“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

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