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4-09-12 - The Soy Milk Carton and Beginner's Mind

Yesterday was packing up stuff to move from barn to storage (with help of Howie, Clay, and Christopher, Howie mainly) and am trying to get as much in the recycle, trash, and Goodwill as possible without slowing down to think much. But one item made me stop. It was a blue half gallon Silk soy milk carton. I'd had it on a shelf for over a decade. I held it up and sighed. Smelled the inside. It was fine. I'd cleaned it well. I'd mentioned it in several pieces I'd written on Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. (go here and search for "soy") I'd kept it in the archives because there is a quote from ZMBM on the side:

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.

Of course that's edited. Here's what he actually said according to the original transcript:

In beginnerís mind we have many possibilities, but in expert mind there is not much possibility

As for the first sentence which is usually not included in the quote, there's nothing about empty mind in that lecture or in any of those Los Altos lectures or the word "open" in that lecture but I did find "The beginner's mind is open to everything" in a later lecture. Go to original Beginner's Mind lecture. The fact that the empty mind part isn't there in the original doesn't mean it's bogus though, just that it was added in the editing, probably taken from something else Suzuki said in another lecture or to Richard or Trudy personally in going over it for publication.

There's another quote below that one on the container:

You can't think and hit at the same time. - Yogi Berra

I liked that. Checked it out too. Wasn't as clean cut as I thought. Turns out Berra wasn't a good hitter and his manager had told him to think when he hit but that didn't work either, thus the quote. There's a whole article on it here.

In checking for the Beginner's Mind quotes I ran into this about Amy Tan and ZMBM from a 1998 Zine Zone interview which was buried in an old old folder and which I would have used in the Afterword to the 40th edition of ZMBM. No problem - I'll put it in the annotated version.

I've just started a new ritual, thanks to Oscar Hijuelos, the author of Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love, Pulitzer  Prize winner. We had a long  conversation about distractions and being a writer, and he gave me a new  regimen that I am following now, which  has worked wonderfully. I get up early,  and I don't talk to anyone, I don't  read the newspaper, I can't sign on for  my e-mail, I can't take phone calls. I  can talk to my dogs, I can feed my  dogs, I can eat breakfast, and then I  just work. And I have to work for at  least four hours. Afterwards, I can  enter into the rest of the world again.

 And before I do my writing I read a  passage out of a book called Zen Mind,  Beginner's Mind, the passage on  beginner's mind, which is to remember  what it is to have this mind that's  open to all possibilities, a mind that  is full of compassion. It's, in part, a  way to block out those distractions and  assumptions about life.

Katrinka and I were living in that spacious second floor of the barn for years. There was plenty of room including stuff stored downstairs and in the loft above the ceilings of the three rooms that covered about half the area. Now we're in a one bedroom apartment in San Rafael. We are enjoying the compact experience here but there are so many choices like this - not just what to bring here but what to take to storage which is already full of stuff that needs to be gone through more carefully and more brutally.

"Goodbye," I said, crushed the soy milk carton and put it in a box for recycling. They take those waxy containers in Sonoma. Not in Marin though. I guess it was the right choice.

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