Beginner’s Mind

by Rachael on January 11, 2011

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from Children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Our “original mind” includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself…. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

— from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi*

For Christmas, the Critter’s grandma and grandpa gave him a train set with wooden tracks that can be easily assembled and taken apart, and when the Critter puts them together, they rarely loop back into themselves but instead disappear under the coffee table. He builds many bridges to nowhere. All vehicles go “choo-choooo” — cars and trucks as well as trains — and any of them can ride along the train tracks. He has a big recycling truck — sort of like a garbage truck, but green like the trucks in Prospect Park — that he fills with all sorts of things: his Matchbox car, a fire truck, letter-shaped magnets, or his stuffed Brown Bear. He calls his letter-shaped magnets his “numbers,” and he thinks they have something to do with the subway trains: the i is not just an i, but the “i train.” I tell him that there is no i train or K train or T train — though I admit that there’s the T in Boston — but the Critter doesn’t care. He runs back and forth between the kitchen and living room, putting the magnets in a line across the fridge and then taking fistfulls of them back to be stuffed into his recycling truck again. When we say it’s dinnertime, the Critter says, “No, it’s TRUCK TIME!” and when we say it’s sleepytime, he says, “No, it’s BAA-BAA TIME!” which he announces like it’s the latest dance craze, though it probably just means he wants someone to sing “Baa, Baa Black Sheep.” Or something. His favorite lullabies are “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and the Alphabet Song.

In everything he does, the Critter shows me his beginner’s mind: open, unfettered by rules, conventions, or ideas about the order of things. His play is that of a nascent artist, creating odd and beautiful juxtapositions, and his language that of a poet. He teaches me how to forget what I think I know and just play.

*Not the first time I have quoted these lines from Suzuki Roshi, whose dharma talks I return to again and again.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs Green @ January 11, 2011 at 12:52 PM

I had never thought of things this way before — you’re right, our children are such artists, unfettered by rules and orders. Such lovely and profound words; thank you!
Mrs Green @ recently posted… Teaching forgiveness


Kristen @ Adventures in Mommyhood January 11, 2011 at 1:31 PM

It’s so interesting watching their minds work and explore new things when they don’t have the constraints that we, as adults, do. My kids received a train table for Christmas, too and, like yours, we have all sorts of vehicles on the tracks and trains on the road. I try to refrain from saying, “No, those don’t go there,” because I know she’s just figuring things out.

Lovely post!
Kristen @ Adventures in Mommyhood recently posted… Life Lessons From My Children


Kimberly January 11, 2011 at 1:53 PM

Watching children play is so much fun 🙂 My children have always had these great little worlds spread out in front of them where just anything could happen!
Kimberly recently posted… Learning From Our Children- Every Day


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama January 11, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Thank you for my much-needed reminder that I do not always need to impose my own sense of order on Kieran. How frustrating I must be to him! Let him be, let him be, let him be (I’ll keep repeating that until it happens).
Dionna @ Code Name: Mama recently posted… Learning to Be in the Present By Looking to the Future


Lauren @ Hobo Mama January 11, 2011 at 5:00 PM

You’ve done such a great job of observing and capturing the artistic chaos that is a child at (constant) play. We have a child’s magazine subscription, a gift from grandma, that has a spread of “What is wrong with this picture?” silliness in every issue. I’m always perplexed and then delighted that Mikko sees nothing wrong with a cow in a hat entering a movie theater lobby but thinks a man’s brown shoes are too small — “That silly!” Thanks for reminding me to enjoy the beginner’s mind, with all its paths and possibilities.
Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted… January Carnival of Natural Parenting- Beyond the questions lies the answer


Summer January 11, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Love it! Kids are so open to just playing, without the rules. It is always fun to watch them create their own play based on what they want, rather than what “should be”. 🙂
Summer recently posted… What Do You Want To Know


Farmer's Daughter January 11, 2011 at 9:37 PM

It is amazing to see what a “beginner’s mind” looks like! My son has just really begun to “play” and I love to see what he comes up with!
Farmer’s Daughter recently posted… Crawling


Michelle @ The Parent Vortex January 12, 2011 at 12:04 PM

I love this! There is so much to learn from children’s approach to the world.
Michelle @ The Parent Vortex recently posted… Having Kids Has Taught me a Thing or Two


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