Revisiting beginner's mind
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi was a Japanese Zen monk who found a welcoming community in San Francisco in 1959 at the age of 55 where he founded the San Francisco Zen Center, the first Zen center outside of Asia. Local beatniks and scholars like Alan Watts were intrigued and offered their enthusiastic support at the time; the timing was right -- the center is still going strong today. He remained there until his death in 1971, a year after publishing his seminal book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.
Suzuki Roshi's famous dictum -- In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few. -- is as timely as ever, nearly half a century after its U.S. publication.
We hear a LOT from *the experts* lately. Journalists, politicians, doctors, nurses, business leaders and more are on every channel of communication from print to electronic answering questions and, sometimes, just offering opinions. They seem to know it all, to have the final say. You may even be an expert of sorts. Maybe you know your kids or family better than anyone. Or your spouse. Or your job duties. Maybe you are the expert story-teller, history-keeper, fixer-upper. And, you know what? We really need experts. We need your expertise.
But stop here. Reset.
Approaching life with a beginner's mind does not mean abandoning your hard-earned skill set. It means always being open and humble. It means understanding that you always have more to learn. It means approaching every new challenge with vigor and curiosity. It also means you don't become arrogant with your opinions, thinking you are right and people who don't get it are deplorables or wingnuts. Take a step back and reflect on what Jack Kornfield says, "When we are free from views, we are willing to learn."
On the other hand, there's our very own belief which quickly hardens into a firm, (read expert) insistence or assumption that if we do well, act *right,* treat others as we wish to be treated, we'll be okay. In fact, we deserve it. We earned that right, so to speak. But, in another seminal book, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner reminds us there really is no comforting connection between deservingness and outcomes, in spite of what we feel or think.
This week, be humble. Be open. Be curious. Look at your loved one with fresh eyes and see what you haven't noticed yet. Breathe. Allow. Summon all your expertise, then put it aside and let a beginner's mind permit you to learn anew. We are all here together. Let us lean in to learning how to do that.