“In Zen Buddhism, to maintain a beginner’s mind means to be open to continuous growth and deeper understanding. One is encouraged to drink in each moment of life, without excessive desire, pride or judgment.

A beginner’s mind is not willful, power seeking or egocentric. As a beginner, we are encouraged to develop skills without comparing ourselves to others or seeking to be superior in any way. In Japan, this also relates to the idea of kenkyo (謙虚) which means to cultivate modesty and humility, to not be full of oneself.

Even now, a beginner’s mind is very much a part of traditional arts training in Japan. The idea of mu (無) or mushin (無 心) is commonly taught to students. It is often translated as “not, nothing” or “no mind” but it’s closer to openness of awareness in meaning. Students are encouraged to be attentive and mindful, carefully observant of the present moment.

With traditional arts education in Asia much emphasis is put on long-term practice and effort, so as to reach continuously higher levels of skill development. There is a deeper character training happening as well, to reduce the ego’s voice, let go of fears, cultivate mindfulness, increase gratitude and live more fully in the present moment.

A core idea with Zen influenced arts is that deep mastery and learning requires that we keep all our senses open. Over time one’s knowledge becomes intuitive, instinctual. We do not have to “think “ consciously to act skillfully.”

~Christopher Chase

Zen & the Art of Living Deeply