Beginner's Mind


My grandmother used to drink a cup of hot tea every morning. I'd watch as she, after retrieving the whistling kettle from the stove, poured the piping hot liquid onto the tea bag that rested at the bottom of her dainty teacup. While waiting for the tea to brew, she might have tidied up the kitchen, finished making breakfast, or done any of the many other household tasks that required her attention.

After the tea finished brewing, she would add a little bit of sugar and a little bit of lemon or milk, depending on her preference that day. Then, she'd take her cup and, maybe, a piece of toast smothered with butter and preserves into the living room and watch the early morning local news to find out what happened while she slept and what the weather was going to be like for that day.

While she was doing all of this, I was watching her like a hawk, mesmerized by the contents of her floral teacup. And while she tried her best to enjoy her first meal of the day, I would ask, most times quite frequently, if I could have some of what she was drinking.

After being told that I was too young or that the tea was too hot a few times, I'd cease my constant requests for that day, but I did not stop watching that cup. If she happened to get up and leave it unattended, I would do my best to steal a sip. At that time, I was quite young, and I couldn't wait to grow up. In my little mind, drinking hot tea was something that grownups did, and I couldn't wait to join them.

One morning, a couple of years after the initial pestering and without any preamble, my grandma pulled down two floral teacups, instead of just one. She placed a tea bag in each cup and only glanced my way briefly. I know she knew that the smile plastered on my face was from ear-to-ear and genuine.

The kettle whistled. My grandma turned off the burner and removed the kettle from the stove. She poured some water into her cup. Then she poured some into mine. She smiled down at me as she covered each cup with a little saucer and allowed the tea to steep.

I added a little bit of lemon juice and a whole lot of sugar to my tea that first time. It was cool enough to be consumed without injuring myself, but it was warm enough for me to feel like I was engaging in a sacred adult ritual. Drinking tea became a weekend morning ritual that I truly enjoyed. It was an act that bonded many members of my family.

By the time I was in my twenties, my tea drinking habits had developed into a daily routine. I'd begun to seek out different brands and blends. And I seemed to meet people who helped me deepen and further my studies. One of the teas that I have been drinking for close to two decades is called Beginner's Mind Spring Cherry Green Tea. It is a sencha green tea scented with cherry essence and blossoms. It is made by the Republic of Tea. Aside from it being one of my favorite green teas, I really appreciate this tea because of its name -- Beginner's Mind. I'd never heard of this phrase before seeing it on the tea canister. After seeing this phrase, I was intrigued to find out more about what beginner's mind meant.

According to Wikipedia, in Zen Buddhism, beginner's mind is known as "Shoshin." It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

For many years, instead of making New Year's resolutions, I've tried to reevaluate my approach to many of the things that I am already doing. I look forward to celebrating life by welcoming each day with total and absolute gratitude, by approaching each new day as if I were discovering everything for the first time.

It is very easy to get caught up in a routine that makes us feel like we are hamsters on a never-ending wheel. It is almost expected that we become members of the rat race and eek out an existence that is not to our liking. "That's life," some will say, but is that really life? I don't think so, and I don't believe life has to be that way. I truly believe that every moment of our lives is supposed to be lived to the fullest. I think it is important to wake up in the morning and be profoundly happy to have done so. I think we should search for things that will surprise us, educate us, inspire us, challenge us, and leave us in awe.

All these years later, after my first cup of tea with my grandma, I look forward to drinking my first cup after waking up in the morning. As I drink my tea, I think about the day ahead. I think about how I will complete the day's tasks. The goal, of course, is to always approach them with a curious, eager, and open mind -- a beginner's mind.

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