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Lions Roar : November 2013
It’s a Puppy! BY SETH GREENLAND One of the most appealing things about Buddhism for me, a non-Buddhist, is the concept of beginner’s mind. A beginner is the opposite of an expert. If you’re an expert, everyone is look- ing at you. They expect you to know everything, to have gamed out all possibilities, to be godlike. That’s an awful lot of pressure because humans are, well, they’re human. Imperfect. Inexpert. And what expert wants to admit he doesn’t know something? Because if he admits he doesn’t know something, then he’s not an expert. More pressure. It exhausts me just to think about it. But if you’re a beginner, there is no pressure. There is no expectation that you will know anything. No one judges a begin- ner. They’re like puppies. You don’t get angry at a puppy when it poops on the kitchen floor. It’s a puppy! A beginner. So cute! Being a beginner significantly decreases anxiety. And in my world—one of ringing cell phones, deadlines, and a dog that can’t stop shaking when it rains—any way to manage anxiety that doesn’t involve a prescription is wonderful. To do my best work as a writer, to dig the deepest and reach a level of perception that did not exist five minutes earlier, I need to be open, eager, and lacking in preconception. Sound familiar? According to the renowned Buddhist text Wikipedia, this perfectly describes the condition of beginner’s mind. If I believed in tattoos I would get Openness, Eagerness, and Lack of Preconception engraved on my bicep (next to a mermaid) so I could check in with these ideas while at my desk. And I like vipassana, too, but the editor told me to keep this under three hundred words. SETH GREENLAND was a writer/producer on the HBO series Big Love. His novel The Angry Buddhist was released in 2012. Fifth Graders After Lunch BY JESSICA LITTLE It’s Tuesday and I have the fifth graders after lunch. It’s a noto- riously rowdy class, and after lunch they rarely want to calm down and spend an hour speaking, reading, and writing their second language. But it’s my job to teach these kids English. I always take five minutes before my classes to breathe. While I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, I am a strong believer in meditation. I don’t meditate as often or as long as I’d like, but I never go without my pre-class “mini-medita- tion.” If I go into the class calm and anchored, the children feel it, and it helps them calm down after their noisy lunch break. So I turn off the lights, sit at my desk, and breathe. Five minutes later, the bell rings and the kids come stream- ing in from outside. They are sweaty and out of breath. One girl is chasing a boy and trying to write on his arm with a blue highlighter. The boy tells her to quit it and races through the classroom, shoving chairs out of his way. Other students drag their feet. They ask questions like, “Can I go to the wash- room?” “Did we have homework?” and “Are we doing any- thing fun today?” I do exactly what I do every time I teach this class. It is a ritual. I speak slowly and quietly. I ask them to turn to the handout waiting on their desks and read it in silence for five minutes. It might look like regular old instruction: the teacher gives the students work to do, and the students do the work. But it’s really a mini-meditation for the students. Call it “silent reading meditation.” And it works. The students calm down, and we can begin our English class. JESSICA LITTLE is a teacher who lives in Montreal with her part- ner, Simon, and their seven-year-old son, Zachary. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 53