Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few. (Shunryu Suzuki)

There is a concept from Zen Buddhism that I've always resonated with. It's called "beginner's mind" (shoshin in Japanese) and it refers to a state of openness and receptivity that allows us to approach what we're doing with a mind unadulterated by the past or other intrusive thoughts. It was popularized in the West by Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki.

Beginner's mind is usually associated with studying either Zen or martial arts, but the concept can be extended to other areas of life (relationships, learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby). By approaching a situation with a beginner's mind, an individual can gain a fresh perspective, and see things in a new light. They are able to let go of their preconceived notions, biases, and beliefs, which can lead to greater creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. I think this is a vital skill that anyone would benefit from cultivating. For me personally, it's one of the few concepts that guide everything I do.

Key aspects of a Beginner's Mind:
  • openness to experience
  • curiosity
  • receptivity to external environment and internal stimuli
  • play state
  • "blank slate" mind
  • diminished ego
  • humility
  • non-attachment
Here are a few ways to cultivate Beginner's Mind:
  • Don't rush to categorize. We humans like to place everything in tidy little mental boxes. We label our feelings, other people, our abilities to do something and anything else under the sun. But in this way we lose the open space that exists in that moment. Like a collapsed wave function, when we categorize our experience, we forsake the rich and volatile possibilities within it.
  • Be here now. It's easy to get caught up in stories about how things should be or how they might have been. This comes at the cost of ignoring what actually is. When we're embodying the present moment fully, such thoughts disappear.
  • Take yourself out of the equation. A mind that succumbs to the gravitational pull of one's thoughts and stories about oneself can't be free to recognize the spaciousness of the present moment. So shift your attention from a me view to a world view.
  • Embrace whatever comes. Non-judgement and non-attachment are key principles for a beginner's mind. No matter what you're doing, cultivating a state of distant awareness is crucial. Accept what comes up, but don't get tangled in it: like being on a seashore watching the waves, but not entering the ocean.

Timeless Content

Negative Capability: how to embrace intellectual uncertainty
Anne-Laure Le Cunff | 6 minute read
This article by NessLabs founder Anne-Laure Le Cunff presents a short and punchy introduction to the concept of negative capability, described as act of sitting with one's doubts and uncertainty without needing to reach premature conclusions. I didn't choose to include it in today's issue by accident. I think negative capability is linked to beginner's mind in many ways. They have the same underlying spirit. Read the article to discover how to cultivate negative capability in your life.

Tool for Thought

Will Robots Take My Job?
As the name suggests, this website lets you enter your job and gives you the likelihood it will be "taken by robots" (ie. automated) in the near future. With impressive advancements in AI lately (Google's Bard, Microsoft's Bing, OpenAI's ChatGPT), the discussion regarding job automation is even more relevant. If you're curious how your specific role or industry is doing, give it a try. You'll also be able to compare the site's result with other people's predictions (votes).

Picture of the Week

Credit: @worry__lines

Quote I'm reflecting on

Hermann Hesse on why people are afraid:

You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves. A whole society composed of men afraid of the unknown within them!

Question for you to ponder

How would your approach to what you're doing change if you took the stance of a complete beginner?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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