Zen and Beginner’s Mind
You know that feeling when you hear an amazing song for the first time? You savour it on its entirety. Every riff. Every chorus. Every beat. Then if you are like me, you put it on repeat, and listen to it about 100 times on your iPod. Somewhere in the second half of those 100 repeats, something weird happens: the notes fail to move you, and you start missing the most amazing part of the song, the one you most anticipated just y repeats before that. X repeats go by and you don’t even notice them. You’re looking at Waze, checking Twitter, or driving your car.
I think that’s a clear application of what Zen practitioners call “beginner’s mind.” With so much stimuli, anxiety, and pain, we get sedated to the basic constituents of life: first of all, our senses, which bring us to the present. Hearing noises, smelling smells, tasting tastes, feeling your skin and body, etc. Senses bring us to the present. (Our mind’s recollection of past senses are just memory, imprecise, so don’t confuse that).
In my shallow understanding of mindfulness, meditation, Zen, and even buddhism, I’ve taken with me that meditation is an opening to the senses, through breathing, hearing, etc. Regaining the grasp of the present. That’s where the beginner’s mind comes in.
Our senses are as sedated with the present as our ears and brain become sedated with the nth repeat of that great song. We have to practice a beginner’s mind with them (our senses): to experience them as if it were the first time we were experiencing them. Just like the first time we hear an amazing song: we focus on it. Enjoy every moment of it. Sense every beat, every note, every chorus. That’s the point.