The Beginner's Mind
This combo also reminded me of a book I read in college called Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. It's a modern classic in that philosophy and meant a lot to me as a young woman about to leave the safety of college and move to East Tennessee. Those were my Misty Mountains, the Smokies, and the beginning of a great adventure worthy of anyone with furry feet. And the reason pea sprouts, worm poo, and Bilbo reminded me of that book was the sense of beginning a closed novel and a seedling stir in me. Inside both is an adventure just waiting to happen, possibility over possibility. You don't know how the story or the seed ends—It could be disaster or glory—but right now there is hope and a sense of wonderful danger and it's enough to get you to turn to the next page.
Shunryu felt the same way. He felt that no matter how long you did something it was important to retain that "beginner's mind". When you begin something there is that excitement and curiosity, the thrill of possibility. There are questions and mistakes, winding paths that may or may not lead you to your destination, and so much ahead to learn. This monk would see this excitement in new students of the Dharma and watch them blossom and grow. But he also saw older students feel too comfortable or confident in their studies and meditation, and watched that spark of beginning fade. I have felt the same spark fade in me this winter. Felt the struggles overtake the joys. Shunryu would not approve.
But seeing this happy scene of a favorite book and a new life, remembering those mountains in Tennessee: the first seeds, the fist loaf of bread, and the first time riding alone on my mountain's trails with Merlin...I am reminded of the joy of the Beginner's Mind. Perhaps the reason I do so much and raise so many animals is to keep that spark alive? You can keep a lot of oxygen in a flame by always having it dance in the air. And while this Spring I will be returning to the traditions of shearing, piglets, lambs, kidding, milking, bees, spring gardens, and chicks peeping from the mudroom I still have the thrills ahead that come with them. You have to keep your sense of wonder alive. You have to. If you ever get to the point where a newborn goat kid in your arms is a pain, or chicks are too loud, or planting seeds is drudgery then you need to step back and find your Beginner's Mind.
My beginner's mind is in that photograph. Where is yours hiding?