D.T. Suzuki often used the phrase, “beginner’s mind.” He was referring to maintaining a fresh, unconditioned approach to meditation and all things. As I am preparing to teach another beginning Buddhism class through the community college, I relish the opportunity to visit the teachings again for the first time. I begin again and again. And each time, the teachings seem fresh as they stimulate my curiosity to practice.
Buddha is said to have mused, “What I have realized is too close to be seen, too wondrous to be imagined, and too simple to be grasped.” His awakening was profound and uncluttered—no need to contrive a system through which to teach. Only those who followed seem to make things complicated. Still, we need something to sit on—a foundation of sorts. So, myriad systems arise to meet the needs of devoted practitioners. But we cannot simply sit on the cushion of our limited understanding and feel we have realized the awakened mind.
Realization dawns imperceptibly—it sneaks up on us when we least expect. We need to become like a wide-eyed child discovering something new each time we practice. Following the curiosity that first set us upon the path, we enter a familiar hallway and choose an unfamiliar door. We “mix it up” and see what happens—even though we are sitting in the same place, on the same chair or cushion.
This is beginner’s mind. With a childlike heart, we listen to the silent inner voice echoing throughout the universe and recognize something of our original nature as it reflects back to us. We practice listening through meditation and then continue to meet every moment with a knowing smile. And then begin again.
So, when we get frustrated by our practice because we expect something and thus try too hard, we might want to hit the restart button and clear the screen momentarily. Maybe, without knowing it, we actually begin to meditate.