real voyage of discovery lies not in finding
new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
young woman returning from work was involved in a car
accident that left her with severe head injuries.
After several days in a coma, she awoke in hospital only
to discover that she didn't know who she was. Not
only had she forgotten herself but also everything and
everyone in her life. Her initial panic was eased by
the doctors' reassurance that her memory was likely to
return. As the days passed in the hospital, she was
much comforted by the visits from many kind people who
spent time with her, who seemed to know who she was.
There was one elderly man who spent hours by her bedside,
sometimes reading to her, sometimes telling her stories of
her life, and often just sitting quietly with her.
In the comfort offered by his undemanding presence, she
could share the anxieties and fears so alive in her heart.
Her memory began to return, vague fragments and images
triggering greater and greater detail, until her life and
story were once again accessible to her. The
recovery of her memory was not only a recovery of herself
but also of everyone in her life.
understanding man she had been so reassured by was her
father, whom she shared a troubled history with. To
their amazement they discovered that her recovery enabled
them to pick up their arguments at the very point they had
left them before her accident.
they found themselves fighting familiar battles and all
the old stories were recycled. The peaceful,
intimate moments they had shared during her crisis became
distant memories, lost in the intensity of their
frustration, impatience, and struggle with each
other. Once in a while they would look at each other
and remember those blessed moments when no history stood
and amnesia are not recommended ways to cultivate a
beginner's mind. Yet the beginner's mind is a
pivotal key to unlocking the peace of simplicity. It
is the simple clarity of the beginner's mind that enables
us to enter each moment, relationship, and encounter free
of prejudice and history. The cultivation of the
beginner's mind is what frees us to greet every moment in
our life with an openhearted welcome, to see ourselves,
other people, and all of life anew; to be able to make new
We collect, store, and accumulate so much weight in this
life. The thousands of thoughts, ideas, and plans we
have are imprinted on our minds. We have engaged in
countless conversations and have replayed many of them
over and over again. We have moved from one
experience to another, one encounter to another, and we
think about them all. Information and knowledge has
been gathered, digested, and stored, and we carry all of
this with us. This input forms our story, the story
we have about people, ourselves, and the world.
Experiencing the chaos and turbulence of the saturated
mind and heart, forgetfulness may look like a
blessing. Yet our innate capacity to receive the
world, a source of both complexity and of compassion, will
always be with us.
The beginner's mind has a simple vocabulary founded upon
questioning and the willingness to learn. There are
Zen meditative traditions that rest upon bringing one
simple question into each moment: "What is
this?" Whatever arises in our hearts, minds,
and bodies is greeted with a probing investigation.
What is this thought, this body, this experience, this
feeling, this interaction, this moment? It is a
question intended to dissolve all assumptions, images,
opinions, and familiarity. It is a question that
brings a welcoming presence into each moment; a question
that perceives neither obstacles nor enemies; a question
that appreciates the rich seam of learning offered in
every encounter and moment. It is an "every
moment" practice, in which our capacity to listen and
attend unconditionally is treasured as the means of
The expert's mind has a different vocabulary, expressing a
devotion to "knowing" deeper than the devotion
to freedom. The expert's mind is the mind entangled
with its history, accumulated opinions and judgments, and
past experience. The most frequently occurring word
in the mind of the expert is "again." What
a long story the word "again" can carry.
We can sense the shutters of our heart closing as we
whisper to ourselves, "This thought, this feeling,
this pain, this person again." The intrusion of
the past with all its comparisons, weariness, aversion, or
boredom has the power to create a powerful disconnection
in that moment. The word "again" carries
with it the voice of knowing, fixing, and dismissing, and
with its appearance we say farewell to mystery, to wonder,
to openness, and to learning. Whenever we are not
touched deeply by the moment we say farewell to the
beginner's mind. An ancient teacher reminds us,
"There is great enlightenment where there is great
wonder. . . ."
How much of the knowledge, information, and strategies of
our story serve us well? In our life story we
experience hurt, pain, fear and rejection, at times caused
by others, at others self-inflicted. Understanding
what causes sorrow, pain, and devastation translates into
discriminating wisdom, and we do not knowingly expose
ourselves to these conditions. We are all asked to
make wise choices in our lives--choices rooted in
understanding rather than fear.
The Buddha used the analogy of a raft. Walking
beside a great river, the bank we are standing on is
dangerous and frightening and the other bank is
safe. We collect branches and foliage to build a
raft to transport us to the other shore. Having made
the journey safely, supposing we picked up the raft and
carried it on our head wherever we went. Would we be
using the raft wisely? The obvious answer is
"No." A reasonable person would know how
useful the raft has been, but wisdom would be to leave the
raft behind and walk on unencumbered.
a mother, a layperson and an internationally
renowned teacher, Feldman knows the stresses and
strains of modern life. In this book she shows how
to harmonize and achieve balance and how to apply
Buddhist wisdom to the here and now. She addresses
subjects of compassion, speech, effort, intention,
mindfulness and awakening. The path to peace, she
suggests, is not necessarily complex or arduous. If
we simply turn our attention to this moment, it will
speak to us of wonder, mystery, harmony and peace.
She demonstrates that there is no better moment in
which to awaken and discover everything our heart
longs for than this very moment.