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The Face That Launched a Million Meditations

By all accounts Shunryu Suzuki was a kind, unassuming person who influenced generations of people with his view of the world and shed great light on the meaning of life from his perspective as a Zen Master.

My wife gave me a copy of Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind for Christmas (which is a cool thing if you think about it) and I’ve been captivated by the book’s brief sections on a myriad of subjects. Suzuki’s approach to spirituality is down to earth, while still being “in your face” with its message. The book is a compilation of his teachings garnered from transcripts of his talks.

In the section named “Readiness, Mindfulness,” we find these words:

The important thing in our understanding is to have a smooth, free-thinking way of observation. We have to think and to observe things without stagnation. We should accept things as they are without difficulty. Our mind should be soft and open enough to understand things as they are. When our thinking is soft, it is called imperturbable thinking. This kind of thinking is always stable. It is called mindfulness. Thinking which is divided in many ways is not true thinking. Concentration should be present in our thinking. This is mindfulness. Whether you have an object or not, your mind should be stable and your mind should not be divided. This is zazen.


Soft and open minds. If ever we’ve needed more of those in the United States, I don’t know when it would have been. Suzuki’s mindfulness is not a fad, but rather a chronic determination to see the truth in things, to evaluate them for what they are when judged in the light of the Great Mind, the underpinning of all there is.

Although I never met Suzuki, I have a pretty good idea that he was not a person easily fooled, a person into whose presence one entered in humbleness with a mind open to learn something about oneself and the world as it really is.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. After all, we are and always will be beginners.

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