Zen Eyes, Beginner’s Eyes


“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Three beer cans; Miller, Budweiser, and one so rusted it remains a mystery.  A lost, printed movie ticket.  Black tissue paper.  An old cracked plastic cup filled with dirt.  A yellow feather from a craft shop.  A freshly dropped thin pinecone.  And a strong, thick shoebox, once home to shiny new business-man shoes, but now home to things much less shiny, but no less interesting.

Yesterday my 9 year old son came bursting through the front door, all in a huff of excitement.  He called for me with several gasping breaths, and I rushed from the kitchen, still with soapy gloves on my hands, hoping I heard excitement and not panic in his voice.  (One never knows, it could go either way.)

Luckily it was excitement.  With a flourish of pride and flushed cheeks he proceeded to show me the contents of the shoebox.  All these things, he announced, had been discovered in the woods behind our house.  And not to worry, he assured me, about germs or rust or other motherly vexations, for he was wearing his football gloves and was thus immune to any such nonsense.

As he catalogued his treasures to me, I thought, what a funny thing.  He has collected what most wise grown ups would term ‘trash’ in the woods, and yet he is ultimately pleased and delighted with himself.

But yes, if one looks closer and rubs her eyes to remove the sleep of adulthood, she can see it too!

These things are ancient relics, hints of other times and places, alive with stories!  What mysteries and secrets they hold!  Someone drank this beer, perhaps out in the woods.  Who was it?  Were they alone?  Was it sneaky?  Someone used this cup.  What was it filled with? Apple juice? Perhaps it was a child?  Would that child be fun to play with? And someone lost this printed ticket.  I found it!  I saved the day!  If that someone needs it, I will keep it safe for him.  Oh, and some gigantic tree dropped this pinecone.   How long had this tree been preparing, making, molding this pinecone?  Will it open soon?  Will the shape change?

After some pondering, the shoebox and its cache of treasures was positioned carefully on the front step, and I returned to my duties in the kitchen and forgot about it.


This morning my husband had to leave early for work.  I am not an early riser, and I grumbled my way out of bed at the horrific hour of 5:30 a.m. to make and pack his lunch.  However, after a little coffee and fumbling around the kitchen, I realized I was up in time to see the sun rise.  At 6:12 a.m. I was outside with my steaming mug, sitting on the front steps and watching the light filter through the trees.  For one who enjoys staying in bed till the latest acceptable hour, seeing the sunrise is a rare treat.  For this, I have beginner’s eyes.  This is the precise moment when my gaze fell upon the treasure chest of the day before.

It was as if I had never seen it yesterday.  It was pure magic.  Transfiguration.  Alchemy in a shoebox.  I watched both for a long time; the magical sunrise and magical shoebox.

When I reentered the house, there was this new presence with me, like special sight had been bestowed upon my eyes.  Everything around me had an essence, a story, offering up some energy to exchange with my own.  There is a shape and a contour, a history and a secret, a craftsmanship and twinkle of merrymaking in all of it.  The sneakers, the candles, the baby toys (including a singing dog complete with chocolate smeared paw), the old telephone and the books.  The tiny green glass bottle holding a pine branch (my daughter’s creation), the spiral notebooks, the pencils and the empty mug of coffee.

Tummy  Pine needles

Such beauty surrounds me, and yet I am most often blind to it, never allowing my eyes to penetrate the world around me.  What foolishness in labeling the inanimate as such!  What poverty to disregard the whispering mystical accoutrements of life in search of some grander distraction! No no no.  From now on, I go deeper.  I make it a priority to See.

There are signs of the animate awakening.  Little footsteps above me as I type, the creak of doors opening and the flushing of toilets.

The Beginners are awake.  What lessons shall they teach the expert today?



About Andrea

My name is Andrea. I grew up on the east coast of Florida, yet throughout my life have bopped around to live in Wisconsin, Mississippi, California, Georgia, and at the moment Massachusetts. I am a wife and mother of three, the youngest having Down Syndrome. I love dancing, laughing, contemplating, travelling, deep conversation and reading. I am a spiritual explorer. And really, all of this description is just superfluous. Really I am just as we all are; Divine conciousness discovering itself, playing the game of life.

9 responses to “Zen Eyes, Beginner’s Eyes

  1. Amanda

    My little buddhas too, are stirring for today’s adventures. We are learning, my expert friend, to empty out the perceived mental ‘treasures’ and really see the exquisite beauty in the ‘mundane’. Now on to today’s lessons…with an empty cup. Cheers 🙂 xoxo

  2. May your cup overfloweth with emptiness dear friend! Much love, from my little buddhas to yours!

  3. Just a quick additional note- with a tender smile I observe that two of my posted pictures are of objects resting upon gifts from my mother; one a blanket she made and one table runner she gave me. The secret foundation of a new mother is built upon her own mother, now grandmother. The silent underneath, adding color and warmth to the lives of her children and grandchildren.

    • The momma of the current mum comes shining through. We repeat the good and heal the challenges and pass on both of our own making as well.

      Your home glows A. Thank you so much for the sharing of and in. -x.M

      • You have brought tears to my eyes today. Who knew a beer can could do so much. 😉 I am so incredibly grateful to have you as a mirror.

  4. The eyes that behold suchly are so beautiful! The precious stunning truth is always just there floating underneath each treasure of a rusted can when the heart of life is used to focus the vision. I adore your morning moments…may there be many and may they reflect for you the beauty that you are. -x.M

  5. Magic was afoot this wonderful morning playing with the decomposing material of y/our world. Ah, you capture so wonderfully the trueness in these moments of seeing and I am blessed with new eyes again. xo!! m

  6. There is something enlivening about going out into the world and discovering things. I remember the feel of it from my youth. It is like receiving secret messages from people you’ve never met, discovering you have friends from another time, or perhaps even learning that you can hear the voice of the world itself, speaking this beer can broken cup language. You wonder how a thing such as a discarded cup could have come to be at all. Surely it was never intended that you find it, and yet you have. There are deeper workings at play, hidden in every single thing. This is the takeaway. You haven’t divorced your imagination from your knowing just yet. Beginners have that delightful interchange between the two that keeps the world a simpler but less knowable place, not hardened quite yet with all its reasons and clear causalities. On good days I try to find obvious explanations incomprehensible, and thus restore the recognition that anything could happen, at any time, like finding such delightful writing as this.


  7. So funny Michael, I remember things exactly as you describe also! I am so happy to say that I have been able to bring back that amazing feeling of discovery that for a while was lost to me, even the memories of it. Of course, I fall in and out of this flow, sometimes getting mired in all the hard concrete corners of life. Luckily, I have found a little tribe, both tangibly and virtually, who always send out reminders to come back to the sweet soft grass, to trudge through the woods, to delight in the treasures of rusty beer cans!

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