Louise Heite | December 14, 2020
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.”
When we are free from views, we are willing to learn. What we know for sure in this great turning universe is actually very limited. Seung Sahn, a Korean Zen master, would ask his students questions such as “What is love? What is consciousness? Where did your life come from? What is going to happen tomorrow?” Each time, the students would answer, “I don’t know.” “Good,” Seung Sahn replied. “Keep this ‘don’t know mind.’ It is an open mind, a clear mind.”
The term “beginner’s mind” refers to an attitude of openness, of approaching life as though one is a beginner who doesn’t know anything yet. To begin something for the first time means confronting not-knowing and the insecurity around allowing questions and mistakes. It means detaching from one’s own presumed importance and prefabricated concepts in order to perceive things in an unbiased way. This lets us see previously invisible information and potentials, opening up new possibilities for action.
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” Rachel Carson
Every day in our lives, we encounter people of whom we have created a mental image based on experiences or appearances. But is this image true? What chance do others have to change if we always see them in the same way? However, if we enter into these encounters in the spirit of the beginner’s mind, new opportunities can open up. Maybe we see something about the other person that we never noticed before. Or we hear a sentence that previously we would have filed away under “typical” and instead ask what is meant by it. This way the conversation could take a new turn and deliver unexpected results. A simple question from the perspective of the beginner’s mind can clear the path to a previously overlooked solution. The more we assume not to know anything, the more open we are to all information, becoming less selective and perceiving more of what is actually in front of us.
The beginner’s mind is a wonderful concept that reminds us in one simple expression to open our minds and leave behind our mental routines. The more we practice the beginner’s mindset, the easier it becomes to switch gears in any given situation and to see with new eyes.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." Seung Sahn
What we see about those close to us is only a small part of their mystery. In many ways, we don’t really know them at all. Through beginner's mind, we learn to see with a childlike curiosity, free from views.
Without views, we listen more deeply and see more clearly. Even more, we can truly learn something new and expand our horizons.
Louise Heite runs a leadership consultancy for high-achievers. Her methodology is deep coaching - bespoke, not time-based. When she’s not serving her clients powerfully, she runs wild in nature, brews kombucha, and is cozying up with a good book.