15 September 2010

Emily's Zen Beginner's Mind

In Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Suzuki-roshi explores this koan:

In the beginner's mind there are many
possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.

I spend my days working in academia, an environment where expertise is the coin of the realm.  People build entire careers around their reputations as experts.  For many of us it's easy to get caught up in the notion that one is one's expertise.  Thank goodness for Suzuki-roshi.  And Emily Dickinson, who also appreciates beginner's mind.

I dwell in Possibility --
A fairer House than Prose --
More numerous of Windows --
Superior -- for Doors --

Of Chambers as the Cedars --
Impregnable of eye --
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky --

Of Visitors -- the fairest --
For Occupation --This --
The spreading wide my narrow hands --
To gather Paradise

The more I read Emily Dickinson, the more I think she was probably a Zen Master disguised as a reclusive 19th century poet.