Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
So taught the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, and it is a lesson I have had to learn again and again as I stumble along the everyday path of awakening. Having a baby is a profound teacher of beginner's mind- from labor and birth to the actual caring for and raising up of children, we realize repeatedly that everything we think we "know" often doesn't work or isn't true for this birth, this child, this situation, this family, this moment . . .and is instead an obstacle to truly experiencing things as they are in all their beauty and magic. When we let go of what we "know" and simply open to the present moment, to our baby, our child as he/she actually is, then possibility happens. What seemed overwhelming or unsolvable becomes workable and we can breathe again. Tears turn to smiles. Frustration transforms into a silly song. Beginner's mind allows us to just be with our child, waiting for him to tell us what he actually might need, rather than what we think he needs.

Beginner's mind happens when we let go of our expectations and our agenda. This is hard to do. I often fail at it! It means noticing when we are pushing what we think should happen onto the present moment, not allowing any breathing room for anything else to occur. When we notice we are doing this, when we are busy being "experts", we can pause. Just that pause can stop the momentum of expert's mind, and allow the grace of the present moment to peak through. We can allow our baby or child to communicate with us - because we are actually present to receive the communication, rather than deflecting it with our preconceived ideas. This in turn allows our babies, our children to trust us. Beginner's mind softens our hearts and helps us open to our children. Our baby crying becomes a necessary communication rather than a frustrating annoyance. The toddler's tantrum becomes a strong reminder of the power of frustration, and we can compassionately give her the safe space to vent. We can allow ourselves and our children simply to be. The more we create that sacred space, the more joy will arise in our daily parenting. So, I remind myself each day "beginner's mind".