Beginner’s Mind

Sometimes students ask me, if I don’t teach “advanced classes” for Zazen and Hitsuzendo. Usually, I announce my seminars as “Introduction to …” … but this is simply a trick not to scare away newcomers. We immediately do the “real thing”, that is: practise Zazen and write calligraphies with brush and ink.

Who is an “advanced student” I wonder? My Iaido teacher said “until you performed a certain exercise for at least 2000 times, you are a beginner”. Writing about 25 sheets of paper per seminar, that means you are a beginner for the first 80 or so seminars. Attending 4 seminars a year … but I don’t much like applying such measures and scales to people!

Occasionally, not often, someone coming to my Dojo does not want to learn what I demonstrate. He or she has different ideas about how to sit or how to write … and often students are physically or mentally not yet ready to learn, too much preoccupied with their own body and mind and struggling with many kinds of problems inside and around themselves. These are beginners, and I try my very best to treat them kind and carefully, not disturbing too much.

Once you made the jump and you become ready to learn, with your heart, mind and your body, progress is very quick. This I consider advanced. It is not you know more techniques or spent more years on your pillow or achieved anything special, you are just ready to learn. Some few are immediately, others might never reach what in Zen and Budo is called SHOSHIN (初心), or a “beginner’s mind”.

Well, I’d love to teach “advanced classes” for students with a true beginner’s mind! I also love to continue teaching “Introduction to …”.

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