165: Beginner’s Mind (Sort Of)

We are talking about the concept of beginner’s mind. Dave joins us to teach the Buddhist idea of beginner’s mind. Does beginner’s mind mean to not know? Does it mean to come to a situation as if you have never seen it before? What is beginner’s mind useful for? Why is it good for your loved ones if you practice beginner’s mind? We also talk about what is NOT beginner’s mind. And when beginner’s mind might not be the most useful or practical tool in your toolbox. Listen in as we explore beginner’s mind, and share your thoughts with us.

Books mentioned:

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki

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beginner’s mind

How to find us and join the conversation:






Email: RecoverySortOf@gmail.com

Episodes mentioned:

Spiritual Bypassing

Zen in Recovery

Other things:

Empty Circle Meditation Group – The group Dave leads

Woody Curry

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recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or Fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature


[Applause] welcome back it’s recovery sort of I am Jason a guy whose mind is definitely just beginning and I’m Billy I’m a person in long-term recovery I’m Caroline I’m also a person in London term recovery my name is Dave I’m in long-term recovery and I’m also a Zen Buddhist priest I just want to be like that guy from The Simpsons the the Troy McClure like hi I’m Troy McCloy we’ve had Dave on such episodes such as I don’t know why it just makes me want to do that uh so yeah we have Dave on Dave’s been here before we talked about spiritual bypassing and I think meditation the first time yeah first time yeah it was kind of Zen in recovery yeah yeah so it’s been cool and if you enjoyed this episode those are two good other ones to check out but today we’re going to talk about beginner’s mind and Dave’s gonna going to teach us about it I I don’t want to get into this ahead of time but like you messaged me last night and you were like oh my God I thought we were recording later it’s earlier I just I just double checked the email right and I was thinking I’m like a double and triple Checker two I think it’s actually more like flavors of OCD and anxiety but I like to give it credit and I’m like oh no it’s it’s beginner’s mind it’s me pretending I don’t already know exactly what time I need to show up so I was I don’t know I was like is that beginner’s mind for Dave or is that anxiety as well it’s amazing how people in recovery can take any concept and twist it to suit whatever’s going on at that time my wife says that all the time she says I can take spiritual principles and use them to justify anything that I want to do yeah beginner’s mind yeah yeah tell us all about it so if we’re really going to do a beginner’s mind we’d probably all just sit here and that would be it yeah because you know to talk about beginner’s mind is going to take some of the beginner’s mind out of it um I guess the best place in my mind to start would be a quote by Suzuki roshi um who’s uh very well known zen master from Japan who was one of the earliest kind of uh founders of American Zen if you could say that um he came over from Japan 60s that time frame up through the 70s it was here in 80s and so on and he um he’s just really a special individual although he’d say he’s not um but he’s got a book which is a collection of his talks actually called Zen mine beginner’s mind and so as soon as somebody says beginner’s mind I mean obviously it goes to Suzuki oroshi but he’s got this fantastic quote that kind of just really speaks to it so he said that in The Beginner’s mind the possibilities are many in the experts the possibilities are few and I love that quote it kind of keeps me you know from thinking that I know everything you know thinking that I have to know everything thinking that I have to have some control or Mastery over everything something whatever it is now that doesn’t mean that that it’s just easy right it’s not easy at all um but you know something I notice in recovery as well one of my first spiritual teachers is what I would call him his name was Woody Curry and he he’s worth looking up on YouTube he’s got us like a series of nine talks just real kind of like Lo-Fi him talking to recovering addicts he started a program called Baltimore station down in Baltimore for veterans and it’s like a pretty hardcore program anyway they used to in his program um one of the biggest things you would drill through people’s minds is like I don’t know if you came in a Woody and say well I know he’d stop you right there he was wait you know what do you know the stuff you know got you here you know it got you in this mess in the first place so and so the worst thing you could say is I think oh you think now like what do you think your best thinking got you here you know all that you know kind of beginner recovery stuff that you know hopefully we can kind of keep going through our our lives but really I see it in recovery a lot and I see it definitely in in Zen a lot is this idea of an I don’t know mind if you approach something with a bunch of preconceived notions and you know relying on all your individual limited experience coming up to anything you’re really limiting it you know you have this expert attitude and that expert attitude limits possibilities right there I mean it literally does you only see a few things where if you can come up to a situation no matter how big or how small with an I don’t know mind um a beginner’s mind then you can really be open to what it is empty yourself out as best you can you know take your time with it a little bit and you know bring yourself back into it um you know appropriately hopefully in a useful way rather than just leading with ego there is actually this organization called the Zen Peacemaker Association Zen peacemakers which is what I call it enough Association Zen peacemakers and it was developed by a man um named Bernie Glassman tetsu gun roshi and it’s got three tenants which I really think speaks to the home I really think speaks to beginner’s mind and it was basically three times to live by you know first one is don’t know and these are in order for a reason so don’t know bearing witness and then action so I come to any situation with a don’t know mind and then I it gives me a chance to Bear witness to it really bear witness to it and then I can take appropriate action he would say oftentimes loving action um but I don’t know sometimes loving action doesn’t feel appropriate to me I’m just gonna be honest with you yeah so that’s a lot of words about something that you know hopefully doesn’t have too many words associated with it right right when I wonder my wife and I were talking the other night about this idea of like a pink Cloud that people have when they first come into recovery and so when you started talking about beginner mind like part of our conversation at least for me was when I first got into recovery all of a sudden it felt like life had all these possibilities and all this openness and all these you know new realities that I couldn’t see before you know and and of course I described it as a naive way because I said I had no idea that you know with all those responsibilities comes all the responsibility when you buy a house and get a career and have a family and raise kids you know and now that I know all that it’s almost overwhelming sometimes but in that early stages like all that stuff was wonderful and beautiful and amazing and and you know what I attributed to that pink Cloud was probably some of that beginner mind idea that unlimited possibilities in the world kind of forced to go with the principles and you’re so open and you pick a sponsor and you submit you surrender you know to a sponsor maybe not the per the human themselves but you surrender to their you know take on the principles and how they’re going to guide you yeah and there’s a lot of freedom in that a lot of freedom from responsibility in that too I’m gonna do this do you think that’s a good idea is that fall in with this principle you know honesty open-mindedness I guess not tell me what to do and I had my first sponsor had told me like he said anytime you start thinking or find yourself up in your head picture it as like those uh one of those like Crossroad construction signs with the flashing yellow lights that like you’re in a construction zone right now you need to get out of there and go seek help outside of yourself and so that always helped me a lot early in recovery so when this topic was presented I mean my my first thought was uh I know something about this I’ve heard of this before so it was a little excitement I was like oh cool I’ll have something to say right I I kind of know a little bit about this idea and honestly part of that excitement is like I don’t have to do any research I don’t have to spend my time I can just show up on Sunday which is great and and honestly Dave like if you were like I want to come on and teach you guys how to harvest cashews or something I’d be like what the [  ] ever we like Dave so just come on right we’ll talk about it um right but but a couple of of like days later I was thinking more about it I’m like there really isn’t a ton to say about beginner’s mind specifically like the concept once you get it is pretty basic and and there’s not a whole lot you can say beyond that but I was thinking maybe we could talk through how this shows up in the world in different scenarios for people to see it more clearly because I think that’s what maybe recovery in general and even you know mental health work more specifically it’s it’s really about these like Concepts that we can understand but we still don’t see them on a daily basis you know what I mean like even I’m thinking in therapy where we can see and rationally understand where something that happened in our lives at some point kind of affects and impacts the way we react today but sometimes we can’t necessarily see it in action the same way even though we understand the concept of how it works so that’s what I was hoping I guess for this was talking through some of the places and ways we see it show up in our lives and not and there’s a lot of value I feel like in talking about what’s not beginner’s mind as well so this is one of those things that you can never really master I think I think most people will tell you that and then they talk a lot about you know you know you don’t say you’re enlightened right because and you’re enlightening um to be enlightened is really just when you’re practicing that that’s enlightenment so it’s an action it’s something that you do it’s something that you practice and it just reminds me of I was a kayak guide an instructor and you know you’re just your basic front stroke to move the kayak forward people that have all the certifications in the world master kayakers you know they they still say I’m still working on my basic front stroke you know you can never get it absolutely perfect always working on that and I think that’s this beginner’s mind is definitely one of those types of ways of being something that you you never arrive right right you might have moments where I did a good job with that made me really if you’re like me a lot of moments were like [  ] you know if I even catch it right then I’m not doing that which is probably most of the time but yet to practice so I I heard a description one time and this might be a little outside a beginner’s mind it was more I think about the idea of moving away from labeling but my brain at least if they didn’t in the literature uh my brain tied it into beginner’s mind so maybe you can clarify that for us but it was this idea of when we’re not in beginner’s mind we drive or walk down the road and we say oh there’s a tree you know but more in a beginner’s mind if you actually go and look at a tree like the parts of the tree look drastically different from each other like the leaves don’t look like Roots don’t look like the trunk don’t look like the Twigs like these are all very different pieces and I mean if you looked at the inside and you looked under a microscope it would be even more different pieces and it’s just this idea instead of labeling and simplifying like taking in the experience of the tree is more from a beginner’s mind place my off here I could get so Zenny it’s my my teacher sometimes when we start going off on these facets my teacher’s voice is in my head my teachers are shoes and roshi from soji Zen Center in Lansdowne PA um he’s a great teacher he’s like that sounds very zeny you know but I’m gonna say something Zenny you know then like Suzuki roshi may say because I’ve heard him say things just like this maybe about a bird or something else that once you let go of the idea of tree uh by dropping the label of tree and everything that you think you know about tree um at some point when you free yourself enough you realize that you are a tree and tree is you um he’s got this beautiful super mini little thing people should look it up about a bird and a bird on your roof that’s bothering you and but then once you realize that you are the bird and the bird is in your heart it’s just so eloquent um but really by dropping that label you can really lose your idea of yourself as well super practical all the time maybe not that’s the thing for this though it could be all often Zenni land and that’s wonderful it’s great it’s wonderful to see things from an Ultimate Reality type of side if you can say that at the same time when I’m driving my car and I look back at my kid because they’re doing something terrible back there or whatever or they just won’t shut up screaming and stuff and then I look and maybe I’ve drifted over a couple feet across the white line and I see tree I want to know that’s tree right I’m going to label tree move my truck back onto the Earth right away you know hmm maybe maybe Zen worked better when there wasn’t moving Vehicles like if you walked into a tree that’s not that big a deal or an oncoming person I don’t realize I am tree and I literally become tree I have a tree like in all senses relatively and from the absolute perspective I’m literally tree now [Laughter] you know that’s the thing I think it’s really important just to kind of look at a lot of these things without kind of absolutes or extremes like all my cards in one or all my things in one basket right or all my things in another idea basket all right these are all just Concepts nudge you and guide you and you know sometimes leaning more towards one concept is helpful and then sometimes you get kicked over to another concept and kind of just keep you moving and the the transient nature of everything and it’s almost that’s kind of the essence of Buddhism is that everything is is changing and attaching to ideas to things to whatever as though it’s not going to change I have this idea and this is the idea that works and I hold on to that really tightly that because it’s going to cause suffering yeah yeah anything we cling to right and and thinking of that not on either extreme middle path that Jenny’s always in here saying right like one of the things that came up for me when you were just describing it and I was sitting here and I had to jot it down so I didn’t forget it but it’s this idea of how people in my world throughout my lifetime experience have not showed up with beginner’s mind and how that has impacted me highly negatively um because I feel like and I don’t know if this is like you know in my DNA or maybe my childhood trauma like this was what was championed in my house so I got real good at it to get some some feel goods from my parents but uh I feel like I have a question in mind a very curious mind from the get-go and so I would go into situations where things were already solved where there wasn’t any problem to begin with and I would still come up with ideas for how this could go better or how this could be different or how I would like it more and when you come up to people who are like professionals or adults or anything and you have questions about the way they operate in the world they don’t like that kindly because that’s an attack on their ego and they’re insecure and like that always ended up in more conflict and problems for me where the lesson I got was like don’t be this way because people don’t like it and I’m like well but it’s who the [ __ ] I am like I don’t know how to be different and and thankfully through my experience like some healing and I got into a place where this is like perfect for my life to be this way in my career so everybody loves it and that’s wonderful but just thinking of how like the not beginner’s mind can impact us you know when you go to a doctor and you have some ideas about what might be going on with you since you’ve been in your body the last three months feeling it but the doctor dismisses you right because they don’t have that beginner’s mind to be open to just hearing what’s going on yeah uh what you’re saying is very much resonating in a very powerful way with me right now because I’m relating to it a lot because of some things that are happening currently in my life um which I should probably keep vague okay that’s fair yeah but it’s really about it’s not about the details of you know names and places and things like that it’s more about what’s happening you know and

I yeah that so I just kind of changed careers over the past year and a half um so I I had this tendency to change you know my surroundings and a lot of times my career I was at one place for 10 years which is unheard of for me before that it was four years was my longest and before that it was like two or nine before that in between that um I’m sorry oh okay just curious I have been married eight years oh man congratulations I better have that right yes eight years it is eight years sorry I was just with your uh you were talking about the relationships with work and I was like oh is this like oh no Universal across his life oh no my marriage is it’s beautiful it’s people I mean now you’re out now I’m off on a different tangent but no but you know I’m going to say this just you know that you see all these little Tick Tock things and I call them social media you got to work at your marriage and all this everybody you gotta it takes work and all that stuff okay I don’t it’s not taking that much work it’s just it’s just working really really well um so there’s that so marriage is great well and sometimes when people say relationships take work I I think they’re alluding to the work of remaining vulnerable and for people who are kind of on that Journey already it doesn’t seem like extra work it’s just the work we’re already doing to try to be these people in our life yeah well then some of us had uh just resisted and struggled for so long so damn hard in every single direction that you know was not the best or oh that it at some point just get cracked wide open like an egg on the sidewalk into all your glory of vulnerability and here I am and then fortunately for me a person came along that it’s just like fit just fits so perfectly and so I’m just so fortunate you know if a Zen priest came on the show and said their marriage wasn’t pretty awesome and flowy and great like that I would question Zen priests I would be like are they really that is a whole podcast in itself so Zen has Zen has problems of some people you know so just because somebody as somebody called Ken Wilbur Who kind of mapped out a lot of things and psychology and spirituality and say sociology and culturally and he talks about these lines of development and how just because somebody has a very high level of strong line of development in saying uh being able to see absolute side of reality or Zen you know in Zen practice or or anything doesn’t mean that all the other lines of development sometimes people sacrifice other lines of development for to be that expert in that one thing and so that can happen with with Zen and marriages you can have some of the highest regarded Zen Masters and some of them have done some pretty terrible things uh involving relationships so uh I can relate not to be an exact Master just to the relationship yeah so those lines of development it’s important to recognize that because otherwise we put people on pedestals and and we expect them to not be human and that’s one of the things that Buddha said that I’m I’m a man I’m a human I’m not a God I’m not a deity I’m a human I’m a man and I think that’s important to carry over into the people that we look at as teachers sponsors they’re [ __ ] humans therapists therapists I’m one of those two I’m a sponsor I’m a therapist I’m a Zen priest I am not a zen master by any means at the same time um when we look at these people as humans too we can appreciate what they have to offer and we can learn from their deficiencies as well fathers husbands mothers wives the McDonald’s drive-through worker like maybe we should just have be nicer and remember everybody’s human be by being having a beginner’s mind too by not going in thinking I know how this person should be in all areas of their life they should be elevated two inches off the ground wherever they go and just flowers should be sprouting in their wake and everything should be perfect that’s a problem within you if you think that that’s an attachment and that that’s an easy attachment to have because people are literally put on pedestals right um and so that’s where beginner’s mind is helpful and something that having this new career you know that I started about a year and a half ago as a social worker a psychotherapist as forced into beginner’s mind again in a sense I mean I could have come there and thought I know everything and I’d at this point in my life I know that’s not going to go over well at the same time it doesn’t mean everybody else is going to be going in with those same intentions and what happens when that when people kind of prey on that right what happens when your good intentions are seen as weaknesses by others then then does the monster come out does the flood of all my preconceptions come out of all my other experiences and how to deal with things like that come out or do I do my best to reset into a beginner’s mind again and be able to look at the big picture maybe people that are on the attack really don’t know what they’re doing whether that’s okay or not right right what’s going on with them do I need to control the situation Suzuki roshi in his book says that it’s interesting you want to have this beginner’s mind the book is called Zen mind beginner’s mind but then towards the end he talks about how you should be master of your environment of every aspect of your environment so how do you do that but it speaks perfectly actually if you go through the whole book and you go for that Journey uh because to master your environment starts with mastering yourself and letting go if I let go of trying to control everything there’s some Mastery involved in that because I no longer am trying to control something I cannot therefore in a sense I have mastered my environment because I completely let go does that make sense yeah it’s kind of what I was thinking when you said uh you can’t master beginner’s mind I was like well that would defeat the purpose like the whole point is like kind of to remain in this pliable unattached just sort of place you know what what I don’t remember who it was but one of the guys said uh it’s it’s an easy secret I just don’t mind what happens and it’s like it really is that simple if you just don’t have an attachment to whatever the outcome is like and I know like yeah that’s a lot harder to actually live than it is to think but it’s that simple just don’t mind what happens oh [Music]

thank you there’s a trend right now that that brings me to you know in on the internet where it’s [  ] it no no where it’s a uh a wife and the trend is that it’s a wife um saying like how she feels anxious or things are problematic right now I feel like anxious or bound up inside or whatever blah blah these kind of negative Associated negative emotions and and she’s like but thank goodness my husband just you know took care of all that for me because he said oh just don’t worry about it so much thank goodness because of that I’m now fine I totally appreciate that yeah I feel like the wife in that like a lot you know that’s funny and I guess another thing I was thinking when you were talking about like uh in response to my my zen priest not being okay in their marriage comment which was more for humor than anything but um it made me think that even in gaining a really deep intellectual or or bodily experience of beginner’s mind or of letting go of attaching to things doesn’t necessarily necessarily also mean we have put in the effort or work to Monitor and regulate our nervous system right like different body parts operating so you were saying we might spend so much time in this one pursuit of you know knowing more or Mastery that we kind of miss out on the other one so maybe like an over developed you know sense of of Zen understanding might mean that we also can’t control our nervous system reaction to survival States and you know anger and depression and that would be another place where I would think yeah that’s great that this person knows so much but they can’t apply it all the time yeah and going back to what Suzuki roshi you know brings up time and time again in his talks in that book is returning to the breath you know we can have all these ideas and and everybody this is all words in attachment to words I mean it’s not you know you can’t can’t drink the word water you heard that in the rooms I’m sure you know all the cliches that are so annoying but so true at the same time one of these days I’m just gonna I have this idea and I’m gonna shouldn’t say it I should do it but too bad I’m gonna I’m gonna go to a meeting and somebody’s asked me to be a speaker and I’m literally going to get up for 25 minutes and just say cliche one after another oh those people definitely exist I’ve heard them do that intentionally or doing it collapse and everything yeah I’m gonna try it then you heard it here first gotta go to more city meetings you’ll see it a lot yeah but literally no like no like anything in between literally just that I can’t drink the word water therapeutic value of one adding up on it you know just firing them anyway I’ve never heard you can’t drink the word water no you haven’t not in a meeting no no maybe that was that was a woody thing that was the guy I was talking about Woody oh this guy was amazing just uh from the streets of Baltimore uh really I suggest looking up Woody Curry c-u-r-r-y on YouTube and he’s got these real low-fi toxic I was saying so glad somebody recorded him because I went to a thousand of his talks in person he’s deceased now I need to have cancer a few handful of years ago but just one like from the streets of Baltimore hardcore gangster went to Vietnam um you know combat and early part of Vietnam being a door gunner came back uh heroin trade um things I guess I’m not supposed to say on the internet but it doesn’t I don’t know if it matters now but like you know back in the day like police supplying him with Heroin to sell on the streets like oh gee for real ended up in a homeless shelter and then used his GI bill and his uh his VA benefits to to get like four or five master’s degrees and one of them was social work too and became a therapist and took over the shelter and turned it into one of the most successful programs that there is in the world I I want to say the world it’s got an 80 success rate yeah of course you have to stay there for two years to complete the program but anyway uh yeah so Woody had a lot of knowledge like that and can’t drink the word water which but it’s really important thing to think about in a sense because we can really hold on to words beginners mind beginner’s mind you know what is it every rather than just kind of be it return to the breath because if a breath is not a word and something you’re doing all the time the importance of that we can get lost in that especially as you progress in say recovery or especially Zen in my case there could be so much attachment to the forms there’s a teaching in Buddhism about going to the other Shore and it’s you’re Crossing this River and you have this boat and the boat is the vehicle to get you to the other Shore and it’s in sutros it’s a really important kind of concept and the other store would be you know your Enlightenment and enlightening and um it’s where you where you’re striving to go because yes you do need to strive for it too I know striving’s bad but you need to strive at the same time so it’s not always bad uh bad as good and good as bad sometimes but what do you do when you reach the shore is you you’re going to keep carrying the boat with you all right now we’re on land and we’re carrying this boat um and the boat can be the forms it can be the words uh it can be all those things that you really had to attach to and lean on and grab onto in the beginning necessary but at some point are you just grabbing on to that those are they just the boat now and I’m on land about this big ass rowboat it’s weighing me down instead of freeing myself because I used it to get to where I need to go and the boat is there there’ll be another stream I’ll get another boat fear of a lack of resources I was thinking of something I heard early in recovery and I don’t know if this or and I still hear it now I still use it now a lot and I don’t know if this this beginner minus sound seems to me like it might be that idea that like I’m driving down the road in traffic and somebody cuts me off and I get all angry and mad but then I sort of like remind myself like oh maybe they’re not an [  ] maybe they’re something happened to their wife or something there’s a family emergency and they’re trying to get to where they need to go so maybe they’re doing this action for a reason not just because I think they’re an [  ] and when I can do that you know I free myself of that anxiety and that anger and resentment and I can just let them go down the road and do whatever they’re doing that’s so important for me I’ll just speak about my experience for somebody like me maybe it’s the Marine in me you know I was in the Marines and Warrior culture and fight fight fight fight fight fight you know you’re coming at me I’m not freezing I’m not running away I’m running towards it I still I went to the Marines at 17. I’m brain still forming that was never going away in me and so that was so important for me to learn in early recovery and it’s important to me for me to relearn every every damn day I still use it a lot and at the same time what happens when that person just keeps cutting you off and it’s been like 20 times now and you got kids in the back well are they just an [  ] or does it matter if they’re an [  ] or not you know now I’ve got to take action too so just made me think of the spectrum of that because some of these things are wonderful I mean they’re all wonderful Concepts but just to be attached to in their purest form what happens when the rubber meets the road too right so one of the things beginner’s Minds remind me about in the rooms when you first get there and it’s the old one right take the cotton out of your ears and put in your mouth or whatever uh do you ever hear that long Caroline but I feel like I’ve only heard it people talking about people saying it I’ve never actually heard someone truly employed like to you or or in general right like that’s their way of saying it without feeling like the [  ] that said it yeah I always hear it in the context of like people used to say yeah that’s one that’s a good skill though you know somebody’s not doing that instead of like because people are more sensitive maybe now these days and maybe they were in the 80s or something you know so you can directly say to somebody without directly seeing it you know people used to say this so I do this all the time too like in therapy when I got to deliver a particularly tough things that like hey maybe that way you’re feeling good about that you just corrected your child maybe it wasn’t so healthy uh I usually lead with you know my therapist told me when I was struggling with this because that way it’s not on them like it’s this is what I’m doing in my life this is where somebody had to help me so you don’t have to feel bad if you need help with it and or if you don’t want to do it [ __ ] it that was for me and that’s what I’m doing that’s what a treatment team is great too for like certain like disciplinary things so I mean I work on a on a residential unit and so I can defer a lot of responsibility to the treatment team decision which is great because I need to maintain this therapeutic relationship with somebody and you’re about to go on a behavior change plan which is not it’s not a good thing it means you can’t go do things and you’re restricted now you’re on restriction basically and for me to be like talking about the deepest most difficult things in your life maybe you’re hearing voices you know maybe you’re abused maybe I just did a CPS call for the abuse you had as a child and you’re you’ve been holding on to this until you’re and you’re 55 years old now and you never told anybody and you just told me but you’re also going on restriction

he’s out of my controller I’m sorry he defers yeah we go meet with the treatment team the treatment team’s like you need to go on restrictions like do you want to talk about that do you want to process that you know rather than me I don’t even know how we got on that so I know this wasn’t like the message you hoped we got out of this so I’m sorry in advance but when you were talking about the Larry guy who was like a gangster and everything woody woody sorry uh the Woody guy so I was like over here and I was still like my beginner’s mind thing one of the other things moving away from labels one of the first things people taught me about meditation was like if you have an itch experience to itch without having to label it itch which I it’s still one of the most fascinating Concepts to me because I don’t think most people and I surely didn’t before that moment I have never ever ever thought more about an itch it’s a [ __ ] itch I just scratch it this is how it works right but to come with that beginner’s mind of like what is it like if I don’t scratch it how long can I tolerate it what’s the experience actually feel like in my body what’s the sensation of what that is right and and so you were talking about Woody and this gangster dude and I was like I have a picture in him being really mindful in a moment of like experiencing heroin and he’s like this drip is really bitter I don’t know why but that’s where I that’s what I got out of it he was known on the streets for a lot of those things you know but also having a stack of books along the wall from the floor to the ceiling and so the story is of course because this guy’s Larger than Life you know he would he would use them rather than using like be laying in the gutter he’d be reading these incredible philosophy books and me but he sure talked like it was true you know um he’s a very special person and like a Yoda type person

yeah so but this is the thing from people that come from experience right so we can this is one of the things with beginner’s Minds allows us to experience rather than you may notice from therapy too or my the the goal should for me to to set up an environment set up a situation or circumstances for the patient client or whatever you want to call them to figure out their own truths or Define their own way if I just tell them um that then it doesn’t sink in I mean there’s lots of evidence that it doesn’t really have long lasting effect now of course in the program people tell you stuff but how often do they tell you those things I mean for years I mean I’m still getting told some of the same things because I still need to hear some of the same things because they’re because I think that for as amazing as recovering addicts are we’re also can be very dense in some ways it’s much dense but like blocked like Fighters right we’re gonna fight it you know rather than accept it I’m starting to look at that a little different actually yeah I’m starting to think like some trauma causes you to act in ways where you suppress feelings you feel depression you feel anxiety stuff like that but some other trauma is kind of so deep we form our personality traits around it and I think that’s more of like personality disorders or at least some spectrum of having a flavor of that I think those are a lot [  ] tougher to change I don’t know personality disorders yeah like or just somewhere some seem impossible to change well that’s and that’s what how I’m picturing like maybe our struggles are more that than it is us just not getting this [  ] right or hearing that message well enough or enough time you know what I mean like it’s hard right it is and I’m doing a lot of work still in ifs therapy internal family systems and wow that is uh I’ve got a therapist who is also a Buddhist uh teacher in his own right not from Zen from another tradition which was important for me because Zen is like this how I see Zen so any of the Zen folks out there that won’t disagree with me wonderful I accept that and I still love you but to me Zen is about truth truth truth truth first and then compassion will come from the truth whereas like this my I don’t have a lot of experience in that but for my listening to people that are involved in some of those other Traditions it’s kind of like compassion leads you know and everything else comes and we’re kind of like truth and then that will make compassion happen um it’s just a different take because sometimes compassion is a stick like we’ve got a kiyosaku stick and and send and I will hit you with a stick of course in America you have to ask for it because we want to get sued it’s a wooden stick about this long well as long as my arm maybe and in Japan they in a monastery that’ll beat you with it you know you’re not moving fast enough I know this is Buddhism the peaceful Buddhism it is a stick of compassion or the encouragement stick but when you’re sitting there staring at the floor for you know it’s day four of a retreat where you’re sitting there staring at the floor for the better part of 5 30 a.m to 9 p.m at night you know at some point get a hit with a stick and your shoulders doesn’t feel up here by your neck feels really good just wakes you up sometimes if they can snap you out um where are we going ifs though has been really important for that because for those that don’t know aren’t familiar with ifs it’s it’s just an amazing therapy maybe it’s not for everyone it’s probably not every therapy is for everyone and this one certainly many people may have a lot of resistance to it because it does involve my experience with it involves me closing my eyes and I kind of I call it going to this ifs space this is my word for it right but I closed my eyes and I’m literally working with parts of my inner being in myself and I go into this uh my therapist calls it a self-energy and that is kind of the ultimate in this beginner’s mind this don’t know mine because it doesn’t it’s not that self-energy is is really no words kind of no thinking it’s this Consciousness it’s really the center of who you are right and but it’s not even that it doesn’t know or doesn’t or has a beginner’s mind it doesn’t need an expert mind or beginner’s mind it doesn’t know or not know it’s none of those things it’s almost like it’s just awareness yeah and at least yeah it’s definitely that and everything in a sense right um but then we have these parts that we’ve developed a lot of them from trauma and these protector Parts uh which are oftentimes in relation to adversity or trauma I use the word trauma very carefully not having been a trauma therapist for a year before this um adversity is also another good word so and these protector parts are the ones that come in and try to protect you and kind of might come in for me it comes in kind of tries to own the situation tell it like it is this is how I see it and here’s why this is how it is deal with it and sometimes that works really really well sometimes it doesn’t you know and so having these parts that have developed and and learning to work with them and learning to care for them you could do a whole six series podcast on on this stuff I know I keep wanting to find the right like quote-unquote expert yeah that’s that’s the tricky part interesting I I know some people okay we’ll talk that might be because that would be I was almost sitting here wondering I’m like dude me and Dave know enough about this to do an episode on ifs we might but I I can talk from my experience I’ve got two and a half years of experience in it like real I would call Deep experience in it so as a therapist too I purposely chose not to read about it from a therapist perspective I just wanted to experience it full beginner’s mind right right a perfect example for me in beginner’s mind I even had some other therapist friends of mine be like wow that sounds really interesting I want to know more about it and ask my therapist for literature on it and just for the email I did not open it I told him I’m not going to read it I don’t want to I just want to because when am I going to have a chance to experience something from the patient perspective completely and fully like that I think it is time I read up on it some though but that’s the thing is this concept of beginner’s mind could really attach to that concept and that’s no longer beginner’s mind now I’ve got an idea of what beginner’s mind is in ifs when you go in there and you’re meeting the thinking parts of yourself these personality parts that you have developed for various reasons important reasons you know I’ve got a self-doubt part who’s also my empathy part oh she’s difficult I can get choked up just thinking about her right um I’ve got to protect her Parts they tend to look like Marines in my head it was a big one and there’s kind of a medium-sized one and they do different things and but when I start to have opinions when I started to say hi this is how things are um when I start to ha have this emotion and personality that’s no longer the true me that’s a developed parts of me that I get to go in my mind and Witness and and show care for and be there for but anytime I start telling them things that’s just another part coming in there so that’s kind of the ultimate to me right now my development beginner’s mind because it’s it’s free of the the idea of beginner’s mind hmm yeah that’s interesting I was thinking when you were talking about therapy stuff and beginner’s mind that like I start early and I do this I don’t even know why I do this people call like I’ve been told I’m contrary that’s actually the the nicest way it’s ever been said or contrary that’s what I’ve heard argumentative yeah yeah I just contrarius yeah contrarian that’s the word I’m looking for I love that word so yeah I I show up and people come in and it’s like the first or second time they saw me and I’m like oh how’s your week been and they’re like oh you know well uh the dogs didn’t mess on the floor this week so that’s good and instantly for some reason and me my response is always is it okay I don’t know I don’t always my response like when people take things that and they just say so this is good or this is bad and I’m always just like but is it have we actually thought about this and I’m sure people get annoyed as [  ] by that frequently because it just seems like let’s move on past this and get to the real substance of what I wanted to talk about but I have had some interesting conversations about is this actually good or bad in your life and what’s the other pieces of it and was it actually you who wanted that or some part of you that you know was formed in your childhood that made you feel like you got validation or and it gets so deep but it’s all from that idea of like let’s just not assume we know let’s just start there is it was it really we’ll see there’s a Zen story uh I just call it we’ll see um and it’s a very important little one of those little Zen stories you know they’re so like illustrative and for a while there when I work in education and I work I was a head of a social emotional learning and restorative practices thing in this really unique education program a non-profit called North Bay and for a while there I I could just like speak in like set stories and cliches to my staff they’d be like it was one person’s like I need to make a book of these things she’s like it’s annoying as [  ] but but they’re so powerful anyway so this story I love the story I’m I’m sure there’s a written down version with the exact details but the details don’t really matter so there is this kind of old man I suppose he’s a father and I’m kind of making my own details on it but it doesn’t matter the the heart of the story is still there and he has he falls down and and hurts himself um and somebody says oh no that’s too bad you know that that’s terrible you know he’s like we’ll see um and because he hurt himself he didn’t they came around to recruit people for war and it was just this terrible war and it wasn’t good because he was hurt he couldn’t go to war so it turned out to be a good thing and then uh the story goes on and on all these examples and his son you know has a horse and they’re like oh that’s wonderful uh he’s like we’ll see and then like sun falls off the horse and has a catastrophic injury life-changing and so it wasn’t such a good thing and you can put fill in your own examples there but the the moral of it was basically we’ll see that’s funny just like a we’ll see attitude rather than this is wonderful all my dreams just came true and boy you know having been in grad school for three years with a family and working so hard you know to make some changes in your life and then you have to really be like we’ll see everyone I I do a kind of modern version of that with clients a lot to try to walk through that example of labeling things good and bad and it’s like you know just the simple version is you got a flat tire so that was bad but then you got once you fixed it and got down the road there was a fatal big car accident that you avoided so then it was good that you got the flat tire but then you relate to your job interview and you ended up not getting the job so that was bad but then you got a better job that you never would have applied for two weeks later because you didn’t get it so then it was good and it’s like how many times can we flip back and forth about whether the flat tire was good or bad before we just decide that it didn’t actually have equality it just was good as bad and bad is good right besides the same coin so I have a question so I um coming onto the show today did not have any experience with this perfect I you could have made it show us the way so you have the best beginner’s mind here exactly I think what so while the concept itself was foreign as you explained it it felt familiar sure um and I can’t pinpoint exactly what that is but what I come back to is open-mindedness so what is the difference between beginner’s mind and open mindedness uh the exact difference I can precisely point out right now is simply the words you’re saying [Laughter]

really I think the beginner’s mind is the kind of the perfect way to have open-mindedness and that’s the point open-mindedness would say that beginner’s mind was an interesting topic and they might be open to it beginner’s mind would say what conversation


foreign [Music]

Peacemaker tenants like approaching every situation with first don’t know mind I don’t know mine I’m just walking in here and I don’t know even though I think I do there’s a whole bunch of parts inside of me that though they know they think they know but I’m gonna let go of that as best I can and don’t know mine how much more open you know that’s really open to the experience and the everything um and then just bearing witness is kind of a continuation of that so not only am I going to walk in here with beginner’s mind and open-mindedness I’m going to do my best to maintain that for a period of time and then I can take hopefully the best action well in my experience in recovery I think helped me with that concept a lot because when I came into recovery they kind of told me like yeah like you had mentioned earlier like your best thinking got you here you don’t always know what you think you know you don’t even know what’s best for you most of the time so you know you need to get out of your own way and listen to other people and be open to ideas and and when I could look at the obvious wreckage in my life it was like yeah maybe that’s true you know and that concept still can apply in my life today you know I can still see areas where I have problems and I don’t always even recognize that they’re problems you know so I don’t even recognize that they need changed um but by staying connected in recovery or around like people who are living spiritually they can help kind of point out these areas and if I’m really being humble and honest with myself then I’ll be willing to take a look and maybe do some work on it right because what do we really want in recovery what’s the point it’s not to not use chemicals and things that’s an important part of it but that’s not the point um reminds me when I first became a formal student at my Zen Center at my sango and you have to do this thing called tongario where it’s an old tradition um where for us in our level we we would sit there for I think it’s about nine hours and stare at the floor and meditate uh you’ve got like a 30 minute lunch break 20 minute lunch break in the middle there but it’s not like walking meditation to break it up if you need to go to the bathroom you go to the bathroom I mean it was not sadistic right um you know if you are so cramped up get up stretch the cramp out sit back down but that’s the point you sit there and don’t move the as best you can it actually came from um monasteries where they would do that for like three or five days sitting outside you’ve seen Fight Club ever seen Flight Club where they’re standing outside the house to get in they’re like get out of here you sucking it’s gonna stand there that’s totally stolen from Zen um 100 literally at the monasteries that they would do that and they tell you you’re not you’re not good enough to be here you can’t do this and just like destroy you while you sit there and just like take it for three to five days snow rain like terrible they might bring you some rice at night you know to show compassion um anyway and then so that after I did that and I’m Raw I mean you go through all the stages the machio which is uh like hallucinations and things happen you stare at one thing long enough especially when there’s candles around and incense burning and it’s a wooden floor stare at that thing along if you’re going to see some [  ] move at least you know it’s like seeing like Buddhist feet walking back and forth like the floorboards like raised up like this you just like snap out of it drop them back down um it’s normal it’s a normal process because your mind is going to add information because it’s looking for information but on the other side of that is great clarity once your mind gives that up like this need to be processing oh it’s so Crystal Clear at the same time raw super raw and the teacher comes in and we talk for however long and asks me why do I want to do this and I don’t I didn’t think of I just didn’t know what to say I was like uh to be a better person I just I just said words like I didn’t mean it or I didn’t know what to say I’m Raw as [  ] I just like went on this huge Journey floor boards are rising up around me you know there’s like Buddha’s feet pacing back and forth at times you know it’s starting to look like a charcoal drawing that’s moving and then all of a sudden like everything gets clear and everything stops moving and I have Crystal Clarity for like three of those hours and no more like seeing things no more thinking none of that stuff everything is clear and now this guy’s just going to come in and talk to me anyway so and then he goes well it’s not about that it’s about Liberation and I was like of course it is no [  ] I’m in recovery the reason I’m I’m in recovery is not to stop doing certain things is for Freedom same thing as Liberation that’s why I chose Zen is to liberate myself I was like of course I know it’s about Freedom that’s why we’re doing this and that’s one of the things beginners mind and having that don’t know mind offers us is freedom so as you’re describing this there’s a couple of things that are coming to mind for me areas where I maybe do this a little bit always could do it better areas where I maybe don’t do it so well and it’s interesting because so what immediately came up for me was I think I’m relatively good at attempting this not as much as I would like but to a degree within my career um I’m pretty good at you know coming into situations with humility and open-mindedness um allowing myself to learn from other people kind of regardless of the level of experience I assume they’re coming in with right validating their experience as another person who has experience and can potentially teach me something and I’ve always attributed that characteristic of myself at work as coming from recovery principles that I’ve learned in recovery open-mindedness humility but then what’s funny is the flip side when I think about where I’m probably haven’t been good at doing this over the years it’s in recovery where I can so easily after you know a number of years in the program think I know how this works I know what this is I don’t need to take a fresh set of eyes to it right so that and I’d say that I’ve gotten a little better with that actually probably as a result of this podcast right first listening and then now being on the show more it has forced me to challenge some of those close-minded philosophies that I had or or thoughts about the way recovery works but over the years that is probably the area where you know I walk into a meeting and I think I know this I don’t need to hear this again I’ve heard this a hundred times there’s nothing new to be gained all of that kind of stuff is so it’s just so interesting that like the area that I attribute as having given me that in one area of my life is also the area where I probably am not doing it as well as I could be you know it we should put this in the description of our podcast a beginner’s mind take on recovery I feel like that’s kind of somewhere where we’re coming from like this idea of exploring things we thought we knew at a different level or different angle maybe it’s not quite beginner’s mind around it but it’s definitely moving in that direction from from where I’ve been in my life around recovery what was it supposed to be I don’t know whatever is sort of that I guess so right I mean that’s the thing with recovery is that is our lives you know Zen practices my life just keep an eye on time I did want to give this other one little piece and I know you want to do an experience for us so I’m I’m don’t want to miss out on that I I thought earlier on while you were talking like why do people want to have beginner’s mind and one of the things that came up for me would be going into relationships or into any new job or into any new experience I’m gonna have these old ways inside of me right maybe it’s from the ways my parents interacted with me maybe it’s from the relationship my parents modeled for me but that’s gonna feel comfortable for me only because it’s familiar right and I don’t know that going in but now that I’m made aware of that I can go in and actually evaluate a situation so just a real quick take like one of the ones for me if people if I like told someone I was upset with something they were doing or that I couldn’t tolerate that and we had to end the relationship like if you didn’t completely lose your mind and try to get back with me and and yell at me and scream at me and [  ] like this you didn’t love me and so like if I’m going in that without a beginner’s mind I’m just gonna keep seeking that same maybe not so healthy relationship for me whereas if I can get in a relationship and have a beginner’s mind like oh they’re not freaking out but but they’re also here and comforting me that’s interesting it’s new like maybe I actually like some other things better but I’ve never even been open to the experience because I’m lacking that beginner’s mind so it might be a good reason why we might want to to use this in our life right and you know you from an ifs perspective perspective you’d be the way I describe is you’d be wearing whatever that part is Right you’d be wearing that like a overall suit zipped up and not even realizing why you’re wearing it you know you could be like that that’s what beginner’s mind does is it allows us to have the awareness and without awareness I I say this in my groups a lot um it’s kind of like wearing a fur coat back on the Block in Baltimore with a hot in the summer a hot tarmac around you and the buildings keeping that heat in no you know and not knowing why you feel like [  ] I feel like [  ] why do I feel like [  ] right you know and I’m like looking everywhere else I’m thinking I know I just need to go whatever do something and feel but really all I need to do is like look down only [  ] I’m wearing like a fur coat but now I know now I can decide whether I want to keep it on or I can take it off and cool down that’s better or maybe it’s only safe to unbutton it right now or at least something yeah so let’s uh let’s do your your thinking one today okay so this activity uh it’s a I love doing this it illustrates this well let’s just do it and we’ll see what it illustrates so um two people do you guys want to do it sure yeah you you have to face each other more or less I mean however you can work with the mics yeah like three quarters is fine it’s great great so what we’re going to do is this is called

space counting Counting counting space scouting and these are echoes when you talk about space get that in the edit what we’re gonna do is we’ll do a practice round first where you guys are gonna draw one through ten in the air so one two three in the air and you’re gonna erase each other okay now it’s up to you to be honest okay so if you mess up a number erase it and draw it again okay and as soon as soon as you’re done raise your hand and we’ll see who gets there first all right I’m gonna say when I say go you’re gonna go so you’re gonna draw it in the air he’s got an advantage okay am I ready go okay somebody won hopefully everybody was honest all right that’s just practice fastest practice so I want to make sure I describe this well for people that aren’t watching this okay on a screen so they were drawing in the air drawing the numbers in the air they’re facing each other now now what I need somebody to volunteer to go first I’ll go first okay uh you’re really gonna go at the same time but you’re going to kind of lead it that’s a better way to put it so what Billy’s gonna do is Billy is going to draw in the air slowly pretty big you know be forgiving make it big numbers and you’re going to count to ten nice and easy and slow what you’re gonna do is you’re going to do the same thing he’s doing but you’re going to do it the way he’s doing it so it’s going to look different than what you’re used to all right let’s try that let’s see how easy this is let’s go one to ten yep go one to ten so Jason just kind of doing his two backwards now or trying to do it backwards so Billy is drawing nice numbers in the air Jason’s trying to follow along it’s going kind of okay now do it at the same time same time same exact time sorry sorry yeah oh yeah oh a little harder oh he’s erasing in the air doing the same exact time okay how was that it’s hard yeah what’s hard about it uh trying to know what he’s gonna do next if I’m doing it at the same time why do you have to know what he’s doing next to do it to to follow at the exact same time seems impossible why what’s impossible what what was what stumbling blocks did you have what happened when you were trying to do that my my finger wanted to make the number the way I always make the number but Billy makes his numbers different it doesn’t put a little circle squiggly at the bottom of his two there’s no slash across this seven I’m like ah there’s [  ] eight with the two bubbles I’m like you monster oh really he does that yeah oh man two circles judgments are flying right right oh sideways infinity symbol Billy Jesus but really all you have to do is put your finger in the air across from his finger and follow his follow the Motions that he’s doing what do you think it would have taken you mentally just to be able to do that with with ease because if I go like this if I had to do a zigzag in the air and you don’t I don’t tell you what I’m doing it’s gonna be pretty easy I think I I think I think one I knew we were operating with numbers so he was just making random symbols in the air I probably would have been more free to just follow okay so you knew something right um I think the environment does not help right now because I got this microphone kind of in the way of my right arm and so I’m like I couldn’t just be across from him and I didn’t feel like I could do it left-handed because I know I’m right-handed right so so you know oh yeah yeah yeah all these judgments that are coming up before you um I think that was the main pieces of it those are pretty main pieces yeah so how can this you know how does this apply to our lives right right all the things I come in with that I don’t even I’m not even aware of like I wasn’t aware that knowing we were operating with numbers was going to impact my ability to follow it you didn’t know that people made H with two circles I knew some people did I just knew what I thought about them I just knew that their age group to me that’s like about relationships you know what I mean like I think people generally come into relationships with the information that I have already you know what I mean and a lot of times they’re coming from a completely different place on what they think employee friend sponsor husband what those things mean right and just an assumption that we mean the same thing no that’s really really good because I think that’s hugely important I I constantly and even with the awareness I do it I still fall into the Trap of making my experience generalized to everyone right like oh they’ll definitely feel this if I do this no they might [  ] not they might not give a [  ] at all that if I do that one of my favorite sayings and this is exactly the opposite of of you know beginner’s mind is like why do so many people lack common sense like because I think common sense is exactly the way that I think so I think everyone should have that everyone should just think the way I think common sense is an uncommon virtue well and the problem with common sense is that it comes from a standpoint of like why don’t they know that this is better and we don’t know all the surrounding circumstances in their life that might make something else better if we were in that too and that’s the point we don’t like the McDonald’s work in the drive-through we talked about right like I’m not picturing what stresses are going on in their life how awful it is to work for minimum wage how much it sucks to be treated by shitty people who don’t care about countries workers like I’m not in that situation so I don’t know what the [  ] is best for them like I might scream at a [  ] customer too you know what I mean so it’s just having that bigger awareness of like everybody’s got their own [  ] they’re not thinking like me they’re not in the state I’m in there it’s a good day right they [ __ ] draw eights with two zeros but even making those excuses like I still I don’t give space for me to be the one that’s wrong A lot of times I give a lot of space for them to be wrong I don’t give a lot of space for myself to be the one that’s got it wrong you know what I mean like it’s I’ll make excuses for why they act the way they do but it’s like oh maybe my expectations are wrong or maybe my understanding of what I think they should do is wrong yeah but we uh we do have time wise have to get out of here and wrap up Dave but man it has been a pleasure having you on talking about beginner’s mind uh I guess go out there this weekend don’t think does that just go out there this week or not [Laughter] practice try to keep your tank full there you go because I know for me when I my tank gets low let’s just I visualize it and then it gets a lot harder to have that tolerance in that beginner’s mind and and it’s going to be hard and it’s challenging and don’t judge yourself too much when you mess it up awesome all right everybody have a good week [Music]

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