Monday, March 7, 2011

Explorer's Mind, Experimenter's Mind

Meditators are often told to approach life with a Beginner’s Mind.  This means, “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.”

In my opinion this is bunk.  Either one is a beginner, or one has experience upon which one bases future actions.  A beginner does not know how to balance on a bicycle.  A more experienced rider, might seek to ride without hands, or with greater speed, or for greater distances.  Just as the rider did not originally know how to balance, s/he now does not know exactly what behavior changes will bring about the greater speed or longer endurance.  

But, since s/he is not a beginner, s/he can guess. Perhaps pedaling faster will result in greater speed.  Perhaps use of a different gear. Or positioning the seat at a different height, or using toe clips. While from a certain perspective, the rider is a beginner at gaining speed or endurance, s/he has valuable experience on which to formulate approaches that may result in the desired changes.

I’d like to propose the use of different terminology.  Experimenter’s Mind or Explorer’s Mind.

The desired aspects of Beginners Mind, are enthusiasm, perseverance, risk taking, and a sense of adventure.  But this does not mean forgetting accumulated experiences.

Suzuki’s book says, “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”

I do not agree with this.  In the beginner’s mind, there is a goal.  Keep balanced on that bicycle and ride.  The beginner has seen successful riders. The beginner knows that successful riders make the pedals rotate in their socket.  They look where they are going.  They hang onto the handle bars. The beginner sees only two possibilities.  Riding and Not Riding.  It is the more advanced rider who sees many possibilities.  Riding to work, riding to school, riding in a marathon, racing, touring, grocery shopping.

When one begins to meditate, the beginner is usually told to focus on the breath, or a sound.  Focus on one thing. Only when one is advanced in meditation does one have the focusing ability to attempt a wide variety of goals during meditation, such as contacting the divine, or finding a feeling of forgiveness.

We all have Beginners Mind when we are beginners. Once we master the skills of a beginner, then we can explore and experiment – that is where the true joy dwells.

1 comment:

  1. My goodness this is great! Thanks! I kind of know what they mean with "beginner's mind," and perhaps they mean one should approach new people or new situations (even a new recipe) that way: naively, trustingly, openly. But there is much of life where we already have some expertise. We can use our "knowledgeable mind" to explore and experiment. The problem comes when "expert mind" takes over everything. That way lies cynicism and jadedness. Good post!!