“Beginners Mind”

5. Shoshin / 初心 / (SHO-shin)

Shoshin is a term coming from the Zen tradition, and refers to a beginner’s mind.

It’s another concept largely absent from western discourse, which prides itself on specific knowledge. America loves experts, and we’ve been conditioned over the past century of industrialization to value quick answers over thoughtful questions.

This trend directly opposes the type of understanding practicing Buddhists are able to muster. Shoshin begets a cohesive mind map by employing general understanding over specific knowledge.

The advantages of approaching new problems with a fresh mindset make it an untapped spring for new insights. “Understanding” then becomes a practice in ideological foundation building.

Literally, your ideas “stand” upon the insights which have been built “underneath” them.

We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them

Albert Einstein

Having a beginners mind is an ideal closely associated to that of minimizing the ego.

In short, your ego is your enemy, and it’s only aim is to perpetuate itself by encroaching on your true nature.

It’s desires are to project and maintain control.

Even if that control is an illusion.


Most have been taught to remain focused when learning a new skill, and I get it. Seems to make sense, right?

And while this is still good practice for problems already understood, it often prevents us from solving more complex issues. We get tunnel vision, as narrow perspectives become less correlated with the whole.

New problems require the adoption of a different mode of cognition.

We’ll call this type of learning, “diffuse thinking”.

Diffuse thought makes use of the entire brain.
Focused thought is located mostly in the prefrontal cortex

Imagine focused thought as an intense laser.

Strong and far reaching, but not effective for lighting up an entire room.

Diffuse thinking on the other hand, is the broad beam you can get from a flashlight. Perhaps not as powerful as the laser, but more useful when you have no idea where to go.

Shoshin asks for us to let our guard down from time to time, and to be okay with occasionally looking dumb.

Adopting a growth mindset in this sense, would allow for more mistakes, but also would encourage greater levels of genuine understanding and creative problem solving.

It is only in our adoption of this beginners mind that we can begin to rediscover what it really means to be a human being.


If you’ve made it this far, thanks! I appreciate you.

This is the end of week one in our 20 word series, but I’ll be back Monday.

Here’s another hint for what might be in store…

Published by Toso

I like big ideas and I cannot lie.

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