Shoshin—beginner’s mind in 2021

Watch a small child learning to tie her shoelaces: intense concentration, completely absorbed in the task, despite many failures and repetitions. And eventually success.

But once learnt, we soon start to perform this skill automatically, paying little attention to what we’re doing, our minds completely lost in random thoughts.

In life, we occasionally have intense experiences where our brains seem fully awake, grasping information from all five senses, completely present in the moment. But those experiences are normally very rare. Most of the time we are operating on autopilot, doing the same things over and over in the same ways, our focus somewhere else entirely.

Shoshin 初心 is a term from Zen Buddhism often mentioned in aikido. Sho 初 means ‘beginning’ and shin 心 means ‘mind’, ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. Having a beginner’s mind means staying concentrated in the moment, open to new learning, new sensations and new possibilities, no matter how many years of experience you have or how many times you have practised a technique.

After 18 months of absence from the mats, we will all feel like beginners when we return. But this is no bad thing. It’s an opportunity for renewal, rethinking, and finding new possibilities. And maybe a time for reinvention.

Let’s start again as beginners in 2021 and find new ways to move forward.