Community Message: Cultivate the beginner’s mind

By Minister John Shuck

In the words of Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

It is September. Back to school. It is a good time to reflect on the beginner’s mind. No one wants to be embarrassed about what she or he doesn’t know. To avoid embarrassment, we pretend to know more than we do. Similarly, we don’t like to be fooled.

I have heard that it is far easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. It is because we do not wish to be fooled that we are indeed fooled. This is a reason we can be manipulated and fooled again and again. Thus, we remain in the illusion.

What if instead we approach life with a beginner’s mind? What if we were to see everything, especially those things that have become familiar and trusted as if for the first time? This requires the humility to accept that we are always being fooled through various forms of propaganda and illusion. Rather than relying on the false comfort that I am not fooled, that I am smarter than that, the beginner’s mind asks, “How am I being fooled today? What illusion am I afraid to examine? What do I pretend to know to avoid embarrassment?” Then the mind is open for truth. It is September. Back to school. School and learning are not just for the young. The most difficult and rewarding task of all is to cultivate the beginner’s mind at any age.

John Shuck is the minister at Southminster Presbyterian Church of Beaverton located on the corner of Denney and Hall. Visit us online at