June 6, 2016

Maintain Beginner’s Heart & Ignite Compassion.

Flickr/Nick Mustoe

“May my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living.” ~ e. e. cummings


Ever since I stumbled upon Zen philosophy (back in the San Francisco Bay area circa 2003), I’ve been fascinated by the concept of “beginner’s mind.” I’ve attempted to maintain it myself, to varying degrees of success. It’s a daily, lifelong practice.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few,” teaches Suzuki Roshi in his classic, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Buddhists see the heart and the mind as one entity: the heart-mind. Westerners generally think the heart feels, and the mind knows.

Could we equally say, “Beginner’s heart?”

Take a deep breath. Arrive here in this moment even more fully. Let your heart-mind read and absorb these words.

“When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely—the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears—when you give your whole attention to it.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Can we blur the lines between mind and heart? The mind is the heart. The heart and mind are inseparable.

A beginner’s heart is open, curious—full of awe and wonder.

Beginner’s heart remembers that we are all ultimately the same.

Emerson lived with beginner’s heart:“That which draws us nearer our fellow man, is, that the deep Heart in one, answers the deep Heart in another—that we find we have (a common Nature)—one life which runs through all individuals, and which is indeed Divine.”

So does the Dalai Lama:“All human beings are the same—made of human flesh, bones and blood. We all want happiness and want to avoid suffering. Further, we have an equal right to be happy. In other words, it is important to realized our sameness as human beings.”

Beginner’s heart is willing to try, willing to fail and learn from mistakes.

Beginner’s heart is grateful, loving and generous, kind, friendly and compassionate.

Beginner’s heart is accepting of all emotions.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.” ~ Carl Jung

We sit with a beginner’s heart-mind and observe. Feelings, thoughts, memories, plans, ideas, regrets, fears, hopes—we cultivate awareness and acceptance of whatever arises, moment to moment.

Beginner’s heart is vulnerable and trusts in healing.

An excellent way to cultivate beginner’s heart is through the practice of metta (loving kindness) meditation. Here’s a brilliant summary of metta, courtesy of Sogyal Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:

“Let your heart open now and let love flow from it; then extend this love to all beings. Begin with those who are closest to you, then extend your love to friends and to acquaintances, then to neighbors, to strangers, then even to those whom you don’t like or have difficulties with, even those whom you might consider as your “enemies,” and finally to the whole universe. Let this love become more and more boundless.”

This practice is said to unseal a spring of love. It is a preliminary to other compassion practices. According to Maitreya: “The water of compassion courses through the canal of loving kindness.”

May we maintain a beginner’s heart that is full of metta and radiates love to all beings.

“May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina/Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Nick Mustoe

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