Saturday, January 20, 2007

Beginner's Mind


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?”

lavender jasmine fetching.JPG


Anonymous said...

I learned that for as clearly as I thought I spoke to convey my thoughts and feelings, oftentimes what people read/hear/touch upon are legitmate entries for them into what I was saying, based on what they can HEAR and believe. But that oftentimes what they hear has nothing to do with what I am saying, or have said.

So, it's like learning to "speak" all over again in the world, and blindly at that. And yet it is important enough to do it, so...tug, tug, choo, choo, off we go.

Oh, and I'm learning to drive, so there is work on conquering that fear, and claiming that part of my power. For real this time.

Anonymous said...

First off, I love "Zen mind, beginner's mind." I go back to it a lot, and what's funny is that I feel like I'm reading it for the first time all over again! I don't know if that's beginner's mind or just a bad memory!

I've just started blogging, so I am a beginner here. Reading blogs opened up a whole new world of ideas for me, and writing one has only deepeded this. My mind is flooding with images and ideas and possibilities, and I am trying to hold onto this "beginner's" luck/mind as long as I can. It's pretty energizing.

Good luck with the fingerless gloves! I have a pair that have a mitten appendage to cover the fingers for when they need to keep warm, and I am in love with them. I call them m-loves.


Mary Lee said...

Graphic Novels: a whole new "room" in the library for me!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea we all have so much more to learn and experience. Good work on cables....what's next?