Beginner’s mind

I have a driving job coming up soon that, frankly, terrifies me. It pushes me way beyond my comfort zone. I already have a knot in my stomach and the work is days away.

But what am I afraid of? If I am honest I'm afraid of looking a fool, of being incompetent, of being seen to have screwed up.

The title of Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, has always meant to me something about aspiring to return to an open mind, to being a blank slate, being chilled and relaxed.

But now I realise it is as much about grappling with the ego, our inflated self importance, our sense of separation from the world around us, our need for control and our constant battle against a perceived risk of annihilation.

I have long suspected that our current technological, social, and political upheaval masks an underlying existential crisis. Our narratives are broken, our sense of being in control is challenged. In response we are fighting to reassert ourselves, fighting each other, fighting the world.

What if we got curious instead - just as I am with my driving? Not beating myself up about being afraid. Not pretending that I'm not. Not protecting my ego by getting angry. Just being interested. Just noticing. Just being present to whatever is happening now, and now, and now.

We can't control the world around us but we can control our response to it. Doing so from a place of calm curiosity, instead of frantic self interest, surely makes us more likely to respond appropriately?