Zen Mind, A Beginner’s Mind

Written by: Josh Blatter

Original posting here: http://joshblatteryoga.com/blog/zen-mind-a-beginners-mind/

Zen Mind, A Beginner’s Mind

What is the Beginner’s Mind?

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“It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a sign or a warning signal to show you the weak point in your practice” – Shunryu Suzuki

It is easy in the midst of any practice to lose sight of our roots – to forget what it was like the very first time we embarked on our journey. We subconsciously distill our practices and in the process often lose the qualities of excitement, innocence, curiosity and joy. What remains from the funnel is a highly refined practice, but also an extremely tumultuous one. Why? Because an advanced practice is very limited and bound. It travels a one-way road with all arrow pointing toward attachmentAttachment could be of a goal, a level of success or even to re-live an experience or emotion. This road is the one that most people take and although it may not be easy and the terrain choppy, it is familiar. We work hard and we struggle often, so that we can attain things. It becomes a merry-go-round that has been imprinted in many of us our entire life. As we spin faster and faster we remain stuck because jumping off is too dangerous. We instead choose to remain dizzy and disconnected from our true nature. The solution lies in Zen Buddhist concept called the beginner’s mind.

The beginner’s mind is the true goal of practice. For a moment, contemplate the following question posed by Shunryu Suzuki, in his book “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind”,

“Suppose you recite the Prajna Paramita Sutra [or you can think of any poem] only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recited it twice, three times, four times, or more?”

Eventually our original attitude toward the practice will shift. It will grow to become mundane, monotonous, and even boring. This is when the beginner’s mind takes form as the expert’s mind. When we lose that place we start to discriminate too much and we become much more limited. Nothing feels like it will suffice until we perfect and re-perfect. The mind becomes demanding and it is at this point it is vital that we stop, reflect, and remove ourselves from the spinning cycle of attachment.

It may not happen right away and it could take some time but human tendency is to stray from the beginners mind. As a result we lose excitement, curiosity, and openness. But as we start to come back to our original state, we will find that the practice will be rich and sufficient within itself.

In the process of unplugging from the expert mind we should not feel discouraged. This greed and need to achieve is part of the process. It teaches us where our practice is weak and where we need to put in more effort. We should be grateful for these sure fire signs and celebrate the fact that we can filter out the impurities that cover our own true nature. This is the beginner’s mind.


Josh Blatter is a writer, entrepreneur, and a motivational yoga teacher who lives in Encinitas, California.  His classes are vibrant, thoughtful, creative, and heart-felt.  His spirit overflows with authentic and compassionate energy.  Connect with Josh here:

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And be sure to check out his latest community project:

The 32 Metronome Project

“The 32 Metronome Project challenges us to DO something different. It is a calling to engage life more mindfully – to pay attention, to slow down, and to truly listen. It dares us to disrupt old patterns and demands us to defy the parameters of what we know. It is a shift into a new paradigm in which we smile more, give more and show more love and respect to ourselves and one another.”