Tuesday, 08. November 2005
Eckhardt Hemkemeier

Shoshin – The Beginners Mind (Or: How to Learn)

“The Beginners mind has many possibilities,
the mind of the expert a few.”
— Shunryu Suzuki

I would like to speak about Shoshin as I have experienced it.

Asa Geiko – Morning Training
The early morning training is very important in Budo. Most of the people can not stand up early in the morning, without their (our) usual wakeup drinks coffee or tea, they can not start working without breakfast. Work is hard so we need this. In Aikido it is the same, but here it means more. We are practising Aikido without pressure, we are doing it because we like to, so if we like to stay in bed, it is our decision, we don't need to go. If it is for the job, the money, the existential needs, we get up.

The enthusiasm of the morning practitioner is not understood by other people, because they don't know about the (good) feeling in and after the training. Also the positive feeling of inner strengths turns us into a good mood. To follow our own duty, our own law to live, gives us the bravery to realize more of our wishes. How does it come? We are going to the Keiko without being pressured, a kind of duty might be the reason, the Sensei, the other students, but primarily, it is something we do for ourselves. There is something special in the early morning:

Shoshin, the beginners mind is very awake, because the Ratio, the controlled mind and the Ego is still asleep, we feel like a robot. But later the Ratio, the rationality, is awake and controlling everything and judging about everything we are doing. Therefore the Instincts, the basic mind is blocked. Shoshin is not there anymore. In the early morning we feel like new born, we do not think too much, we take the way to the dojo without obvious control. Prepared for the lesson, everything is new.

Mushin, the empty spirit, is similar or a part of Shoshin. The spirit is not empty as if we do not know anything, the important things we know, but this does not influence the actual situation. We do not make pictures of everything; we do not put everything in a case we have prepared. We accept everything, without ruling or judging. This status of mind and body will let us discover the essence of Aikido, Zen or Budo, Arts, actual live.

The first movements, breathing exercises, rolls and brake falls are hard to us, but after a while the body does it on its own, mire soft, gentle and harmonic. The breathing rhythm and movements become one. For a few moments we imagine, we could see ourselves from the outside; this is a kind of reflection, which is healthy. The other aspect is that we can confront special problems, and we can analyse ourselves, we can help ourselves as if acting from the outside. We criticize in a positive way and we change to a better way of practising Aikido.

Shoshin and Mushin
Shoshin and Mushin are the attendance to learn without preconception and we feel this after a while. To overcome ourselfs we only need to take little steps, prepared for the morning Keiko, the night Keiko, a conversation. It is an opportunity to do something special for ourselfs.

Eckhardt Hemkemeier, 11/2005