Beginner’s Mind

by Friends of Godwin

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One thing I have been encouraging meditators to do is to experiment, to explore, to discover and find out for themselves. Learn to be your own teacher, especially in daily life. Make your own discoveries about unpleasant experiences like physical and mental pain, and also about positive experiences like joy and bliss.

A point related to this is to have what is called “a beginner’s mind”, or “a don’t-know mind.” This is about having a mind that is humble. With that humility we have the openness to learn from anything and anyone. We can learn from a tree, a bird, an animal or a child. When you have this openness they also can be our teachers.

In this connection I would like to share an incident that happened to me some years ago. I was giving a retreat and it was the last day of the retreat. There was an elderly woman there, and in our final discussion she told the group that whatever she had learned from the retreat she had already learned from her dog! So I asked her: “Please tell me something more about your dog.” She said: “Well, you told us to be in the present moment, and that’s how my dog is; you told us to feel grateful for things, and that’s what my dog is; you did something in the retreat called yoga, and that is what my dog does.” In desperation I asked her: “Is there no difference between your dog and me?” “Yes”, she said, “there is one difference. You talk a lot, but my dog doesn’t!”

I was very much impressed with her, the way she was really learning from a dog. In our everyday life, to have this quality is something very important and beautiful.

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