The Beginner’s Mind

Hey everyone! Robert here!

Shoshin. The “beginner’s mind” or even more appropriately, the beginner’s heart-mind. This is a conscious state of mindfulness wherein one holds a fresh and inquisitive mind, remaining free from fixed beliefs or opinions, regardless of how many times they have performed a particular practice.

Remember when you began a particular activity that you were super excited about and deeply interested in? Can you recall that feeling? Remember how you felt it throughout your entire body? The butterflies in the belly. The excitement in the mind, the energizing effect within the body. You may not have known exactly what to expect or what you’re getting into, but you felt so alive and alert, ready to learn anything and everything. This is Shoshin – The Beginner’s Mind.

I cannot help but marvel at the ever-unfolding synchronistic nature of life. It’s such an immense pleasure and honor to observe the universe in action. A few weeks ago, I asked everyone in my Facebook group forum to ask questions. Any question about nearly any subject. This was to promote the “mind of the beginner” – to get them to Inquire. In the context of the Beginner’s Mind, the term beginner does not refer to someone who’s at a low level, but rather, someone who’s open and keeps seeking instead of convincing themselves that they already know through the form of a misguided belief. It’s referring to someone who’s able to keep a fresh perspective, even when performing the same practice for the 10,000th time. Studying the same text for the 100,000th time. They never enter into the practice with the mind of already knowing. Each moment of every practice holds new insight, a new sense of excitement and wonder, and the opportunity for awakening.

I have made this claim before and I’ll gladly make it again – “Beliefs are poison to the mind.” Holding a belief about anything allows this poison to begin it’s paralyzing effects on the mind. It should be understood that when you achieve no-mind, you let go of all beliefs. There is no other outcome. When you are completely absorbed in the moment, the here and now, you become free of beliefs. They drop to the ground around you much like a child dropping a toy they’re finished playing with. No more thought, no more attention, is given to it.

Ever since I began teaching students, I have openly encouraged questions. “Question everything I say and do, until you know it to be true through your own direct experience” has been a constant theme when I teach.

I was recently reading a book where the author began addressing the topic of the “inquiring mind.” As I continued to read, much to my delight, it was stressed that the mind must be free to inquire and that inquiry was healthy. Beliefs stifle inquiry. Any belief, all beliefs – stifle inquiry, expansion, and awakening. When the mind is convinced that it already knows or understands something, it closes down and becomes unable to accept any new level of understanding. It stops inquiring. All learning ceases, growth dies, and you become locked in the limitation of what little you’ve already experienced; slamming the door shut to any new perspective or experience that’s potentially awaiting you.

Awakening is an ongoing, ever blossoming, beautiful experience. It’s not a destination. We’re never really fully awakened, we’re always in the process of awakening. To say you have arrived (become enlightened) may be a false claim. You can only ever be in a state of arriving. Through the mind of inquiry, the beginner’s mind, we come to experience new meaning with every practice. It’s this direct interaction that manifests the practice as meaningful. The key is to inquire about things that are truly relevant, not things that are meaningless. Inquiry is the proper use of the thinking mind. The purpose is not to always question the validity of things, this is merely the ego attempting to satisfy itself. Inquiry is different, there’s a sense of mindfulness to it, a sense of innocence and wonder, and at the heart of it – the quest for truth.

To perform a practice today has nothing to do with your performance of it yesterday, or any day in the past for that matter. Today is today. Now is now. Sure, the accumulative effects of consistent practice over decades carries a certain amount of experiential benefit. But, to always bring past experiences into your fresh, new, current experience will prevent you from reaching all new heights within that practice. The practice then becomes stagnant; dead. The same is true of relationships, to always bring the baggage of past relationships into your current one is unfair for both parties involved. Think about this. Yet, the egoic mind clings to the past, to the past experiences. In reality the past only exists in the mind, it’s a tool of the ego, and this is why we strive to transcend the mind, separating our consciousness from the mind altogether. If this has not happened, then the individual has not truly ride themselves of their ego, they simply believe they have. Their success only exists in their own mental delusion.

The truth of this can be seen in reading my book, and of course many others; when you read it a month ago you had a certain experience with the material. Then, you may pick it up and read it again. This time having an even deeper experience. You may read it yet again in a year and have a completely new experience, seeing material that you’d swear wasn’t there before. In this way the material in the book seems to keep changing and revealing new insights. This can only happen when you have the mind open to inquiry. To experience this means that you’re holding the proper state of mind to read it.

To practice the same exercise while believing you know it already causes your mind to become dulled and any movement is reduced to nothing more than mindless repetitive mechanics. No new experience can be had from such a way. To continue repeating any form of training or study this way is simply ignorant. When you practice as though every time is a new experience, learning something completely new and exciting, then no matter how many times you do it, it’s never boring – it’s always a brand new experience, just like it was the first time you were introduced to it. In this way you never repeat the same practice twice.

3 Essential Practices

Hey everyone! Robert here!

Heaven, Earth, and Being (Humanity). The concept that is the very essence of Expansion Mastery. I maintain the importance for three primary practices in life based upon this concept in order to achieve balance and spiritual expansion as a fully actualized human being.

The Chinese call it “Tian Di Ren.” The Japanese refer to it as “Tenchijin.”  Depending upon where you are in the world, you may know it as “Heaven, Earth, and Man(kind). Every culture has this incredible concept in one form or another. It exists to serve all of humanity.

I would like to address a very simple outline for integrating this concept into your daily life. The more we live in accordance with this principle of nature, the deeper we’re able to connect to our own sense of humanity. The first area is divided into 2 parts, but in reality they’re not separate form one another. They’re merely the understanding of the outer and the inner, both of which must be consciously cared for, developed, and refined.

1a. An External Physical practice. We need something that’s movement based which allows us to get out of our head and into our body. This can be anything from martial arts to mountain biking, swimming, dancing, hiking, resistance training, cardio training, or anything else you enjoy that requires the physical body to move. The idea is to stretch, strengthen and keep the body in good health and fitness while gaining the ability to feel instead …of thinking. Physical fitness, health, and the ability to get out of our head are the primary focal points.

1b. An Internal Physical practice. We also need an internal physical practice, such as Qigong, Taiji, Bagua, Yoga, etc.. This is a practice that directly involves the internal landscape of the physical body as well as those non-physical “bodies” that expand outward. The idea is to open and strengthen your self internally and energetically. Internal harmony with the natural forces of heaven and earth for better health and vitality are the primary idea.

2. A Mental practice. Basically, some effective form of meditation. This practice provides you with a way to directly observe, access, and discipline the mind. It allows for a healthier mental state and clarity of reality. Please keep in mind that while meditation has many “methods,” at the very essence of all meditation remains the goal of overcoming the ego, attaining no-mind, and awakening your consciousness. This is to transcend the mind and move beyond the mind to live in consciousness, being free of the mind altogether. To be free from mind, is finally to be free of ego, because the ego can only exist in dark recesses of the mind.

3. A Spiritual practice. Whatever this means to you. Connect to the Divine Source. This needs to be an intimate, personal interaction between you and the Divine. It must be felt and experienced to be known. This is not about belief, it’s about direct personal experience. The idea is to establish your own connection and then appreciate it, respect it, and nurture it in a way that opens your heart and raises your vibration.

The concept of Heaven, Earth, and Being could be seen as the greater path; the path we all must walk. The individual practices you choose to undertake and enjoy becomes your own unique way in which you walk the path. You have the freedom to choose. We have the luxury of having many wonderful and highly effective practices openly available to us. There are no more excuses for neglecting any of these areas of our Self. It’s time to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives and learn to live more fully and consciously. Applying the concept of Heaven, Earth, and Being to your life will surely yield incredible results in personal transformation – I know it certainly has done so for me.

Living Your Practice

Hey everyone! Robert here!

In my book, I shared the complete cycle of meditation. Essentially, I broke it down into 3 distinct phases. It begins with the practice of seated meditation in a quiet place (controlled environment) as you learn the methods and become proficient with the practice. Eventually, you achieve success with the practice. But this is not the end, and this is the reason many monks, priests, or those in caves never reach the full realization of meditation. The last stage is to be able to walk in the world (uncontrolled environment) while holding the meditative state in all they do. It quite literally becomes who you are instead of something you do. You are transformed. In other words; we sit to practice achieving no-mind. Then we achieve no-mind. Then we must stand and walk from day to day, living our lives, while maintaining no-mind. This is the totality of these practices and applies to the attainment of emptiness, egolessness, etc. I use no-mind here because attaining no-mind is the ultimate goal of meditation. To transcend the mind and live in consciousness. The same process is held for qigong, martial arts, spirituality, or any other practice you undertake.

I came to realize this for myself through decades of my own practice and direct experience. Countless hours of esoteric Buddhism practice, Taoist meditations, and even Zazen, allowed me to come to know this as truth. Much, much later I became aware of the Zen master, Kakuan, who stressed this same concept through the story of the “10 Bulls of Zen.” Originally there were only 8 picture-plates depicting the process of finding the bull, but he added 2 more to the set to total 10. Why would he do this? Because the last plate in the original series ended with the attainment of emptiness. The realization of emptiness is not the end however. In the final 2 plates, Kakuan shares the return of the monk to the marketplace after finding the “bull.” This symbolizes the return into the world as a transcended being, holding the attainment of emptiness in all he did in his daily life. This is the final and most challenging test. In this way we re-enter the world as a transcended being and escape all illusion and delusion while living a normal day-to-day life. Although at this stage, there’s nothing “normal” about you or the life you live.

Carefully consider this statement by the Zen Master, Miao Tsan…..

“Accomplished practitioners, as well as practitioners in denial of reality, try to focus their lives on spiritual cultivation. While diligent practice is critical, what is easily overlooked is the manner in which the practitioner handles the problems of daily life. This is the true test of his practice; it is the deciding factor of the effectiveness of his effort. The ordeal of life is directly connected to the individual’s karma, and the focal point of a practitioner’s learning is to apply his spiritual attainment while facing the challenges in each moment of his life.”            ~ Master Miao Tsan

Please feel the truth of this matter for yourselves, and once realized, apply it to your own practices in order to fully embrace their entirety.

Distraction and Purpose

Hey everyone! Robert here!

One thing I have come to know as truth – There are two primary paths in life.

The path of distraction and the path of purpose. Free will affords us the ability to choose which path we walk, but make no mistake it’s always our own choice. Even when we choose not to decide, we’ve chosen to surrender our power and allow others to make those choices for us. When we choose from ego, we travel the path of distraction. The ego craves distraction. It hides within distraction. It strengthens its hold on your mind, feeding upon the myriad of distractions. When we consciously choose from essence or spirit, there’s only one path to travel – that of purpose. This path is the path of empowerment where we’ve chosen to accept responsibility for our self and live the soul expanding adventure we came here to experience.

The “awakened” live a life of purpose and passion while those sleepwalking through life live in a state of distraction and delusion. Those strong of spirit and true of heart possess the courage necessary to resist the distractions of the physical world and walk this path of purpose. Those lacking in these qualities are constantly drawn back into the world of distraction, no matter how many times they try to escape.

It’s a simple concept to understand. If you’re not walking the path of purpose at any given moment in time, then you’re on the path of distraction. These paths do not co-exist. You are on one or the other. Distraction leads to a wasted lifetime whereas purpose leads to a fulfilled lifetime with no regrets.

No one can choose the path for you. No one can (or will) force you to walk a particular path. Nor can they walk it for you. It’s your own responsibility. It’s time to awaken and escape the repeating cycles of distraction. To step outside of these old patterns that you may be stuck in and experience the freedom of living your purpose. You will need to consciously make up your own mind. Feel what the right choice is for you from within your heart.

Choose wisely.