Beginner’s mind – Tabula Rasa

I was hit by a realisation the other day, when my cat entered my room after I returned home from a short trip. She started “inspecting” everything with curiosity, as if she’s never been in that place before. She was taking her time to experience the room as if for the first time.

This made me think of a concept in Zen philosophy which is called “Beginner’s Mind“. It’s not that my cat was suffering from amnesia, or that she hasn’t been in my room before. It’s about the fact that she was experiencing her environment as it was, in the present moment. “Beginner’s mind” refers to experiencing whatever appears in our field of awareness, with a fresh and open mind, as if encountering it for the very first time.

Another concept, similar to the beginner’s mind is “Tabula Rasa“. This refers to the state our mind is in when we are born. A clean slate, which is open and receptive to all new experiences. A state where we receive information as it is, in a direct way, without it being filtered by preconceived beliefs about the world.

Most of what we humans experience in the present is not the actuality of things, but rather what we mentally project on them. What comes into our field of awareness is being seen through the lens of our past experiences. Our judgements, comparisons and beliefs about our current experience all tend to have a common reference point – the past.

Bring colour back into your life

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
but in the expert’s there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

When we cultivate the beginner’s mind we are no longer limited by our beliefs, as we are instead opened to life as it is. We are allowing the actuality of the world to reveal itself to us in its full richness. And we no longer block ourselves from the universe’s infinite possibilities.

We can thus once again get in touch with the excitement we felt as children, when we inquisitively explored the world, and the fascination we had in discovering it.

We rekindle our life force, and gain renewed vitality, enthusiasm and passion for life, as we are no longer obstructed by mental barriers in the quest for fulfilling our life’s purpose, and we experience life with more flow and ease.

Animals, time and the present

“The present moment, if you think about it, is the only time there is. No matter what time it is, it is always now.”

Marianne Williamson

Accessing the beginner’s mind can only happen in the present moment. And there is so much we can learn from animals in this way. The reason I mentioned my cat earlier is that she made me realise that beginner’s mind is their default state. It is the natural way in which they experience the world. And that is because the time for them is always now.

Animals are always awake to their present experience. They actively participate in whatever happens in the moment. Dogs are another great example. When they are with us, we can see the happiness in their eyes, and the excitement they feel when we play with them. They are joy, and gratefulness. When they are with us, they give us their undivided attention.

But how about us humans? How much are we actually there when we are with our pet? How much are we actually there when we are with fellow humans? We tend to go through most of our lives living either in the past or the future, and thus experience life through the prism of the mind.

The antidote is to enter the now, the present moment.

Noticing, Curiosity and Wonder

We can start practising the “beginner’s mind” or “tabula rasa” state anytime, anywhere, with anything we encounter in our field of awareness. And the best ways of accessing this state is through noticing, curiosity and wonder.

We can notice, by deliberately placing our attention on what we are experiencing. As what we place our attention on naturally expands, we start being aware of details and qualities we might have missed before.

We can practice getting genuinely curious about the object or being in front of us, as if seeing it for the very first time. What would that be like – to see, hear, taste, touch or smell something we haven’t experienced before?

We can wonder, at the beautiful natural creation that is all around us – the different nuances of colour there are in the sky, the ever changing shapes of clouds, the movements of trees as they allow the wind to play with them, the variations in the song of a bird, the sensation of drops of rain on different parts of our skin, and so on – but also the man-made creation which can be equally awe-inspiring and fascinating.

We can zoom in on only one specific thing, zoom out and marvel at the universe as a whole, or pick anything in between. The idea is to experience “it” with full openness, from a point of presence, and see what we discover!

Enjoy the process!

With love,


11 thoughts on “Beginner’s mind – Tabula Rasa

  • The crux of your writing whilst appearing reasonable in the beginning, did not settle well with me personally after some time. Somewhere throughout the paragraphs you were able to make me a believer unfortunately just for a short while. I however have got a problem with your jumps in assumptions and you might do well to help fill in all those gaps. When you actually can accomplish that, I could surely be impressed.

  • whoah this blog is magnificent i love reading your posts.

    Stay up the great work! You understand, lots of individuals are hunting
    around for this info, you could help them greatly.

  • After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same
    comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

  • Hi there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic.

    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find
    a template or plugin that might be able to resolve this issue.
    If you have any suggestions, please share. Thank you!

  • Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely useful info specifically the last part 🙂 I care for
    such information a lot. I was looking for this particular
    information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  • I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I
    thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re
    going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉

  • Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting fed up
    of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.

    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  • Hello would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working
    with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time deciding
    between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.

    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *