The Zen of Not Knowing: Seeds for a Boundless Life
As featured in the
You Are A Conscious Creator Newsletter
February 8, 2023
Zenkei Blanche Hartman (1926–2016) was a Soto Zen teacher practicing in the lineage of Suzuki Roshi and a revered elder figure in American Zen. She spent was the first woman abbot of a Zen center in America. She’s been particularly known for her attention to women’s issues in Buddhism and Zen.
Suzuki Roshi (A Zen monk who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States) said:
“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”
And…“The essence of Zen is ‘Not always so.’”
Not always so. It’s a good little phrase to carry around when you’re sure. It gives you an opportunity to look again more carefully and see what other possibilities there might be in the situation.
In her poem “When Death Comes,” Mary Oliver has a few lines that say: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”
This is beginner’s mind: “I’ve been a bride married to amazement.” Just how amazing the world is, how amazing our life is. How amazing that the sun comes up in the morning or that the wisteria blooms in the spring. “A bride married to amazement, . . . the bridegroom taking the world into my arms.”
Can you live your life with that kind of wholeheartedness, with that kind of thoroughness?
This is the beginner’s mind that Suzuki Roshi… is encouraging us to cultivate.
Be willing not to be an expert. Be willing not to know. Not knowing is nearest. Not knowing is most intimate.