Shoshin, Inspiration, and Puppies

Shoshin is a Zen Buddhist principle.

It’s about having a beginner’s mind. When you practice Shoshin, you have an attitude of openness and curiosity. And maybe most important, a lack of preconceptions.

I’d never heard of Shoshin until this morning.

I was doing my daily guided meditation, using the Calm app, which I highly recommend. Especially if you’ve tried to meditate on your own and struggled to stick with it.

For years, I said, “I can’t sit still to meditate.”

That’s why running has always been my meditation. While I still run, I’m learning it’s a different type of meditation. Using the Calm app has helped me learn how to sit still and meditate. I’ve completed 260 sessions so far this year. That’s a total of 50 hours of sitting meditation. Something I would have told you a year ago was impossible for me.

It’s changed my life.

But that’s not the point of this post. This post is about a concept that came up in today’s guided meditation, and its connection to inspiration.

As we go through life, we lose our beginner’s mind.

For every situation we confront, we have a tendency to bring with us experiences from similar situations in the past. And those past experiences color our perspective. They make it difficult to approach the situation as brand new. Without any preconceived ideas about how things might turn out, this time.

We are tainted.

I’ve been noticing this tainted attitude creeping into my thoughts about our prospective relocation. When the inspired idea about potentially relocating to the mountains first showed up, I was excited by it. It was full of possibility. A new beginning. A fresh adventure.

As the months have gone by, I’m finding myself getting mired in fear. Fear of making a mistake. I’ve been letting other people’s comments, and regrets, make me question my inspiration. I know logically that I am not them. That my life, and my path, are not the same as theirs. Yet, the doubt creeps in just the same.

Excitement is being replaced with worry.

It doesn’t feel good. It’s putting a great big damper on inspiration. And the truth is, they’re all just thoughts. I don’t have to make any decisions about relocating right now. Heck, we haven’t even taken our first trip to check out the mountains yet.

I was contemplating this as I was running this morning.

When I saw a puppy.

It looked like it was his first time on a leash, and in the park. You could see the wonder on his face and the excitement in his body. He was in a whole new world. The park was full of things to see, smell, and experience.

It made me smile.

It also made me realize that puppy was embodying Shoshin. Not that he knew it. He was just showing up, being present in the moment, and experiencing everything that was there. Granted it was probably literally the first time he’d experienced any of it. So he couldn’t help but have a beginner’s mind.

Still, I realized that even as he grows older, he will likely hold onto his exhuberance for the park. I watch my “puppy” Faith, who will turn three years old next month, and even though we walk through the same park every morning, she has the same excitement each and every time.

There’s an energy in her that’s palpable.

She’s alert and curious. I often tell people, she notices EVERYTHING! Because she does. And the reason she does is because she is present where she is. She’s not worrying about what happened yesterday or last week or last year. I know that’s not because she doesn’t have a memory, because she remembers a lot of things. It’s just that she lives, as most dogs do, in the present moment.

I know we’re not dogs.

We have more responsibilities and burdens to bear. We experience life differently. We suffer. We experience pain. We make mistakes and have to get over them. But we don’t have to drag all those things with us through our entire lives. We can learn from them and let them go. We can learn how to embody the Zen principle of Shoshin. We can approach each day, each experience, fresh, and devoid of preconceived notions or fears, rooted in past experiences.

It’s a choice we all have.

I’m going to work harder at making that choice every day. Because I know inspiration is directly tied to being open. A closed mind, a busy mind, a fearful mind, doesn’t see inspired ideas when they show up. Following inspiration requires openness and curiosity. In many ways, it requires possessing the childlike quality of wonder. Well, at least it’s a lot more fun that way!

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