this is the beginning

August 22nd, 2016

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A while ago someone reached my blog by Googling “teaching children about the beginning of time.” It made me wonder if what they really wanted to teach children was about the end of time. From time to time someone predicts time, or the world of time, is going to end soon. Anyone coming here for those kinds of answers is looking in the wrong place. I don’t know the answers. I don’t even ask the questions.

I don’t normally pay too much attention to how people reach this blog. Most of those who come for the first time come with this question in mind, another one that I answer, more or less, by saying I don’t know.

There’s a lot of talk out there about deep questions and dark fears, especially these days. I wish we’d all answer them more honestly than we allow ourselves. I wish we were more courageous about saying “I don’t know.”

That’s the answer to most things our children ask; that’s the answer to most things, period. Don’t know. Don’t even try to know. You can’t know.

That brings me to beginner’s mind.

If you’ve read Suzuki Roshi’s little book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind you may know a little something about what Zen calls “beginner’s mind.”

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Some define it as having an open mind. Some equate it with a child’s mind. I’ve seen it called a central concept in Zen.

That’s all wrong.

Whenever you start thinking about beginner’s mind it’s no longer beginner’s mind, because it’s not something you do inside your head. It’s something you don’t do. You don’t conceive it, define it, explain it, or label it. You don’t measure it like we do with the finite concept of time; you live in it as your infinite universe. Isn’t it lovely?

You don’t know beginner’s mind, but if you learn to slow down and stay in one place, you can begin to see it. And seeing it, you can totally be it.

There is an end to what any of us can know. But there is no end to this beginning. Can you see?

Have another look. There’s still time to begin.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Retreat
Sunday, Sept. 11, 9 am-3 pm
Hazy Moon Zen Center
Los Angeles

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  1. After reading your words, I took 15 minutes to sit still and watch the sun rise. The sky turned from deep purple to light pink, and then there was light. The most beautiful and promising morning light.
    My world isn’t ending today, that’s for sure.

    Comment by Roos — December 20, 2012 @ 12:08 am

  2. Thanks again Karen 🙂 I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know there is still time 🙂

    Comment by Stephanie — December 20, 2012 @ 7:31 am

  3. Karen, on your minimalist path you still cannot erase the distinctive voice and sensibility that shine through. 😉

    What a delightful, wise perspective.

    Thank you for sharing this post with your community and also making it available to mine, through your comment this morning.

    Love you!

    — Rose

    Comment by Rose Rosetree — December 20, 2012 @ 8:35 am

  4. oh lordy. gorgeous!

    Comment by Colleen — December 20, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

  5. Karen…thank you. Just thank you. That’s all. Oh and this….you rock!!!

    Comment by Carina — December 20, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

  6. Sometimes our children know what we are looking for when we have forgotten to look. My 5 year old daughter has been asking me for over three weeks to find a video online that tells us about the beginning of time. I found your site. I found you and although I have read your words a long time ago I forgot how well they resonated.
    Thank you. I will continue to listen.

    Comment by Janeb Ziemons — January 30, 2013 @ 5:43 am

  7. I am not nearly so interested in the beginning of time, but I surely would like to know the end of time. I have this illusion that with the end of time will come the end of suffering.

    Comment by MJ — August 23, 2016 @ 7:41 am

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