The simplest way to summarize “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” is just that: the title. A Zen mind stays in the beginner’s mindset. Always. It is the ends and it is the means. An open and limitless mind allows for everything and remains compassionate, free from the bias of the “expert” mind.
Posture is a key component to keeping this beginner’s mind. Perhaps the posture is difficult; that very judgment thus crosses into the realm of duality, which the practice of zazen is not. It just is. “No other activity will appease your suffering.” And it’s true.
Breathing, another key component, is a doorway from the outer and inner worlds, but really it just is. Here. Now. The inner and outer worlds are beyond duality, they are one.
Control versus observation. Societies, like the ego, like to control. But controlling is a futile effort, a waste of energy. A beginner’s mind takes part in activities without emotions attached. Activities are pure, with focus and attention. Just like breathing. Like waves of the sea, one doesn’t try to control them… one just observes them coming. And going. Coming. And going.
Bowing is humility. Stay humble. I am a beginner, after all.
Thoughts and the thought process are also to be observed as opposed to controlled. Thoughts can come and go, there is no need to hide from or fight them. Observe them come and go. An empty realm of the mind is the proper state of purity–beginner’s mind–for practice. Assume nothing, expect nothing, bring nothing to your Zen practice except your limitless curiosity.
Bringing this into my everyday life? Observing. Stopping to breathe. In moments heated, observe. Remembering to stay curious even when I think I know. Breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Limitlessness can be compassion can be patience can be the empathy so unfortunately lacking in me at times.
Really though, the biggest takeaway for me is the sitting and the suffering. So often do I find myself partaking in an activity–like eating–because of some subtle form of suffering. After reading this I now try to sit when I feel the urge arise to partake in some meaningless activity.