Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is a book of teachings by the late Shunryu Suzuki, a compilation of talks given to his satellite Zen center in Los Altos, California. Published in 1970 by Weatherhill, the book is not academic, but contains frank and direct transcriptions of Suzuki's talks recorded by his student Marian Derby. Trudy Dixon and Richard Baker (Baker was Suzuki's successor) edited the talks by choosing those most relevant, arranging them into chapters. According to some, it has become a spiritual classic, helping readers to steer clear from the trap of intellectualism. Bodhin Kjolhede, Abbot of the Rochester Zen Center, writes that, together with Philip Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen (1965), it is one of the two most influential books on Zen in the west.
For many of us this was one of our first introductions to what Zen practice feels like studying in contemporary times. This comes from a Zen master talking to his students, and with a contemporary we don't have to translate the expressions into our own times; they are already experiencing the same time and space as we do. Or are they?
Beginner's mind is a term used in Zen and some martial arts that are wedded with meditation. It is an element of awareness pointing out whether we are asleep in the present moment carrying out some script, or are we fully here seeing each moment fresh? It is what keeps a sense of aliveness in any activity we do. Are we relying on habit or is there that opening to see things in a new way?
Breathing is germaine to any meditation practice. In the beginning we count our exhalations, then bring the attention back to the counting when distractions come up. Later on we just follow the breath. What I have always appreciated about breathing is that we do this every minute of our lives, so no matter what we are doing we can always return to awareness of breathing, and just that can return us to awareness and equanimity.
That moment of awareness is like a pause that can help us disengage from what's going around outside ourselves or inside. We create a meditative moment in our daily activity that is not dependent on a cushion or bench; once we associate awareness of our breathing with a meditative state our entire relationship to everything changes. What possibilities!
- Zen Buddhism