Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cultivating A Beginner's Mind

I'm heading to Iceland on Friday for a week-long trek through a unique part of the earth called Laugavegur. This area in southeast Iceland has been described as "Yellowstone on steroids." It is characterized by geothermal activity such as geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes. It also features several glaciers. The photo above is from the official Iceland Tourism website.

When heading to a place I've never been, I have a sense of adventure and a feeling of anticipation. I feel open and alive to new possibilities and challenges. In Zen Buddhism there is a concept called "beginner's mind" (Shoshin). It refers to having a sense of openness, eagerness and a lack of preconceptions when approaching a topic of study. Cultivating a beginner's mind toward all subjects, even those that are very familiar, fosters deeper engagement and learning.

I'm going to Iceland with a beginner's mind, even though I've read three books on this country and think I know what to expect. I want to be open and receptive to all that this amazing place has to offer.

However, a beginner's mind is good to cultivate no matter where we're going or what we're studying. A sense of approaching something for the first time helps us to not prejudge and, therefore, keeps things new and fresh.

Friday, June 17, 2011


A lively discussion occurred at my clergy study group this week over the concept of "sabbath." Sabbath, which means "rest," means taking an entire day of rest/worship/renewal once a week in Judaism. The Sabbath was instituted in Genesis 2:2-3 when God rested on the seventh day of creation and "hallowed" it.

The discussion focused on whether it is acceptable to take the one-day sabbath and break it into several mini-sabbaths throughout the week. Some argued that, in our fast-paced modern society this makes more sense because of the near impossibility of taking an entire day. Others argued that not taking an entire day undermined the purpose of the sabbath.

I understand both positions. Taking an entire sabbath day each week is ideal. If we have the will and discipline, we can make time for a sabbath day. However, the ideal is seldom achieved in life. For those who can't/won't/don't take a sabbath day, mini-sabbaths are an acceptable alternative.

What is a mini-sabbath? It is taking time out of a work day to pray or meditate. It is taking a walk or a bike ride. It is doing something that feeds one's soul. The key to mini-sabbaths is being intentional about making time for them. Writing an activity or time of rest on your calendar or day planner can serve as a reminder to take this sabbath time.

Sabbath time is holy time. The sacred dimension of life is not just available one day a week, but every day and every hour. When we connect with this holy dimension of life, our souls are renewed and we are better able to live the life to which God calls us.