Oakville Zen Meditation

#243 Baby mind vs. closed mind Oct 7th 18

From baby mind to closed mind

Great Japanese Zen Master Suzuki wrote a famous little book called “ Zen mind, beginner’s mind”

He wrote: “"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

Have you notice how the mind of a baby works ?.

A baby mind or a beginner mind is a non-judging open mind, absorbing everything like a sponge and rejecting nothing. As babies, we spent our days in perpetual wonder, experiencing whatever was happening. There is a concept in Zen Buddhism known as shoshin, which means “beginner's mind.” Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of our labelling, useless preconceptions, belief, ideas, opinions, judgment. All of them creating our mind-set, sort of mental prison from which escape is almost impossible.

When you are a true beginner, your mind is open. You're willing to learn and consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time. As you develop knowledge and expertise, however, your mind naturally becomes more closed, more rigid, lees open to new info.

We become stuck in our own believes.These solid believes are not really solid at all, they are just ideas.

There is a danger that comes with mind-set: we tend to reject new information that we disagree with. We are steamrolling through information & conversations, waiting until we hear something that matches up with our current mind-set. Then, we cherry-picking information to justify our current behaviors and beliefs. We want to validate information stocked in t our mind-set, sort of mental comfort zone. The problem is that when our mind is frozen into zillions of concepts, labels and beliefs, we pay attention less and less to what is new or in conflict with our mind-set

This is a sort of attention deficit very common among aging people.

How to Rediscover Your Beginner’s Mind

Here are a few practical ways to rediscover your beginner's mind and embrace the concept of shoshin.

Let go our urged need to try to win every argument.

When someone makes a statement that you disagree with, try to control the urge to react and get the final word. By letting go of the need to prove your point opens up the possibility for you to learn something new. Approach it from a place of curiosity, of an open mind. Even if you are wrong and they are right, it doesn't matter, your ego will not suffer too much.

Let go of your adding values& reasons for believing in this and that.

Many people, especially high achievers, have an overwhelming addiction to provide value of their opinions around them. It can handicap your success because you will never have a conversation where you just shut up and listen. If you're constantly adding value and reasons, then you kill the ownership that other people feel about their ideas. At the same time, it's impossible for you to listen to someone else when you're talking. So, step two is to let go of the need to always contribute. Step back every now and then and just observe and listen

Tell me more about that.

Take the challenge to stay quiet and use all of your energy into listening to someone else.

One of the favorite reply from Zen Teachers is to ask someone: “Tell me more about that.

It doesn't matter what the topic is, I'm simply trying to figure out to open my mind in hearing about the world through someone else's perspective.

Assume that you never know well enough:

We all have to learn information from someone and somewhere, so we all have a mentor or a system that guides our thoughts and opinions. The key is to realize that this outside influence may be beneficial.


The more we accumulate in our mind, the more stuck and less open it becomes. Also, the more we accumulate in our mind, the more we talk and the less we listen. Mind-set is a mental jail, prohibiting

any progress. Judging is OK is requested or if a decision is needed. Otherwise, it is a waste of mental energy.

“If we move from a static closed mind to a dynamic open one, problems and challenges of life become

more acceptable and manageable “said Zen Master Seung Sahn (1927-2004) in his book

“Don’t know mind”.

Serenity cannot be achieved with a closed mind trapping you in its beliefs.