Beginner’s mind: What it is and isn’t

We are all “just starting” our spiritual journey. To believe one has advanced, by even a step, is to erase one’s own footprints before they are trodden. ?

A comment in an online group. I assume it was in response to me posting a link to The Way of Liberation by Adyashanti, and commenting that it’s a book helpful both to beginners and people further along the spiritual path. 

If spirituality is about truth and reality, then ideology doesn’t mix very well with it. We may start out with different ideologies, but we have to abandon each of them at some point. And that includes non-dual ideologies. 

The quote above is from an online group I am a member of and illustrates a non-dual ideology common in some circles. We hear something that has truth in it, and take it on as an ideology and over-apply it. 

So what is beginner’s mind? To me it’s receptivity, sincerity, curiosity. A willingness to let cherished views go when we encounter something that seems more aligned with reality.

And also, keeping an eye out for where we hold onto fixed views – usually for comfort and safety. Knowing that any thought or idea can help us orient and function in the world without having any final or absolute truth in it. 

And what is it not? It’s not being stupid. It’s not pretending we don’t know what we know (in an ordinary human limited somewhat flawed sense). It’s not discounting our experience. It’s not discounting that people have different levels – and types – of experience, maturity, clarity, wisdom, and skills. 

Ideologies can seem comforting and safe. But if we are sincere, we need to look a little closer. We need to find what’s more true for us, including that it may and probably will change as we gain more experience. 

There is truth to the quote above. We are just “starting” on our spiritual journey as there is always further to go. As what we are – that which allows and is this content of experience – we don’t advance. And our footprints are always erased as past, future, and present are ideas and not something tangible we can find anywhere. It has truth in it.

And yet, it’s not true in the sense that we don’t gain experience, and we are at different levels of insight, clarity, skills and so on. It’s also not true in the sense that all books are equally helpful to beginners and more experienced people. Books are pointers, and pointers can be seen medicine for different conditions. They apply to some people in some situations, and not to others in other situations. You wouldn’t give a Microsoft programmer a beginner’s introduction to programming. And you wouldn’t start a beginner out with the most advanced books. 


Initial notes….

  • Beginner’s mind: What it is and isn’t
    • what it is 
    • what it isn’t 

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