I Don’t Know. Do You Know?

Via on Apr 9, 2012
photo: tumblr

All that stuff we think we “know” is pretty unimportant.

Much more important? The stuff we don’t know, and realizing just how much of it there is. That “don’t know” place is a great place to stay because it’s real. It allows for a million possibilities we haven’t considered yet, and never will if we think we already know everything.

Today I was kicking around, frustrated, ruminating (sulking), puzzling and trying to throw everything I know at a few things I’m trying to sort out. But that’s ass-backwards. I need to stay with the don’t-know—my beginner’s mind. Instead of trying to pull out the big guns of whatever enlightenment we think we have, we can stay fresh. Instead of one-upping each other with what we’ve figured out, we can stay open, stay compassionate and stay in that “original mind” state.

“So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, ‘I know what Zen is,’ or ‘I have attained enlightenment’ This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner.”

“In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, ‘I have attained something.’ All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.”

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

~ Shunryu Suzuki-roshi


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. She doesn't know how to behave with all the apples and ibexes. She doesn't suffer from her eight million freckles, she loves them! Like a rolling stone, Kate gathers no moss. Kate loves kale, being barefoot, Dr. Seuss, singing too loudly, gallivanting, palindromes, blackberries and has far too many books for her own good. When she's not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, running in the woods, playing with her kids, devouring a book, planting dandelions, changing the world and doing her dishes. Kate does not play the accordion. She is a massage therapist, writer and a compassionate friend to all. This year Kate aspires to finally give up on learning to knit and will instead spend that time putting a little bit more of her heart on the page. Connect with Kate on Facebook and Twitter


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7 Responses to “I Don’t Know. Do You Know?”

  1. Robert says:

    profound! it's so peaceful relaxing into this. thank you. (but what do i know? :))

  2. ValCarruthers says:

    Love this, Kate! Thank you for showing how the less we hold onto the more we have.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  3. __MikeG__ says:

    Good timing. I just deleted my posts in a comment stream on EJ after the author basically told me I interpreted the post all wrong. Maybe I needed more beginners mind. Beginners mind is good. Unless one is getting a vasectomy. Then one needs an expert.

  4. [...] Therefore, though dominance is a role requiring strength and solidity, it also includes humility, respect and ‘beginner’s mind.’ [...]

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