The Well

Beginner’s Mind

by Andrew Shaw on Jan.11, 2010, under Archives

Over the Holidays, my wife and I visited her family in San Francisco.  We had a wonderful time and enjoyed every minute as we don’t get to see them nearly as often as we’d like.  We were also able to be with our nephew, William, who at 15 months, is completely fascinated by the world around him.  It is such a joy to watch him explore, so full of curiosity and enthusiasm.  Even something as simple as a light bulb going on and off is a profound event.  If you have children or have been around little kids at all, then you know what I’m talking about.  They are seeing everything for the first time.  For these young eyes, everything is full of wonder.  Everything is new and interesting.  Theirs is a whole-hearted eagerness. 

Unfortunately, I think we lose this sight as we grow older.  We lose this special ability to be amazed by, and to see the wonder in, the everyday.  We forget, or we take for granted, the mini-miracles happening all around us.  And we are quick to judge or presume we know everything there is to know about something.  There is a concept in Zen Buddhism called Beginner’s Mind.  It refers to having a mind like a beginner; an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions.  If we are able to practice letting go of all that we think we know, of letting go our need to be right or to be the expert, we open ourselves to new possibilities, to new discoveries, to surprises and to new insights.  We can shake off the old and like a child, see things anew.

Children are our best teachers in living this way and in showing us how to get back to the basics.  By watching how they live, we are reminded to awaken to the present, to be open to new experiences, to be curious and excited about life, to see the world anew, and to live in awe and wonder.  This can be an incredibly enriching and meaningful practice, one that brings greater clarity, appreciation, joy and happiness.

Be Well

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