What is the Beginner’s Mind?

The beginner is blissfully unaware of the pitfalls of this form or that; and so their mind does not stop and they move in a natural way. Unfortunately this beginner’s mind slips from our grasp no matter how much we try to hold on to it and may take years of diligent practice achieve, and for many it is never achieved again.

This could be why many people flitter from one thing to another; at first enthralled by their own extraordinary ability and then blaming one teacher after another for its loss.

When one practices discipline and moves from the beginner’s territory to immovable wisdom, one makes a return and falls back to the level of the beginner. -Takuan Soho

When you study an art, be it martial or otherwise, you are taught diverse ways to move and act; how to hold the sword, racket, bat, or paint brush, and where to put your mind and therefore it stops in many places. Then when you move you are extraordinarily discomforted. After many months and years of training and practice one’s posture or the clinical manner of holding this or that do not weigh heavily on your mind and the mind no longer stops and becomes as it was at the beginning; when you knew nothing and had yet to be taught.

The beginning therefore is the same as the end and is also known as the state of No-Thought-No-Mind. More on that on another day.

Again, we can speak with reference to your own martial art. As the beginner knows nothing about either his body posture or the positioning of his sword, neither does his mind stop anywhere within him. If a man strikes at him with the sword, he simply meets the attack without anything in mind. -Takuan Soho

The mind does not stop he simply meets the attack without anything in mind

“B” is for the Beginner’s Mind

125 thoughts on “What is the Beginner’s Mind?

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  2. Aha so the end goal is to flow naturally without thought such as we did at the beginning. Such is the nature of the journey and in Goju Ryu Karate the karateka starts at white belt and finishes at white belt.

  3. Pingback: A to Z Challenge – a retrospective « A Fettered Mind

  4. Great post. Apologies for coming a bit late, but I just found you. Sometimes I would give anything to go back to a beginner’s mind, motivated by learning and wonder. Thanks for swinging past my blog.

    • Thanks, that Beginner’s Mind post piqued a lot of people’s interest. Funny how sometimes when we write in one session, without even editing, it can reach and touch so many minds! I love your blog too, the “1” post was hilarious… you had me going!

  5. I’ve been learning about The B Mind and hope to find out all the things I don’t know that I didn’t know. I’m also interested in the concept of Monkey Mind. I’m on a bit of a journey to find my happy place. Thanks for an interesting stop along the way of my learning!

  6. Pingback: Is Blogging Just Procrastination? « Get Busy Doing

  7. Pingback: On enlightenment « Strong Urge to Fly

  8. As Bruce Lee wisely answered when asked “what is the greatest technique you wish to achieve?” “to have no technique.”
    Don’t think, just do. We are taught to think before we do, but once we start thinking, we don’t stop, and then we never do.

  9. Such a simple blog but so humbling at the same time. I created my first blog today and this is the first post I have read on anyone else’s blog. What a perfect way to begin this adventure. Thank you.

  10. Thank you for this post, and the encouragement to keep working with mind!

    And, I’m not sure I understand completely, what do mean by “the beginners’ mind does not stop”. It does not stop to think on a task?

  11. I’m fairly new to the blog world–see, if I really knew my way, I’d have said “blogosophere.” Yikes, I’m overthinking this–but I just wanted to say that I found your site genuinely interesting and thoughtful.

  12. It’s worth fighting for a “Beginner’s Mind”.

    How would you like to see the world with unblemished eyes again?
    Without judgment, criticism or hesitation? With curiosity? With wide-eye wonder?

  13. Reblogged this on DJ Splash Kidd's Blog and commented:
    I found this wonderful post this evening on the blog by “A Fettered Mind”
    It touches and on and reminds me of T.S. Elliot’s poem the “Four Quartets East Coker”.
    “In my beginning is my end In succession … In my end is my beginning”

      • Thanks!
        Hmmm… I love that idea – as one of my underlying hopes and dreams is to be a one hit wonder writing just one hit song! I’ll check out their lyrics!
        I look forward to spending more time in your Fettered Mind with my time off this week!

  14. Pingback: A plea for the beginning « Over Wired In

  15. Reblogged this on ESP Dream Telepathy Network and commented:
    Telepathy or Dream Sharing is a technique that must be developed. When we are born we are educated by receiving grades of A, B,C,D or Fail. Overtime one believes in his or her talent or ability based on the peoples perspective of them. This process of ‘Streotypification’ hinder Telepathy, Dream Sharing, OBE and other ESP innate talents throughout human civilization. We notice famous athletes are accurate in their performance. This is based on the mind and a person’s belief system.

  16. I learned a lot about this watching/teaching preschool – it is fascinating to observe that pure joy. You can’t help but be affected in a positive way ( that is when they are joyful – not bratty ) : ) Thanks

  17. Very nice blog A Fettered Mind,

    Once I was blissfully unaware of what I did not know
    After thirty years, of learning. I return to being blissfully unaware
    of what I did not know.

    Until a beginner appears and reminds me that yes, I do know.
    And teacher I have become, may I only honor mine and continue
    the knowledge of many lifetimes.

    Many Thanks for the beauty.

    • It is always the teacher who must learn the most, Bistami thought, or else nothing real has happened in the exchange. “The Years of Rice and Salt” by Kim Stanley Robinson pg. 130

  18. Nice post! I’ve not read any Takuan Soho, but it is reminiscent of ’emptying your cup’ and ‘the highest art, is no art, and the highest form, is no form’. I shall endeavour to read some Soho soon.

  19. I like this! It is true too because one does train to do something automatically without thinking too much about it in the end. Going further, I think you have to be in the mindset that you enjoy being a beginner and learning new things as opposed to trying things and sticking with the things you feel naturally better at and ditching the things that make you feel foolish or have to work at.

    I am going to dig into what you wrote in other entries.

  20. With anything we do, once done many times, it becomes a natural process, wired in our brains, that no longer requires the full attention or concentration to perform that said function. Therefore; there is no thought in the process. It’s become innate. The challenge arises when stepping out of that “formed” comfort zone to apply a new function. To me, if we’re to grow, we’re always going to be starting somewhere; forming new beliefs–coupled with new neuro pathways that will enable a new habit to be formed. Bottom line: I hearya


  21. I knew of the works of Takuan, but I’ve only read the Musashi novels and the Gorin no Sho.

    Zen Buddhism always captivates me. There’s no pursuit of God; only overcoming the limitations of the self. Your post reminds me that I should look more into it. It reminded me of those stories I read of how Musashi mastered the sword to a degree that it moved like a part of him, and that said “sword” could be anything from a twig to the oar he killed Kojiro with.

  22. I kind of understand what you’re talking about: I do Sahaja Yoga, and at first it was difficult to stay focused, but now I’m much more calm and able to concentrate on my state of mind while meditating.

  23. Fun post. It’s essentially a paen to the power of the unconscious mind guided intuitively to a correct result without the interference of conscious thought. Of course, it’s ability to do so is massively increased by a sufficient “bank” of knowledge, which is what training/practice/learning is for. Your post reminds us that the learning is not a goal unto itself, but a means to facilitate a higher purpose.

  24. Where did you get that brush ink painting of the 2 martial arts players? It’s great artistry and a mark of someone very skilled in brush work.

    • You are probably right. The monemt I’d clicked Post Comment I’ve realized that when drawing objects on top of a shadow would cause serious problems.Anyway thank you for your response and keep up the good work I hope that some day you will be able to write improved version of your sample, maybe transforming it into tutorial. It seems like quite a lot of people could benefit from that.

  25. The phrasing can be misleading. If the ultimate goal of the meditator is to be entirely self-aware, what’s stopping them aside from ignorance? Distraction – Thoughts that don’t point inward to analyze the self. The vast majority of our thoughts are on the world around us, rather than ourselves. So Beginner’s Mind is the state of mind, like that of a child, before our limited intellectual capacity was polluted by abstractions. Less time thinking about nonsense, more time thinking about the important.

  26. I understand that studies of brain activity show an amateur golfer’s brain firing off in all sorts of places when working on a shot, and a professional’s just firing on a small concentrated space. My karate instructor told me (I have just started) that I make my moves with too great tension, the move should be relaxed and the tension come in at its end, for maximum impact for least effort. I understand whisky new from the still is beautiful, and during the maturing process it becomes unpleasant before becoming smooth.

  27. Gah! I had a long comment here, but then I got a WordPress error and it ate it LOL So, the short version:

    This hurt my head a little, but in a good way. I feel like I need to spend a few more minutes here re-reading and absorbing the point of this post, and maybe I’ll get lucky and be able to understand and apply it to my writing.

  28. I have the B mind – but what’s important is i’m aware – all that is needed is time..and continued effort 🙂 – it’s amazing the power we can have over our minds..many don’t know this, or even care to take charge. – Thanks for posting!

  29. Thanks for your great article. I still enjoy basketball, and at 53, I still work on my jump shot. Trying to do, what I think you are saying, which is do it without thinking. Take care.

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