Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind". It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

I don't remember where I grabbed that bit of text from, but when I read it, it struck me as a powerful concept. It sat on my desktop for several weeks and I just realized yesterday that I wanted it to be a theme for this new year. 

A friend at work made a comment the other day that his goal for 2012 was to learn something new every day. This has actually been a mantra of mine for years. They can be simple things, or complex things. The beauty of it is that when you get in the habit of seeking out new knowledge, it becomes a habit. You can stop seeking it from the expected places - teachers, instructors, bosses - and realize that you can learn things from anyone. Everyone has something to add. Something to give. 

I love teaching the forward stroke, because every time I learn something new about it. Consistently, beginners will have an insight into what it feels like to perform the stroke that I will not have heard before.  And because I am open to the concept of learning from the very people I am teaching - I hope - I am a better instructor for it. I don't have much patience for people who teach something who have no interest in other points of view. As a species we tend to get locked into 'our perspectives' on topics. We tend to defend our position - or stance - on something without actually being open to the ideas of the people we are talking with. 

I commend my friend for his goal for 2012, though I would encourage it to be a goal for life. Perhaps if more of us acted with more of a 'beginners mind' then there would be less trouble on the planet. 

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