Thursday, January 24, 2008

Beginner's Mind



In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few.
—Shunryu Suzuki
What if everyone on the planet just stopped for a few minutes? I mean it. Stopped everything they were doing, saying, thinking... (With enough heads up time, of course, to remove themselves from harm's way.) I wonder what would happen?

I just thought this as I was sitting in meditation and remembered those very quiet days after 9/11 when most of the air traffic was halted. Sitting still may be one of the most difficult things in the world to do (especially for me). Stilling the mind is far more difficult.

Wanting to post something today as I continue to suffer through preparing for taxes, I latched onto one of the first phrases that entered my mind upon waking. Beginner's mind. I pulled Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind off the shelf. I opened randomly to these comments on zen sitting meditation practice (zazen):

Nothing Special


"Of course, whatever we do is the expression of our true nature, but without this practice it is difficult to realize. It is our human nature to be active and the nature of every existence. As long as we are alive, we are always doing something. But as long as you think, "I am doing this," or "I have to do this," or "I must attain something special," you are actually not doing anything. When you give up, when you no longer want something, or when you do not try to do anything special, then you do something. When there is no gaining idea in what you do, then you do something. In zazen what you are doing is not for the sake of anything. You may feel as if you are doing something special, but actually it is only the expression of your true nature; it is the activity which appeases your inmost desire. But as long as you think you are practicing zazen for the sake of something, that is not the true practice."

(Naturally, I had to sit down and just sit for fifteen minutes before composing this post.)

All of this is true for painting as well, of course, and that opens cans of worms for other discussions. But just sitting still for some minimum amount of time every day makes me a better painter.

If that's true (which it is), I should be able to take the Right Attitude towards my task at hand and enjoy the rest of the day. You enjoy yours, too.

1 comment:

RHCarpenter said...

I've joined a Zen Buddhist group - we meet, we do sitting meditation, walking meditation, and more sitting meditation - then we go our separate ways. That stillness is so necessary in our lives.