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Seeking Calmness: A Beginner’s Mind

One of my constant battles over the years has been trying to find calmness in my life. I tend to get wrapped up in the noise from the internet, family, work, as well as my own head. After discussing my most recent depressive spell, I’ve decided I need to put a little more effort into learning to be calmer and more relaxed.

I am the type of person who struggles with being all in or all out. Finding that middle ground always been tough for me, but when looking back, the times I’ve spent with my nose in a book on Buddhism/Taoism/Philosophy or listening to a podcast, I’ve made huge strides with my own self-awareness. I think I need to get back to that, but I’ve got to find a way to balance it with all of my other interests, hobbies, and responsibilities.

I’ve decided to write about this. Writing is an active engagement for me, and it’ll keep me focused on my continued education. So, I’m not sure the frequency yet, but I’ll be posting a series called Seeking Calmness, where I look at an idea, quote, book, or other form of media and see how I can relate to it. I’m hoping by sharing it and writing about it, I can truly absorb the idea.

I’m looking for great wisdom anywhere I can find it, so my sources will not be limited to a certain philosophy or even religion. I’m just going to grab onto whatever I come across that I can relate to or learn from.

For my first Seeking Calmness post, I figured I’d start with having a beginner’s mind. This is a common concept that pops up in a variety of different beliefs and philosophies. Basically, the thought is: you should approach things like you are just beginning. You are open to interpretation, learning new skills/tactics, and without reservations. The BBC did a nice article about the benefits of beginning new pursuits in your forties and the positive effect it can have on your brain.

I wanted to take some time to let this marinate for me, because I am approaching this new journey with a lot of baggage. I have over twenty years of studying Buddhism, the ten years before that Christianity, and the past ten years I’ve dabbled in Stoicism and Taoism. So, my mind has taken in a lot of ideas and of course, this has made me ridged at times in my thinking. I need to be more open and that reminds me of a great Zen proverb. I’m going to use the one published on [Zen Koans](, but you can find a variety of different interpretations of this short story.

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

During COVID things got a little dicey for me. I’m not here to trauma dump, but as things got more and more complicated, I didn’t find the relief I was looking for from my various studies of different religions/philosophy. I grew more and more frustrated, fighting the bad feelings and bad luck and I pretty much turned my back on all of it. I felt if Buddhism couldn’t withstand the pressures of my day-to-day life, why was I wasting my time studying it?

Looking back, it was wrong of me to assume it would all be a quick fix and a perfect solution. I didn’t put extra time in to try and find some peace, instead I rested on my previous studies. I realize now that a good portion of the problem was me and not necessarily my studies. So, it’s time for me to dump those misconceptions and start fresh. I may even revisit some of the first books I read and enjoyed.

So, for my first lesson in seeking calmness, I’m choosing to approach things with a beginner’s mind. To be more open and pretend as if I’ve never learned anything before. It’s a fresh spiritual slate, if you will.

Published inSelf-ReflectionSimple Living

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