Beginner’s Mind

I know that I don’t know anything. Interesting to keep arriving at this humble place after all the time and effort I have spent trying to master calligraphy. My quest for mastery has waned, somewhat, and has happily been replaced by an insatiable curiousity and spirit of adventure. I simply follow my intuitive muse which leads me in and out of formal writing, painting, drawing. Much of my “work” surprises me–and sometimes even makes me nervous. However, I am heartened by the messages from the Tao Te Ching: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.” (27) And also,
” True perfection seems imperfect, yet is perfectly itself. True fullness seems empty yet is fully present.” (45)
(Excerpts from Tao Te Ching, New English Translation, by Stephen Mitchell.

How often I want to lead my students, to tell them what to do when they look at me pleadingly and ask me for help. Instead, I choose to honor their ability to discover for themselves what moves and engages them and thus try to stay out of their Way. This is not always comfortable, but seems most respectful and honorable. Also, who am I to presume to know what a student must learn? I can offer specific techniques, guidance, road-maps, inspiration, and the rest is up to them. Regarding teaching, again I turn to the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching: “The ancient Masters didn’t try to educate the people, but kindly taught them to not-know. When they think that they know the answers, people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don’t know, people can find their own way.” (65)
To all my students I try to offer the trust and reassurance that “Maybe you’ll find direction around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you.” (Grateful Dead, “Box of Rain,” song).

I just pulled several books off of my shelves, one of which is a favorite bedside companion: “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” A simple paragraph about calligraphy rings true for me. Richard Baker writes in the introduction:

” The Zen way of calligraphy is to write in the most straightforward, simple way, as if you were a beginner, not trying to make something skillful or beautiful, but simply writing with full attention as if you were discovering what you were writing for the first time; then your full nature will be in your writing. This is the way of practice moment after moment.”

Off I go into the rest of the day with so much more on my mind, and in the spirit of Zen, I will try to simply BE HERE NOW.

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