There is no such thing as a vacuum in nature and the same is true of most peoples’ minds. They are full of beliefs, opinions and knowledge that they depend on to give them some identity and meaning. However, the more you fill your mind with beliefs and knowledge the more closed and fixed you tend to become. There is simply no room in there for anything new or fresh. How can innovation or creativity blossom in a mind that is weighed down and overflowing with all that brittle certainty? We need something different.

One of the aims of Zen practice is the cultivation of beginner’s mind. This mind is open, curious, fresh, flexible, and willing to learn. If you remember a time when you were learning something new you will recognise beginners mind. You could not assume you knew anything and so were open and ready to learn.

What would it be like if you approached the whole of your life like that? Do you even think it is possible? An expert’s mind is full of certainty and few new options exist there, but a beginners mind is open to any and every possibility because it is not fixed and crowded. We referred to the endearing qualities of children in the previous article, and these qualities are evident because they instinctively live with beginners mind.

Take a moment to feel that this moment is all there is - no past or future, just this moment. This means that there is also none of the knowledge that you would normally bring from the past. You are simply here, aware in this moment, which is going nowhere, because there is no future. What does that feel like for you?

If it feels open, expansive, exciting or full of possibility then enjoy it. However, if it feels scary or threatening, then you are possibly attached to some external or mental structures to give you certainty and identity. There is nothing wrong with that, and there need be no judgement of it. Just be aware of what it brings up, and recognise anything you may need to let go of.

True beginners mind is free from attachment and is therefore free. I hope you enjoy the following Zen story that illustrates this beautifully.

A well known Zen monk lived a simple life in a small hut on the edge of a forest. One day a professor of philosophy decided to visit the monk to discuss the nature of reality. The professor was well known for his knowledge and his lectures were attended by students from around the world.

The date was set and the professor duly arrived with his entourage. As soon as he was seated he started to talk but the monk asked him to wait until he had prepared and served tea. Looking tensely at his watch the guest agreed but soon became agitated at the time it was taking. The monk moved so slowly and attended to so many details it seemed the tea would never be ready.

Finally it was ready and the monk started pouring, and kept on pouring until the cup was overflowing and dripping onto the professor’s lap. He could no longer contain himself and leapt to his feet shouting at the monk, and accusing him of disrespecting him. He said he had many ideas to tell and share with the monk, and it was an insult to be treated in this manner.

The monk very gently and quietly placed the teapot aside, turned to his guest and said, “Your mind is just like this cup. It is overflowing with all your knowledge and opinions. There is no room for anything new there. Come back when it is empty and then we can explore together.”


Author's Bio: 

Clement McGrath brings 32 years of coaching and mentoring experience and a wealth of knowledge to his work. Clement has worked in a variety of roles that have all involved supporting people to reach their full potential and live the life of their dreams.

He has conducted his own private practice for 32 years, has facilitated youth work in a non-profit organisation, has been a contracted provider to a major government department, and director of Life Coach Associates since 2001.

After facilitating Life Coach Associates coach training program for 10 years, he recently stepped aside from that position to focus on creating a variety of programmes that are more accessible to a wider audience.

These include, “Relationship Rescue,” “How to Harness Your Yes Power,” “How to Increase Your Energy and Achieve More,” “Find Your voice: How to Communicate Confidently and Effectively,” and “Awakening to Infinity: A Course in Self Realisation.”

He is available for private consultations and public speaking, and can create customised programmes to address the specific needs of groups and organisations.

Clement is a qualified Breath Therapist, and has studied extensively in the areas of ‘Effective Communication,’ ‘Human Creativity,’ ‘Principles of Peak Performance and Success,’ and ‘Mythology and its Modern Applications.’

He has co-authored the book, “The Way to Freedom,” and is currently completing a book on relationships that he intends to have published in 2015.

Clement lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with his partner Heather Fletcher.

Contacts for Clement are:

0064 3 355 2297
0064 272 033 694