Beginner’s Mind


Tulip Grace

Originally uploaded by cleoxcat

Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.” I think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. “I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?” Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgement, just asking “what is it?” via Lecture on Beginner’s Mind written by Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman

Recently I spent some time at a dance workshop, not dancing, but sitting on the sidelines with my piles of pretty stuff to sell. During the workshop when all the students were focused on the teacher and not drifting aimlessly in and out of my booth, I was able to watch the lesson as it progressed. Almost all of the dancers had Middle Eastern (belly dance) skills, but this lesson was in flamenco, which required different finger and hand positions, different timing, different steps. Some of the students picked up the new movements easily; others needed a bit more time. I played along with the group, trying out the new hand motion. ( Start with an open hand facing upward, and then, one-by-one, beginning with the little finger, curl the fingers and thumb into the palm, gracefully flip the hand over, pointing upward, and move the arm into the next position.) Easier said than done. My fingers don’t want to cooperate. This is not the way we usually work, they said. Leave us alone. We want to be stiff with carpal tunnel, we want to pop when you move us, we have hangnails and bruises to slow you down, they said. They said no, we don’t think so. Clumsy, I put my hand down.

Later, after the class,  the teacher came over to  me. I saw you playing along with us, she said. How did you do? Not good, I said. I can’t really do it. She took my hand and moved each finger individually. See, she said, it’s simple when you take your time, and practice. There are exercises to strengthen your fingers, too. Be patient and you’ll get results. After she walked away to pack up her music and costume, I thought to myself, I need Beginner’s Mind. I need to forget my hand’s preconceived notions that fingers don’t, can’t move that way, and just move them. I need not let my mind dwell on previous notions, old beliefs. I can open up to new possibilities, and dance.


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