The Gift of Beginners Mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” -Shunryu Suzuki


Have you read Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki?  In this book, Suzuki explores Shoshin a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning Beginner’s Mind.  Shoshin refers to the openness, curiosity, and lack of preconception a beginner brings to their study of a subject. When we practice Shoshin, we can experience learning just as fresh as a beginner would, even when studying at a highly advanced level.

For me Beginner’s Mind means allowing new experiences to unfold without broad sweeping expectations; to jump in and become immersed in the experience, rather than in my thoughts about what the experience should be.

This openness allows me to indulge my curiosity, plunge into uncharted waters, and remain a dedicated and interested student of life for the rest of my days on this planet.

As the mother of a young daughter, I witness the gift of Beginner’s Mind every day.

This maternal observation, coupled with the fact that I am an experiential learner, supports a natural state of wonderment—a way to squeeze more sweetness out of each day.

When you have no preconceptions, there is no room for internal competition or an overactive ego, and no need to be fully proficient. It’s more about showing up and seeing what happens next.

Here are some examples of how Shoshin shows up in my life. As you read through these examples, can you draw parallels to your own work, activities, and interests?

The Gift of Beginner’s Mind


I love capturing landscape images. My camera is my creative partner when exploring the beautiful Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in northern Michigan. Each time I capture the rich textures, light, and colors of a natural landscape, I find peace.

Each time I venture outdoors with my camera, Beginner’s Mind is part of me. I am not an aspiring professional photographer, but I truly enjoy the experience of seeing a stunning image emerge from within a sea of photos.


I am a fearless cook, thanks to growing up with a mother who was always experimenting with new recipes. Mom taught me how to prepare, and enjoy, good food. When I find new recipes that sound delicious, I go for them.

When I learn about new ingredients and cooking methods, I just have to give them a whirl. My current mission is to learn new techniques for preparing healthier foods. It’s an exploration, and my family has suffered through a few lousy meals, but I’m staying open to the possibilities. After all, anyone can learn to cook if they’re willing to make a big mess and eat a few less-than-appetizing concoctions.


Writing is something that snuck up on me a few years ago, and when it did, it spun me about. Since then, I have co-authored three best selling books and authored Life on Your Terms: The Support You Need to Follow Your Passion from Inspirational Entrepreneurs.

Thanks to Beginner’s Mind, I was able to make small steps, and ask for support along the way from technical writers and copy editors. When preparing and birthing the manuscript of Life on Your Terms, Beginner’s Mind made all the difference.


I have a beautiful longbow that I shoot occasionally. Sometimes I even hit the target! I don’t shoot to hit the bull’s eye, though; for me, it’s about the process, and being in the moment. Slowing down my breath, setting up the shot, pulling back on the string as I inhale, then releasing with a whoosh on each exhale.

What’s more, every shot that’s released has a chance of hitting the target, and the chances get better the more I breathe and focus.

Life Coaching

Transformational coaching is my passion and professional calling. One of the reasons why I love the business of life coaching is because each client session beckons me to be fully present and curious.

Even though I have hundreds of hours of coaching experience, I am humbled by how much there still is for me to learn. My job is to show up without any preconceived notions, listen and learn. Staying in Shoshin helps me do my best work with the women who hire me to witness and support them as they transform their lives.

All you need to enjoy the gift of Beginner’s Mind is the courage to step forward with an open mind and allow your curiosity to unfold. There’s no need for perfection. You don’t have to be great at everything you have an interest in. Instead, become a student of life. You deserve to sample, experiment, investigate, and experience life with unfiltered enthusiasm!


  • Have you experienced the gift of Beginner’s Mind? How did it feel?
  • What are you most curious about?
  • What is stopping you from experimenting with a new interest? How can Shoshin help you overcome this block?
  • How will you infuse Beginner’s Mind into your life and expertise?

Until next week…




Painting The Goddess Within

I am super excited to be enrolled in Painting The Goddess Within a 6+ month-long e-course which begins on December 21, 2012!

My journey will include top-quality painting lessons from 4 fabulous instructors, guided meditations, energetic attunements, movement, journal prompts and more!  Even though I  have never painted before, I’ve been assured that I *will* be able to create a painting I can be proud of.

Join me and this amazing community of artists and seekers who will support us as we connect with, and create our gorgeous reflection of  the Goddess Within.

You can access the course HERE.


About Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek is an Award Winning Podcaster, Best Selling Author, Voice Over Talent, Podcast Coach, and Media Expert.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jessica Dec 12, 2012, 4:59 pm

    I’ve been playing quite a bit with beginner’s mind lately and it’s funny how easily an experience shifts from frustrating to joyful when I remind myself to play/learn (instead of focusing on “getting it right”). Thank you for sharing your experiences with beginner’s mind, Shann!

    • Shann Dec 13, 2012, 3:51 pm

      Hi Jessica,

      Playtime is so much more fun! Thanks for your kindness.

  • Kim Dec 12, 2012, 11:38 pm

    Have a wonderful time with the painting class, Shann! It looks like something I’d really like to do someday. I’m starting something else right now, and the above info comes at a good time. Stop by and say hi sometime….


    • Shann Dec 13, 2012, 3:52 pm

      Thanks Kim! I am hustling to find paint supplies and plan to turn the dining room into my studio after the holidays! See you soon. XO

  • Seamus Anthony Dec 13, 2012, 8:55 am

    Another great thing about beginner’s mind is that it keeps you young. You feel like a child and this keeps you younger on the outside. Also love what you said about archery, about not doing it to hit the target but for the joy of doing it. This is what keeps me going in music and writing, the joy of the experience. I am still keen to hit the target but if I don’t it doesn’t matter because I am enjoying it along the way. Good article Shann

    • Shann Dec 13, 2012, 3:58 pm

      Hi Seamus,
      I agree that beginner’s mind keeps us in a state of childlike wonder.
      I think you will enjoy one of my favorite Einstein quotes:
      “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

      Thanks for your kindness!

  • Toni Dec 13, 2012, 10:11 pm

    I enjoyed this post alot Shann. Im certainly going to keep conscious of the beginners mind during my day. Thank you x

  • gina Dec 14, 2012, 11:25 pm

    One of my practices is a daily reminder to approach all I come into contact with each day with beginner’s mind. And it has been a great practice………a different energy is there when you approach things from this perspective…….thanks Shann!

    • shannvanderleek Dec 17, 2012, 9:19 pm

      Hey Gina,
      Great to hear from you!
      What a gift to experience each day with soft eyes and deep curiosity. XO