Ten interdisciplinary talks and performances celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi’s classic book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind


In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
but in the expert’s there are few. 
                                    ~ Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Behold the beginner, flush in the luster of shoshin, or “beginner’s mind,” that noble, supple posture of being: open, free of preconception, ready for anything, a raw pearl rolling on a platter.

But wait, who is this expert to whom Suzuki Roshi, in this signature quote from his classic book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, then directs our attention?

Who is that diminished figure, out there at the end of the sentence, braced, girded against uncertainty, mechanistically carrying out familiar routines, rusty screwdriver tightening another joint in an obsolete theory?

We all know one of these experts, so invested in the authority of experience as to have become numb, unavailable to the complexity and freshness of being.
Been there, done that.

We have all been this expert.

The admonition in Suzuki Roshi’s quote is inexhaustible and is not, it seems, critiquing technical prowess, or extended inquiry. We are wise to be on the alert to the subtle ways this expert arises moment-to-moment in us: when forgiveness feels unthinkable; when our curiosity flags; when we’re certain we know what our child, or a member of congress, will say next; when we announce, “I’m not that kind of person.”

What then is true expertise or virtuosity?

This is the guiding question of THE EXPERT’S MIND, a series of lectures and performances celebrating the 40th anniversary of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. THE EXPERT’S MIND takes up the proposition that expertise need not foreclose on possibility . Rather, in ten talks and performances, expertise unfolds as the deep intimacy born of a life's dedication to a practice, a humbling, a sense of wonder. The technical facility that comes with engaged inquiry, whatever the body of knowledge, or technical or artistic discipline, can, in fact, free up an improvisational flexibility and compassion, “the freshness of attending to what is arising in direct experience,” as Jungian Psychologist Polly Young-Eisendrath phrases it.

Cognitive linguist George Lakoff suggests, “To be an expert is always to be a beginner, because expertise opens up new worlds constantly.” The dedication itself cultivates a constantly vexing and refreshing set of problems, what Yeats called “radical innocence.” Indeed it is the near irresolvability of their enterprise that keeps experts refreshed in their inquiry, unveiling fresh perspectives.

Each EXPERT’S MIND evening or afternoon will delve into the minds of scientists and artists across disciplines, engaging them in conversations and performances that invite all involved to experience expertise in fresh and surprising ways.

CURATOR’S Statement, Genine Lentine, SFZC Artist-in-Residence, 2009-10


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