My profile photo* is of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Poor student of Buddhism though I am, the study is important to me, and Tsongkhapa is among my favorite Buddhist poets and teachers. He is considered an incarnation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, who is in turn usually considered the bodhisattva of writing, poetry, and knowledge. Which is why I included him here — another reminder to myself of the things I value.
Also, it’s hard to see, but he’s using the teaching mudra — the position of his hands, which here symbolizes that he’s teaching a lesson, in the same manner that early icons of Christ show his hands in various teaching, blessing, or judging postures.
*refers to my old Blogger profile
I can’t predict how often I’ll post to this blog. I might write daily, or every day I hold classes, or once a month, or never again. But I certainly hope I post with some regularity, if only to keep myself writing.
Most of what I plan to post will be related to the craft of writing, to my philosophy of teaching, and perhaps to my philosophy in general. Perhaps I’ll write comments about my doctoral dissertation, which I’m near to finishing; perhaps I’ll comment on new ideas for the classes I teach, or new ideas about teaching in general, things I’ve read or heard on the radio; perhaps I’ll just wax meditative, noting a scrap of Buddhist poetry or the most recent Thoreau quote to pop up in my Google homepage (today, it’s “Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something”). Some days I may surprise myself with accidental profundity. Mostly, I expect this will wind up at least as mundane as the rest of the blogosphere, just another tiny voice in the din of the online planet, another set of opinions foisted onto the world and easily ignored.
So be it. The point is only to write, and to let my students see me writing, because I walk into my classrooms every semester and tell them I believe in this — in the importance of writing, impactful or not, and in the freedom to write useless, unimportant drivel just for the sake of practice — and I’d like to demonstrate that.
The name of this blog, “Beginner’s Mind,” refers to the first chapter of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, in which she discusses her “beginner’s mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing.” It’s a book I returned to a lot this summer, as I taught a teen creative writing workshop at the library and as I rushed to finish my novel. Goldberg’s is as much a Zen reference as a writing reference, which I like, so I’m putting it here on my screen as a constant reminder to enjoy this blog, to write loose and for fun the way I should be writing always, and also as a subtle reminder to hold onto those other kinds of mind I value: Buddha mind, quiet mind, metta mind.
But that’s just me. You can have whatever sort of mind you want.