A Beginner’s Mind Is Trickier Than It Looks

I consider it a significant accomplishment when someone develops a certain degree of expertise in any art or science, while retaining the attitude of a “beginner’s mind,” the felicitous combination of openness, enthusiasm, lack of preconceptions, and optimism which is the fuel of many accomplishments.  It takes a certain degree of humility.  Step 34 of Steps to Knowledge, “I am a beginning student of Knowledge,” encourages this beginner’s mind attitude.

I consider it a certain accomplishment to get to step 34.  Some significant thresholds have been crossed by students.  On the other hand, it’s only 9 per cent of the way in, which means no student is in any position to say “Ah, well, I can imagine what the rest will be like,” or “I’m clearly capable of this,” or “This is miles beyond me.”

The only downside of the beginner’s mind that I can see is that the beginner sees a wide range of possible outcomes and consequences for their actions, and maybe this wide range doesn’t really exist.  At this point, I wish to share a quotation from the book Greater Community Spirituality.

“Beginning students always think they are on the verge of accomplishment.  Intermediate students think they are on the verge of mastery.  Advanced students realize they are on the verge of simply learning the next step.”

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