“Beginner’s mind” is actually someone who’s not in their mind at all! They are people who can immediately experience the naked moment apart from filtering it through any mental categories. Such women and men are capable of simple presence to what is right in front of them without “thinking” about it too much. This must be what Jesus means by little children already being in the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3-4). They don’t think much, they just experience the moment—good and bad. That teaching alone should have told us that Christianity was not supposed to be about believing doctrines and moralities. Children do not believe theologies or strive for moral certitudes. They respond vulnerably and openly to what is offered them moment by moment. This is pure presence, and is frankly much more demanding than securing ourselves with our judgments.
Presence cannot be easily defined. Presence can only be experienced. But I know this: True presence to someone or something allows them or it to change me and influence me—before I try to change them or it!
Beginner’s mind is pure presence to each moment before I label it, critique it, categorize it, exclude it, or judge it up or down.
That is a whole new way of thinking and living. It is the only mind that has the power to actually reform religion.
Adapted from Beginner’s Mind (CD, DVD, MP3) by Richard Rohr
August 9, 2013