Friday, February 20, 2009


"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."
- Shunryu Suzuki

I believe this quote by Shunryu Suzuki is typically understood as a compliment to "beginners mind" (aka Shoshin), and an admonition to approach life with an openness to possibilities. But like most Zen principles, it cuts both ways.

I first came across this concept in Garr Reynold's book Presentation Zen, and I initially saw it as a compliment to experts. It seemed to me Suzuki was saying the expert sees only the true possibilities, while the beginner is distracted by many false paths. The beginner must sort through many possibilities which the expert immediately (and correctly) rules out. 

But yes, the expert fails to see some possibilities that the beginner is willing to consider. Like I said, it cuts both ways.

And that's your moment of zen for today.


Tori said...

funny how different brains work -- your first thought was the oppostie of mine. when i read the quote my first thought was "experts can be very closed-minded!"

The Dan Ward said...

Yeah, I think your observation is much more in tune with Suzuki's intent... although I suspect he did mean it to cut both ways.