Beginner's Mind

In last week’s Truth Tuesday post, I wrote about my terminated YouTube channel; about the frustration, blame, and disbelief that arose in me, and about my path back to perspective, intention, and love. As a follow-up, I recorded a video, calling people to “protest” YouTube (and all automated or uncaring decisions) by being the change we want to see. By getting to know each other, interacting face-to-face as community, and connecting—in small, ordinary ways—with someone who is different from us.

The day after that video post, I had a surprising and beautiful moment with a neighbor. For 10 years, I thought of this neighbor as “the man with the mean dog.” When I walk or bike by his house, the dog barks fiercely. One day, the dog even nipped me, which left me startled and scared. Still, I’ve gotten to know this neighbor in small, ordinary ways. I say “Hi” and smile whenever I walk by. He typically asks, “Where’s the bike?” I reply that it’s in the garage for the winter season or I just prefer a walk. One evening, I took photographs in the street near his house. An illuminated leaf caught my eye. I squatted and took many pictures of a sunlit leaf in a puddle. This man walked toward me and asked, “What are you doing?” I described my photography process. He seemed amused and interested, and quietly strode away.

Last Thursday, I walked downtown on a beautiful day. A few blocks from home, I heard a voice, “I’m behind you.” I expected a biker, so I stepped aside and turned around. Surprised, I saw this man, my neighbor, running toward me. He wore his usual jeans and a flannel, clearly not out for a run, but trying to catch up with me. I looked at him anew. He offered me a plastic bag that contained bicycle gloves and inquired if I could use them. He found them on the street and kept them for a year, waiting to give them to me. Many times, he tried to flag me down but couldn’t get my attention. On this day, he chose to run after me, which wasn’t an easy activity for him.

I took out the gloves. They were long-fingered and like none I owned. He asked if they fit. I replied, “They fit perfectly. What a treat!” He responded, “They’re cushy, so they should be comfortable.” I thanked him wholeheartedly. Then I told him my name: "Hi, I'm Joy." He didn’t offer his name, but jokingly asked if I’d help him scrape his garage. Then he turned and walked away.

In that moment, the “man with the mean dog” became the “man who found bicycle gloves, thought of me, kept the gloves for a year, and eventually ran two blocks to give me the gift.” My heart swelled. My perspective widened and shifted. My community grew larger.

So often we think we “know,” but we don’t. Life is rich, complicated, and surprising, as are the people who surround us. Each day, I try to see anew. As Suzuki Roshi said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” Our world benefits when we practice beginner’s mind: trying to see ourselves, others, and the community anew; opening to possibility.

 Mindfulness