Cultivating Beginner’s Heart

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

–ee 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.”

Keep reading!

Heart-to-Heart Communication

“If we want to do good, it has to be in our words to the people we live with, and the people that we meet on the street, and the people that we interact with at the stores, and the people we work with.

If you want to stop nuclear war, pay attention to your speech, pay attention to how and when your words are connected to your heart, and when words aren’t connected to your heart, and what’s going on when they’re not.

Without judging it, just study it, begin to look at it.” ~ Jack Kornfield

broken record

How and when are my words connected to my heart?

When they come from a place of understanding, a remembrance of oneness, rather than from a feeling (falsely) superior or inferior.

When they well up with truth, clarity and necessity.

How much of our time is spent speaking in broken-record small talk and superfluous phrases?  Words decidedly disconnected from our hearts. Mindlessly coming from habit.

“That’s so funny.”

“Did you hear…?!”

“How about this weather, huh?”

“You know…”

The most common question in the English language must be, “How are you?” And nine times out of 10, we ask it and completely glaze over at the answer. That why we’ve all trained ourselves to say, “Fine, thanks, and you?” “I’m well, thanks for asking.”

How am I?

Well, I am feeling a little tired and anxious and also super grateful and content this morning. I’m hungry and lazy with the mildest of headaches and I’d really like to crawl back into bed and snuggle with my hubby and daughter but I kind of need to get to work.

I’m never just “fine,” no one is… yet we say so even to our partners and parents and close friends —unless we are really there, speaking from the heart, present in the moment.

It’s complicated yet simple. We can be feeling all this and knowing that it’s okay and natural to feel whatever arises.

This is our challenge, if we choose to accept it: observe when and how our speech (spoken conversation, written words and body language) is connected to and flowing from the source of the heart…. and when it is not.

Slowly, slowly, with the magical power of awareness and attention, our words and ways of expression become more genuine, more meaningful, more loving and more real.

This is life’s work. It’s not going to happen in a week, probably. We have years and generations of practice speaking from the mind, from the ego. It will take effort to recreate new patterns. It will take time, patience, persistence and love.

So… how are you?

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