Saturday, January 20, 2007
I have a little book called 365 Zen Daily Readings by Jean Smith that I found at a library used book sale several years ago. It is full of quotations from the Zen masters. I used many of them when I was writing a technology handbook for our staff and faculty a few years ago. There are a couple in particular I love because they put clearly into words one of my greatest pleasures in life; that of being a beginner and being open to learn new things.
Learning new things really jazzes me. I feel fully alive and energized and happy when I discover something new, see something I think I could make and then do it or serendipitously solve a problem. Keeping a "beginner's mind" is keeping yourself open to those possiblities. Here are two quotes from the book that ring a bell with me:
Shunryu Suzuke said “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”
He also said “In Japan we have the phrase ‘shoshin’, which means, “beginner’s mind.” The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind….Always be a beginner. Be very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen (mindful meditation), you will begin to appreciate your beginner’s mind. It is the secret of Zen practice.”
Today I learned a new technique in knitting. I have been knitting for 35 years but I have never before tried to knit cables. Those are the lovely twisty ropes that go up and down some sweaters, hats or mittens. I always thought it was too complicated for me to do. I like to knit without having to count stitches or think about the pattern, so I usually stick to simple things. But I saw this really lovely pattern for fingerless gloves at Whoopsy Daisy. She had a link to Knitty, where there is a free pattern for these gorgeous wool fingerless gloves. I think Kateri made some too. In my library office my desk is right under the AC vent and cold air pours down on me all year round. (The cool air circulates all year because of all the computers.) I wear wool sweaters and my hands are still always freezing. I was drooling over those gloves. So last weekend I bought some beautiful lavender wool/cotton blend yarn and I decided to try to learn to do cables so I could make these gloves. They are knit in the round on double pointed needles, the way mittens and socks are made. I used the smallest needles I have, size one, even though the pattern called for bigger ones. I couldn’t get the stitch gauge right and I wanted them small because my hands are small so I also reduced the stitch count to 40 instead of 45. I actually had a cable needle already. I had bought it from a sale bin years ago, thinking I would someday get the courage up to learn to do cables. It was perfect for this project. They knit up so quickly I finished one glove today and it is so delicious I can hardly believe it!
One of the things I really love about blogging is all the new things I am learning. It is such a delight for me to see and hear what other people are thinking and doing and then find ideas about how I can try something new to me. My knitting, photography, poetry, writing and reading, teaching and librarian skills have all been stimulated by what I have learned in blogging in the past nine months. My parenting is much better too, and I think I am a more compassionate, empathetic and thoughtful person because of what I have read on other people’s blogs. What have you learned lately that gives you a renewed “beginner’s mind?”