May 6     

Today's quotation:

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki

Today's Meditation:

It's hard for me to decide whether Shunryu is speaking positively about being a beginner or about being an expert.  I can see both sides of the coin-- beginners bring a fresh perspective and new ideas, for they haven't yet learned what won't work, and they're willing to try new and different things and perhaps come up with something else.  Experts, on the other hand, "know" almost everything there is to know about a topic, and it's much more difficult for them to think outside the envelope and see new and different possibilities.

There's a freshness to being a beginner, a newness that allows us to approach things in ways that aren't hindered by our thoughts of hopelessness of positive results.  Sometimes I think that the more expert we become at something, the more entrenched we become at seeing things in the "established" way.  Expert teachers of fifty years ago, for example, are now regarded as dinosaurs because of the new research into thinking and learning that has taken place over the last few decades.  It's become clear that practices and methods from half a century ago simply were ineffective with the majority of students.

I hope to keep a fresh perspective towards life.  I like to remind myself of how much I don't know about life and living-- this humility allows me to keep learning and growing because I know that I still have much to learn.

It's good to become experts in fields in which we need expertise, but it's also important to keep our minds fresh, always open to new ideas.  Only in that way will we avoid the end of our growth.  A goldfish will grow to the size of its bowl, but no further-- we will grow to the size of the bowl we choose to be in, but no further.  It's our choice.

Questions to consider:

In which fields do you consider yourself an expert?  Are you open to new and different ideas in that field (even if it means you may be "wrong")?

How do you feel when you take up a new hobby, or enter a new field in which you have no expertise?

Do most new ideas come from people who have done the same things for years, or from people who are new to a field?

For further thought:

Always listen to experts.  They'll tell you what can't be done and why.  Then do it.

Robert Heinlein



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