Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few. - Shunru Suzuki

This is a favorite quote of mine from the book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by the revered Zen Master, Shunru Suzuki (1905-1971). I first came across this book over 30 years ago, and the simple, but profound teachings have had a great impact on me. Nothing is more true than the quote above. 

Think of the first time you ever did any activity and how everything was new. The world was nothing but possibilities. You experimented, tried different methods, different ways, and most of all, had fun. This is the way of a child, who approaches new things with a sense of wonder.

Now fast forward, you have studied hard, maybe even gone to school, in order to hone your skills. When you approach what you do you now see it through trained eyes, and as such, you see perhaps only one path to take. This is most likely the path you have been trained on. To your highly trained eye/ear, there is only one way. But is there?

Think back to when you first started, or were a child, back to before you knew the rules. You were free then. Free to explore. Free to create. Free to just be and have fun. This is Beginner's Mind.

As a trained musician, I have been shown singular pathways to follow. I have learned the "right" way to do things. But in the face of that, I have always tried to go back to my beginner's mind. When I play the Gongs, I try to experience them anew, like the first time I discovered them and was filled with child like wonder. I try to let go of all my training, all my preconceptions, and be open to the untold possibilities. I can never let go of things 100%, but I remain open to the possibilities and what I call, the providence of accidents. Even if I'm following a well worn path, I allow for abandoning that path and following my intuition, should that be the better, or more interesting, course. 

With the Gongs, things can change from day to day. A sound will reveal itself and whisper in your ear, follow me. You can choose to stay with the plan, or follow and see where it leads. Staying with the plan is the easier of the two. You are safe and know the outcome. But following the sound and your intuition is a leap of faith, of faith both in the sound, and in yourself. It takes time to build up trust in yourself. But it is necessary. It's true that veering from the path won't always yield magical results, but when it does, the magic is so powerful you forget those times it didn't.

How have you experienced Beginner's Mind?

~ MB

Chop Wood | Carry Water | Play Gongs


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