Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

A note from Rev. Shawn: Beginner’s Mind

In the Zen Buddhist tradition, there is a wonderfully helpful concept known as “Beginner’s Mind.” It is an invitation to view a new situation as if for the first time, with fresh eyes and free from the burdens and limitations that come with preconceived notions.

Sōtō Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki described the practice as simultaneously emptying one’s mind while opening oneself to everything.

Through cultivating this practice of deep curiosity, Suzuki believed beginners could gain access to a world of possibilities—possibilities largely inaccessible to the seasoned expert who, thinking they’ve seen it all, can be limited by their knowledge, their assumptions, and their expectations. 

As I take up the role of settled minister here at UCV, I’m trying to practise Beginner’s Mind. This is relatively easy for me, given that I am, after all, just beginning. So many aspects of life at and around UCV are completely new to me. This is both exciting and daunting! 

At the same time, you called me to serve as minister here, in part, because I actually do have some experience and expertise. For better or worse, I’m not a novice. So, as I open myself to this first year together, I’m seeking to balance the discipline of Beginner’s Mind with the need to draw on hard-won wisdom from other chapters of my life. I imagine my work in the months ahead will involve both suspending judgement and simply taking things in, all while putting to use the skills I bring to our work together. This means my primary goal for the coming year is to simply get to know the congregation, as you get to know me. This will involve listening and learning for us all, as we deepen our trust and commitment to each other and to this ministry that we now share.

While I’ve appreciated having these last few weeks to unpack my office, attend Sunday services, visit with various committees and teams, and meet many members of the congregation, I’m really looking forward to finally leading worship on Sunday, September 10th, when we will gather for our beloved Water Communion ritual. That morning, through rituals and reflections, with the return of the choir, and by raising our voices in joyous singing, we will launch a new year in the life of the congregation. I encourage you to bring a small amount of water that literally or symbolically reflects a meaningful experience you’ve had in recent months. (If you forget, know that we’ll have plenty of water on hand so you can still fully participate in the ritual.) This year’s ceremony will include three invitations to pour water: the waters of sadness and grief, the waters of change and transformation, and the waters of renewal and joy. Give thought in the coming days to what these recent months have meant to you—and what meaning your water holds.

With great hope,