Zen Photography Part II: Finding the Beginner’s Mind

It can be easy to get lost in the technicalities of photography. The more you learn, the more there seems to be to understand. It’s easy to become bogged down in trying to perfect each shot and make your work look like that of a professional photographer. But where does that leave the beginner? In Zen Photography we leave no room for such thoughts. But how can someone who is just starting out learn and grow if they’re constantly worried about making mistakes? In order to find contentment as a minimalist photographer, you need to find and maintain the Beginner’s Mind.

The Concept of Shoshin

In Zen there is the concept of Shoshin, also called the Beginner’s Mind. Shunryu Suzuki writes in his book Zen Mind: Beginner’s Mind (absolutely recommended reading for all meditators!) “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

But what exactly does this mean? The state of a Beginner’s Mind says to have an open mind as if doing things for the first time. The possibilities seem endless. That magic feeling of trying something without thought and with curiosity. But the more you become an “expert,” the fewer options you have. All the layers, consisting of countless thoughts, limit us. We lose connection to ourselves and the reason why we started. In my next article from the series about Zen Photography called “Maintaining the Beginner’s Mind” I write about how to maintain your Beginner’s Mind once you “find” it. But how do you find it in the first place?

©Photo by Sarah Dorweiler
A moment of moving silence. © Sarah Dorweiler
Minimalist photography of a eucalyptus leaf
Flowers can be great practice objects when it comes to finding the Beginner’s Mind. © Sarah Dorweiler

Our dependency on the outside

Every moment is unique. So why do we often not give it our full attention? In today’s world, we are addicted to being valued. Likes here, followers there. Especially as creatives, the dependence on the outside has never been greater than it is today. We evaluate and are evaluated. This process is completely automated. We don’t see things as they are, but as we want to see them. Even our own work. We are not satisfied as it is because we want more, because we want to “be” more. But this more in “being” we do not find in the outside, but only in ourselves.

To detach from this “wanting more” is the beginning of the Beginner’s mind. Back to square one. Bring your attention into the Now. Only this moment counts. Turn off your cell phone. No one cares what you do or why you do it. Just do it for yourself. Get curious. Breathe. Feel. Discover new things. Try it out. Learn. Have no expectations of yourself. Allow yourself to be a beginner again. Because that’s what you are. Nothing more.

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Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.