what is presently true in our experience. But perhaps not recognised.

“A punch is not a punch, it is a PUNCH!” ~Shaolin Monk

This whole process can take a certain willingness to look like a fool, to feel a little stupid or doubt yourself and your abilities. Focusing on powerful questions will help guide you through this phase.

Some questions to practice your contemplation skills:

  • What is social?
  • What is a note (music)
  • What is a punch (fighting)
  • What is the ground?
  • What is learning or skill?
  • And for those of you training at the Kwan Um School of Zen. Does a dog have Buddha-nature?

We could also call beginners mind, “don’t-know” mind. Any words could be used, they point to the same thing. Don’t know.

The next time you locate your self in a state of affairs where you’re exercising your creativity or skill, note the way you react to the process. Do you allow yourself an experience of play and openness? If you do, you are training this don’t-know mind.

If you aren’t, don’t beat your self up. That simply exacerbates the problem! Instead, breathe, take a step back, and recall the above tools.

Take care,
Jack