There is a principle in Buddhism known as shoshin, which translates to “beginner’s mind.” Under shoshin, the goal is to look at everything from the perspective of someone who has no detailed knowledge of experience of it … essentially, a beginner.
Beginner’s Mind is a method of combating the weakest point of experience, and that is complacency. Experience brings knowledge and wisdom, but it also locks us into certain defined modes of thinking. Experience has a tendency to tell us that certain things can be done only a certain way, or that they can’t be done at all. When faced with a difficult problem, we speak of taking a break so we can return to it with “fresh eyes.” This is akin to Beginner’s Mind; the goal is to be able to examine things without being clouded by distractions and preconceived notions.
My goal now is to live my life according to this principle of shoshin. One of the many effects of psychological trauma is that it exploits existing weaknesses, the way floodwaters push hardest against the cracks in a dam. Since my youth, these weaknesses have been in the areas of self-confidence and self-esteem. Those who have known me since I was a child or even a teenager know how far I’ve come in those areas. But now the complications with post-traumatic stress disorder have brought those difficulties back to the surface, like hydrogen peroxide poured over a healing cut.
There are better days and days when even looking out the window onto the glimmering river doesn’t inspire much emotion.
This is where shoshin comes in. Every day, I want to look out that window and feel like it’s the first day in a new house. I want to feel like it’s my first day in a brand-new body. I want to be able to take on anything and see all of the possibilities rise before me as the limitations crumble and dissolve.
This is the beginning of Beginner’s Mind.