How to nurture a beginner’s mind

Shoshin is a Zen Buddhism philosophical concept that means “beginner’s mind”.

A beginner’s mind is open, eager to learn, free of preconceptions that can infect an honest, open, transparent conversation – a blank slate.

As a Canadian farmer, you are thinking, “This is exactly what we need all consumers to have when it comes to discussing agriculture!”: a mind free of erroneous or mythical information gleaned from dubious online searches; a mind open to hearing concerns, facts and stories from the front lines, from the people living and breathing agriculture every hour of every day.

But it isn’t only about consumers possessing shoshin; professionals in the ag industry need to practice shoshin as well if we’re to meet consumers where they’re at. To start conversations at ground level and build up a successful industry together we all need to practice shoshin where our beginner’s minds are eager and open to discussing and accepting solutions to challenges that ultimately affect us all.

Steve Jobs “learned to trust intuition and curiosity–what Buddhists call ‘Beginner’s Mind’–over analysis and preconceptions.”

And Western science now agrees with the enlightened age-old philosophies of the East: in the November 2015 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Professor Victor Ottati from Loyola University of Chicago reported on a series of experiments he conducted demonstrating that “self-perceptions of expertise increase closed-minded cognition” – that is, science confirms that people who believe they are experts are, in fact, more likely to be closed-minded.

Survival Tip

To nurture the receptiveness that comes from a beginner’s mind:

  • Question preconceived notions – Before beginning a conversation with a non-farmer/consumer, do you assume they are skeptical of or uneducated about agriculture? Do you already believe that they’re judging you and how you farm? You’d be surprised what you can learn from others if you leave your judgement at the door. You might even learn things that will help you better explain your position.
  • Embrace not knowing – With learned beliefs (preconceptions) out of the way, you’ll find yourself in a place of mental openness. No matter how much of an expert you are, if you treat each moment as a blank slate, you’ll be able to maintain shoshin.
  • Practice makes perfect – Cultivating a beginner’s mind allows you to see, hear and feel what others do, making each conversation an opportunity to build a better discourse. Fusing fresh concepts and exploring new ideas will also help you form closer bonds with others as they appreciate and react favourably to your interest in them, their thoughts and ideas.



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