We believe that it is difficult to let go, but in truth, it is much more difficult and painful to hold and protect. Reflect upon anything in your life that you grasp hold of – an opinion, an historical resentment, an ambition, or an unfulfilled fantasy. Sense the tightness, fear, and defensiveness that surrounds the grasping. It is a painful, anxious experience of unhappiness. We do not let go in order to make ourselves impoverished or bereft. We let go in order to discover happiness and peace.
As a young doctor, I thought that serving life was a thing of drama and action and split-second judgment calls….larger than ordinary life,and those who served were larger than life also. But I know now that this is only the least part of the nature of service. That service is small and quiet and everywhere. That far more often we serve by who we are and not what we know. And everyone serves whether they know it or not. We bless the life around us far more than we realize. Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition. All it may take to restore someone’s trust in life may be returning a lost earring or a dropped glove.
Rachel Naomi Remen
We can be aware of an imperfection without making any problem about it.
In other words, the mind becomes an embracing mind.
The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice
there is little we can do to change
until we notice how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.
Can we look at all the aspects of our lives with this mind, just open to see what there is to see? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time doing that. I have a lot of habits of mind – I think most of us do. Children begin to lose that innocent quality after a while, and soon they want to be “the one who knows.” We all want to be the one who knows. But if we decide we “know” something, we are not open to other possibilities anymore. And that’s a shame. We lose something very vital in our life when it’s more important to us to be “one who knows” than it is to be awake to what’s happening. We get disappointed because we expect one thing, and it doesn’t happen quite like that. The very nature of beginner’s mind is not knowing in a certain way, not being an expert. As Suzuki Roshi said in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the experts there are few.” As an expert, you’ve already got it figured out, so you don’t need to pay attention to what’s happening. Pity.
How can we cultivate this mind that is free to just be awake? In just sitting, in sitting and noticing the busyness of our mind and all of the fixed views that we carry. Once we notice the fixed views that we are carrying around with us, the preconceptions that we are carrying around with us, then it is possible for us to let them go and say, “Well, maybe so, maybe not.” Suzuki Roshi once said, “The essence of Zen is ‘Not Always So’. “Not always so.” It’s a good little phrase to carry around when you’re sure. It gives you an opportunity to look again more carefully and see what other possibilities there might be in the situation.
Blanche Hartman, Lecture on Beginners Mind
The richness of present-moment experience is the richness of life itself. Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extraordinariness of the ordinary.