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#25: Relearning Meditation with Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

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Ever tried meditation but it just didn’t work for you? Me too. Suri shares her insight on how to simplify and relearn meditation – from the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Share your experience in the comments!

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TRANSCRIPT – edited for clarity

INTRO: Hi friends, this is Suri. Welcome to Episode 25 of Doing Things on Purpose – the podcast that empowers women to take charge of their time, health, relationships, and money by doing things on purpose.

This week, I wanted to extend a little bit from the topic of my last podcast that was about shifting our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. That was Episode 24 which you can find on my website at

In that episode, I touched a little bit on some concrete practices as well as philosophies that parents can explore, to help them integrate what they intellectually know to do – to actually being able to feel and embody that.

This means, instead of just knowing that you should be a certain way, or feel a certain way (like I want to be a more patient parent, or a more loving spouse), you learn to actually be and feel that way. So it’s moving things from your head, into your heart and into your practice.

A quick recap from Episode 24

As I mentioned in Episode 24, my favorite practice to do that is through Byron Katie’s worksheets. Either her Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet, or her One-Belief-At-A-Time worksheet. 

I am actually planning to do an episode on that, using my own real life examples. But it really takes a lot of time to go through one worksheet, to question and turn around each statement, that it just wouldn’t be able to fit my current podcast format of 15 to 25 minutes tops. 

But to put things back into perspective, in real life, an hour or two isn’t that long to contemplate and shift a negative thought or belief that has made you suffer for months, years or even decades. So it’s definitely still worth doing. But I just have to think a little bit more about how I can best share this with you – perhaps in a separate recording on my website. We’ll see.

In the meantime, you can always check out Byron Katie’s podcast At Home with Byron Katie where she personally guides people through their own worksheets. 

But the topics that tend to come up there are a little bit heavier, and don’t necessarily cover the finer details of our smaller but incessant daily irritations and challenges as parents and spouses.

Topics like parental discipline, expectations when it comes to our spouse and our kids, responsibilities and trust issues, money conflicts, homemaking challenges, and for those of us trying to work and parent – the guilt, shame and blame that can arise, as we try to be successful both at work and in the home.

So I look forward to exploring these more specific topics with you in future episodes, or in another format altogether.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Getting to the point of today’s episode, I’d like to talk deeper about one other tip that I mentioned in Episode 24, which is zazen or sitting meditation. This practice finds its roots in Zen Buddhism.

Let me preface this with a story: 

I’m the kind of person who lives a lot in their head. I don’t know if it’s a form of disassociation, a coping mechanism, the way my mind works, or an expression of my introverted tendencies, but it is what it is.

When I’m not interested in a topic, or someone’s speaking in a language that I’m not too fluent in, I tend to zone out. Not on purpose, but I start thinking about other topics. Maybe something that I’ve been pondering or learning about recently. 

And I’m one of those people who watches a movie with their spouse, and asks questions when things don’t make sense. I see patterns and like to guess how things will turn out. I don’t tend to just observe, without thinking.

So to help me live less in my thinking mind, and more in the emptiness of the present moment – I was recommended a book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, which I briefly mentioned in the last episode as well. 

No, it’s not to deny or repress my thoughts or tendencies; but it’s a practice of simply being aware of them – and building the resilience to refrain from expressing everything that comes in my head, when it doesn’t actually serve the situation.

Relearning Meditation 

To cultivate this empty mind, or the big mind, I’ve been trying to relearn meditation. So this is what I want to talk about today – if you’ve tried meditation before and thought you failed.

Because I’ve been there. I’ve dabbled with transcendental meditation, downloaded meditation apps, and focused on my breathing. But I never really felt like it helped me in any significant way. So most of the time, my meditation practice gets left behind.

But I’ve always felt that there was something there for me. Something that I couldn’t quite grasp.

Now I have to say that Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind was a HARD read for me. It’s not very thick with about 150 pages, but it took me quite a while to get through.

I don’t think it’s suitable for beginners who are curious about Zen Buddhism. Because there were many terms in there, that should’ve been accompanied by a glossary, for people completely new to Zen Buddhism. 

Words such as:

  • Roshi which means venerable teacher or Zen master,
  • Kensho and satori which are terms related to states of enlightenment,
  • Soto Zen which is one of the two main schools of Zen Buddhism (the other being Rinzai Zen); and
  • Koans which are paradoxical statements or questions used in Zen Buddhism to provoke deep insight in the practitioner.

But putting these special words aside, for the most part, the phrases used in the book were simple enough, although no less confusing because of the Koans. The book is actually a collection of verbal talks by Zen master Shunryu Suzuki on Zen meditation and practice, distilled in written form.


In terms of the practice of Zazen or sitting meditation, as encouraged in the book – the purpose of it, as I understand it, is to have no purpose. To have no idea of gaining. 

It’s the practice of just being, and sitting still in whatever mental or emotional state you find yourself in.

I love this statement on page 110:

So in love there should be hate, or acceptance. Love and hate are one thing. We should not attach to love alone. We should accept hate. We should accept weeds, despite how we feel about them. If you do not care for them, do not love them; if you love them, then love them.

To me, Shunryu Suzuki suggests that it’s perfectly in line with our true nature, to have ideals and values that we are more attracted to then others. But we can practice, holding these values in a less-attached way. 

This emphasis on distancing allows us to engage with more curiosity in each moment, and help us respond in a more clear, kind and compassionate way, to whatever that may arise.

It also reminds me of something Simon Sinek once mentioned: We should have strong opinions, loosely held. 

And in that way, we maintain our open, curious beginner’s mind, or the ‘don’t know’ mind – where we remain open to the many possible ways of responding, and we are less attached to the few acceptable responses and outcomes that our ‘expert’ mind might be limited to.

Trying Meditation Again

Maybe it was the irreverent fact that Shunryu Suzuki apparently always told his students to simply forget his words, once his talk was over, or maybe it was his repetitive emphasis on not trying too hard, and not trying to gain anything by sitting in meditation…

But something in there made me open to trying meditation once again. Because he made it sound so easy and uncomplicated.

It’s just sitting. It’s nothing special. Don’t try too hard. It’s not about achieving anything. And it’s not about intellectually understanding something.

But simply by doing and continually trying – we practice awareness, and start to experience our true nature. 

Some days it might be easier to sit still, and other days it might be harder and uncomfortable. But we just sit anyway. 

From my personal experience of it, it gets us reacquainted with how ‘calm’ feels like. And it gets used to the feeling of sitting in our discomfort – and that we’re still okay.

In the book it also mentions that we will find that the calmness we emulate in the sitting position will start to encourage us in our everyday lives and not necessarily while we sit – and I’ve found this to be true.

But as with all my advice and thoughts, it’s simply an idea I’m offering for you to try. Maybe this way of thinking about meditation helps you.

And if so, I’d love to hear how you go.

I think as our days get busier and more stressful, we need to build practices that we can lean on when things get hard. 

Sitting Instructions

So to conclude, if you’re also trying to gently move things we intellectually know from the head, into the body, through the heart and into our daily lives – I recommend trying sitting meditation.

Even if you’ve tried it before and felt like you failed. Try this simpler way to introduce this calm and anchoring practice into your day. Just sit for 5 to 15 minutes (or longer if you like).

Let go of any idea of gaining a certain state of mind. Just to practice will be your purpose. 

🪷 So concentrate on your posture:

  • Sit in lotus, half lotus or on a chair
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Chin slightly tucked in
  • Back of the head pushed straight up towards the ceiling
  • Abdomen slightly engaged
  • Hands relaxed on the lap, or on the knees
  • And just maintain this mindful awareness for a while

I’ll include some YouTube video links to illustrate the traditional sitting position if you’d like to have a look. to you in the show notes at, for this episode 25. 

💎 And if you’ve read the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, let me know your biggest takeaways. 

Let’s end by whispering to ourselves: I can, I choose, I will, and I am.

Need support?

That’s all I have for you today. Thanks again for joining me. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider rating this show ⭐ or sharing it with a friend.

You’ve been listening to Doing Things on Purpose with me Suri, and I’ll catch you again next time.


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