I’m in love.

My new digs at the Collegeville Institute have surpassed my dreams for spaciousness, comfort, and beauty.

Not only do I have a lovely office in my apartment with a lake view,

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Designed by Marcel Breuer, of Bauhaus fame, the interior spaces of the Collegeville Institute give off a distinctly modernist vibe.

But our generous hosts have provided a second office and common space for all the resident fellows. Here’s my second office.

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The natural environment, including thousands of acres of campus embedded in an arboretum, strutted its stuff yesterday, as we walked around the lake for the first time.

This lake is literally 30 feet from the window under which I am writing these words.

This lake is literally 30 feet from the window under which I am writing these words.

Today we experienced mid-day prayers in the amazing St. John’s Abbey Church.

St. John's Abbey Church, designed by Marcel Breuer, in a beautiful Minnesota sky. The bells reverberate all over campus.

St. John’s Abbey Church, designed by Marcel Breuer, under a beautiful Minnesota sky. The bells reverberate all over campus.

I’m ready to plunge in.

My senses are ready and attuned. St. Julian has moved with me.

Sensory and spiritual inspiration awaits.

Sensory and spiritual inspiration awaits.

It took us six days to drive here. We left home with hugs and gifts and photos and promises to stay in touch.

My friend Wilma Gingerich recited this poem to our whole congregation at Community Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA, the last Sunday we were present August 27, 2016. It was intended as a celebration of her husband Ray’s birthday and their wedding anniversary.

But the message of the poem applies as much to new experiences as it does to the blessings of age.

What do you have to look forward to in this new day? In what areas do you have “beginner’s mind” right now?

Shirley Showalter

44 Comments

  1. Richard Gilbert on September 7, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Wow, what great digs, Shirley. What an exciting opportunity! Please keep posting as you teach so we know exactly what you’re doing . . . and with whom.

    Love your use of beginner’s mind. I adore the notion and for a long time had this favorite quote heading a section in my memoir:

    “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few. . . . Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, ‘I know what Zen is,’ or ‘I have attained enlightenment.’ This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point.”— Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

    Oh, do I feel like a beginner. I am a much better writer than ever, but much less certain. There’s my beginner’s mind.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 7, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      I love that quote, Richard. Thanks so much for sharing it here where others can benefit from it.

      Another idea I considered adding here was that we all need novelty in order to grow. Marriages, long careers and friendships all benefit from doing new things.

      That can apply to teachers of writing and writers, also. 🙂

      I am not teaching this semester. I will be laying out the people and structure of the program in a later post.

      Bookmark this place for your future.

      • Richard Gilbert on September 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

        I think what you say about new experiences is true. You model that, but I hope you will write about it directly, Shirley. I need to hear it! I like my routine, even my rut, yet always seem to grow most from getting out of it . . .

        • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm

          Have computer. Will write. 🙂

  2. Merril Smith on September 7, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I know you are looking forward to many days there. Enjoy this journey!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 7, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks, Merril. I do. I am. I will!

  3. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on September 7, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    I will be a beginner this fall as I look forward to a creative writing class at McNally Robinson Bookstore. I will enjoy being a student again!
    Savour each moment of this new venture, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 11:31 am

      I love that you too will be a student again this fall. And I envy your McNally Robinson bookstores!

      I think I’ll choose the Canadian spelling of “savour” because it has a you in it. 🙂

      You savour too!

  4. Laurie Buchanan on September 7, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Shirley — Your new digs sing to my heart. And that they overlook a lake is absolute icing on the cake! I am thrilled for you.

    In NOTE TO SELF I talk a bit about beginner’s mind and share Soto Zen priest Gil Fronsdal’s quote: “The Zen practice of not-knowing is sometimes referred to as ‘beginner’s mind’—seeing with fresh, unbiased eyes; not being blinded to
    new possibilities or by preconceived ideas or judgments.”

    In my perspective, not-knowing doesn’t mean that we don’t know. It doesn’t mean we have to overlook or ignore our understanding of a situation. Not-knowing means not being limited by what we do know.

    I’m in that place right now. I happen to know a lot about marketing. However, I’m not letting that knowledge limit me in my current experience with a publicity/marketing company. That’s my beginner’s mind.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Thank you for sharing both the quote and your interpretation of it, Laurie. This concept is so relevant to the idea of jubilación. After many years in jobs and careers, being valued for what we know, we often lament that we no longer have an audience or outlet to apply what we know. This narrow view limits our understanding.

      We don’t have to suppress what we know, but each new stage in life allows us begin again as if we knew little and to value what our new context has to teach us.

      Thanks for this lovely thought. Like you, I know a lot about parts of what I’ll be doing this fall, but I want to open myself completely to what others know and delight in their vision.

      I thought of you when I passed by the little koi fish/lotus pond on campus. I’ll try to remember to send you a photo!

      Have fun with publicity/marketing. Together, you and your new friends will create a wonderful new beginning for your book!

  5. joan Z. Rough on September 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Oh, how gorgeous, Shirley! I know you will be having many wonderful experiences there, meeting others with whom you have so much in common.

    For me, life is one day at a time at the moment. There is so much going on with the release of my book on the 20th, and Bill’s shoulder surgery next Wednesday. Each day presents its own rewards and hoops to jump through and I tell my self several times a day, “I Can Do This!”

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      You can do this, Joan! So sorry that you have so many challenges all at once, but I hope Bill’s surgery this one is as successful as the last and that you both can enjoy the fun of launching the new book.

      I hope the video above helped you relax into the challenges and opportunities of this one precious day. Sending you good wishes over the water, prairie, woods, and air!

  6. Audrey Denecke on September 8, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I am attracted to your lake with its’ reflective quality. Your beautifully sparse but comfortable room, removing other daily distractions. Your inspirational touch points, with Julian present to you in this creative moment. It all seems ideal for your time of considering, writing, and forming. This semester offers a model, I believe, of a new sabbatical. “Shmita” the root word of sabbatical in Hebrew means “release.” I have this image of your releasing in this time your “jublication” from your deep well of wisdom to the world. So exciting!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      Audrey, you’ve given me the gift of a new word. Thank you! And your word picture of this semester resonates deeply with me. I hope to place myself in the path of inspiration and give back the many gifts so richly bestowed on me here.

      Thanks for enjoying along with me. Hope to meet you sometime this fall!

  7. Tracy Lee Karner on September 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Beginner’s mind? I’m opening a restaurant! Everything is new. Meanwhile every day living with my husband’s changing health and changing mind is a new adventure. I believe I had 2choices when facing these changes: fear and despair; or trust, love, and live now. I’m choosing the later. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but it’s also amazing.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      A restaurant, Tracy! I’m so impressed by your energy and creativity in the midst of challenge. I’m off to see if you have been writing about this restaurant. And to see how far away you are now.

  8. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on September 8, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    I listened several times to Wilma’s recitation from the Sanskrit and from the dawn. I feel drawn to pay attention to acorns falling on my roof and the trill of the Bewick’s Wren. Once the grass dries (wet from my early morning watering) I will lie below the persimmon tree, gazing up at large, orange fruits forming and heart-shaped leaves rocking in the breeze while sending light and love to everyone in my heart, including you, Shirley.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Wilma moved all of us with this poem in church. I’m glad she was willing to have me videotape it so that others can be blessed also.

      I remember the persimmon tree, Dolores. I’m touched by your morning reverie. Thank you for making the scene so vivid and for the light and love. Sending the same back to you.

  9. Sherrey Meyer on September 8, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Shirley, the beginner’s mind is a comforting concept. Beginning is a fresh start, something new happening, and something to look forward to with each step taken. I love your offices and especially your view. Everything appears calm and peaceful. A wonderful place for beginning.

    I’m beginning something new that will stretch my mind. My first appointment with a writing coach is in a week. I look forward to hearing what she has to say about my manuscript and how I can stretch myself to make it better.

    Blessings on our beginner’s minds!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Sherrey, how exciting that you’ve taken the step of hiring a coach. I hope that the two of you develop real synergy in working together to bring out the story you most want to tell in your memoir.

      You are a good illustration of beginner’s mind. You know so much already, but you will not be limited by what you know.

  10. Name susan scott on September 8, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    If this is a duplicate Shirley I am sorry … I typed up a response but something happened. Thank you for your post, such lovely surroundings – and that lake! Every day is a new day. Thank you for the reminder of beginner’s mind. It’s essential to see and perceive freshly as much as possible. I loved Wilma’s recitation please tell her, and greetings to you and Mother Julian, well arrived.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you, Susan. I’ve sent this post to Wilma, so I hope she sees these words of appreciation herself.

      Mother Julian and I thank you also. I’m smiling right at her at the moment.

      The lake is sparkling under full sun today and 73 perfect degrees. Hope you are enjoying your own late winter in South Africa.

  11. Marylin Warner on September 8, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    And what a delight to watch the view transform with the seasons. A sunny morning; a hazy afternoon or drizzly evening. Each view will inspire and encourage you. This seems the ideal location and view.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      It is gorgeous, Marylin. You are right, and today I see one cluster of leaves turning yellow and orange on the maple between me and the lake. I am tingling with excitement as I anticipate the view in a few weeks.

      And making sure that I don’t rush past the lovely one already present.

  12. Lourene Bender on September 8, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Shirley, so glad you are keeping us posted on the beauty of the place and the newness of your situation. I’m confident that you will take it all in and make the most of this “time apart.” Know that I am sending you my best wishes for this great time to be renewed and also for this time to write.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Lourene, how wonderful to have your voice here. Thank you so much for your good wishes and for following along. I’ll miss your great massages, but I hope to return with stories to tell.

  13. Marian Beaman on September 8, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    I have a beginner’s mind in our new place. The day begins with meditation with a lake just yards away; then writing at my desk with conservation easement across the street.

    Yesterday Cliff and I discussed naming our new rooms, once a family room space bookended by our separate desks and files. Our tentative decision for now: Mine, my writing studio, his – the art studio. Open to change and other suggestions.

    Life now lacks quiet contemplation and the only chime I hear is the bell on the microwave. My schoolhouse clock waiting to be hung.

    As I return to my manuscript again I am crossing the threshold of “not knowing.” I can fret or I can rest; I suspect I’ll do some of both.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Sounds like you have created a space something akin to the room Stuart and I call the “window room,” only instead of bookends, we have the desks close to each other and a conversation area at the other end of the room.

      Moves like mine are easy. A few suitcases and boxes. Like yours, much harder. I sense your spirit is circling like a cat, looking for a good spot to settle down. And ready to purr.

  14. Melanie Springer Mock on September 8, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Looks like a wonderful place. Hoping your time is productive as well as relaxing. I will look forward to reading what comes out of your time there!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Thank you, Melanie. You would love it here. When the time is right in your life. Thanks for your interest. I’ll be sharing more here as I go along.

  15. Carrie Ann Lahain on September 8, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Wilma’s recitation brought me to tears. Thank you.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Isn’t she wonderful? I felt the same way. Thanks for your response. I hope she sees it.

  16. Eileen Kinch on September 8, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I have taken summer writing workshops at the Collegeville, and I love it. Enjoy your time there!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      I can imagine you here, Eileen. I’m sure you and your words left a deep impression here too.

  17. Richard Kauffman on September 8, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    You said Don O is jealous of me being at the Gladstone for a month. Hmmmmm.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 9, 2016 at 9:37 am

      You can apply for next year. And then the two of you can compare notes. 🙂

  18. April Yamasaki on September 9, 2016 at 1:56 am

    What a treat to read this post, Shirley – may the serenity and beauty of your surroundings inspire you, along with the cloud of witnesses represented by those who have left comments. I love the concept of beginner’s mind and the examples listed. I sense newness all around me – in ministries beginning again after a summer break, in my starting to think about a new writing project, in continuing to learn new things even as I stay in one place for now.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 9, 2016 at 9:40 am

      You add the wisdom of rootedness joined with newness, April, and the reminder that we can begin again no matter where we are. I bless your new projects and ideas as you learn in place. Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Dora Dueck on September 9, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Once again your words have landed at just the right time. All sorts of new beginnings in my life — mainly a big move across the country, from a house into an apartment. Much in the new environment simply is what it is and one must adapt, but it’s such a good reminder that I can choose the beginner’s mind, that openness to every day’s challenges and adventures. (Incidentally, mostly loving it here so far!)

    • Shirley Showalter on September 10, 2016 at 12:10 am

      Dora, this sounds like a lot to handle. And like you are doing so very well. Have you blogged about these changes? I’ll go explore! Grace and peace.

  20. Elaine Mansfield on September 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Wow, Shirley! How sweet it is and, if you’re just staying for fall semester, you’ll leave before the worst weather arrives in full force. Either way, because for now and for then, there’s Beginner’s Mind. Enjoy fall. Enjoy the campus, the chapels, and the new colleagues. Enjoy that spaciousness in two offices and in your life. So much can be read, written, and pondered there.

  21. Shirley Hershey Showalter on September 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Exactly, Elaine! Your list captured so much of this blend of community and contemplation.

    Ora et labora. Pray and work is the Benedictine motto.

    There’s ancient wisdom here. Thanks for your good wishes. I return them to you!

  22. Lucinda J on September 13, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I actually gasped at the clear beauty of that lake. I can definitely see why you are “digging” your new digs. Best wishes in your new venture.

    • Shirley Hershey Showalter on September 13, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Thank you, Lucinda. I want to take a picture every time I step outdoors. My heart is singing after seeing the almost-full moon break through the clouds just now. May the beauty of your own place also speak to you as you write.

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