The Pure Potential of Beginner’s Mind

Friday 23 November 2018 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

When I wrote my book Conscious Writing, I set the intention to approach it with a beginner’s mind.

I kept an image of the characters for “beginner’s mind” drawn by Zen master Shunryu Suzuki by my side and felt endlessly inspired by its elegance as a timeless reminder of the empty space of pure potential.

I loved combining this with the Conscious Writing process to enter a deep state of presence and alignment as a preparation to write so that my words would arise from truth rather than pre-conceived conclusions.

A Very Different Place

In stark contrast, 10 years earlier, my first book The Writer’s Journey was written to share the knowledge and experience I’d gained from my career as an international publisher.

It was a download of information to guide aspiring authors to write from the inside out, and included advice on how to approach agents and publishers professionally in order to have the best chances of success.

The core content remains valid to this day for anyone who wants to explore traditional publishing as a route to market; yet it came from a very different place within me.

From Expert to Emptiness

The diverse ways I approached each book highlights one aspect of my journey since walking away from the corporate world as I’ve transitioned from being the “expert” to increasingly embodying the emptiness of “beginner’s mind”.

Of course my expertise continues to be readily accessible and naturally surfaces whenever it’s appropriate in a coaching session or relevant conversation.

However, these days it pours through a much clearer internal space!

A Breath of Fresh Air

Beginner’s mind (Shoshin) comes from the Zen tradition and is about approaching life with an open, empty and ready mind that is restored to its natural, original and boundless state.

It’s like a breath of fresh air.

The beginner who sees with new eyes and a curiosity that’s free from expectations is able to sense the wonder in each and every moment.

When the mind doesn’t know, the absence of familiarity and assumed answers from past experience creates a space of possibility that’s simply not available when you’re living exclusively from existing predispositions.

Seemingly Out of Nowhere

With a beginner’s mind, you live in a “dynamic state of constant discovery” and feel vibrant, joyful and creatively alive!

You meet reality as it is and notice opportunities you might have missed had you been locked in the bias of a fixed worldview.

When you apply this approach to specific intentions like writing a book, creating a coaching programme or engaging in continual professional development, you’re likely to be delightfully surprised by what surfaces, seemingly out of nowhere.

So how do you cultivate a beginner’s mind?

Essentially it’s a case of stripping away the layers of mental clutter that have built up from habitual patterns that lead you to leap to conclusions about everything and everyone.

It’s like emptying the proverbial tea cup so that the wisdom of new insights and fresh ideas can flood in.

Meditation and mindfulness practices are excellent ways to clear your mind and make space for new possibilities. By way of example, you could make a conscious choice to:

  • Start your day with some time spent anchoring your attention to the flow of your breath and noticing how this draws you out of the trance of endless thinking.
  • Set up alerts on your phone to remind you periodically during the day to pause and observe the space between your thoughts to disentangle you from being merged with their content.
  • Check out one of the numerous mindfulness apps currently available to wake you up from the sleep of “automatic pilot” that always runs on existing grooves.

As Shunryu Suzuki’s well-know words explain, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

What are your thoughts and feelings about the pure potential of beginner’s mind? Please share your comments below. Thank you!




Photo by Alberto Restifo on Unsplash


    • Thank you Daphne; it’s good to hear you resonate with this and as always I very much appreciate your comment. I’m also looking forward to our Conscious Writing Retreat Reunion starting tomorrow! See you there x

  • It is essentially living in the Now that allows the space to experience a beginner’s mind when every moment is an opportunity to manifest and create something new. Looking forward to practising this at our reunion this week!

    • Yes indeed Jeanine; living in the Now with an open mind and heart to the freshness of each moment, free of the assumptions relating to whatever content the moment contains. See you at the Retreat Reunion tomorrow! x

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