Beginner’s Mind


My New Rental Violin

Potential Teacher just confirmed our first lesson for Wednesday, and I’m just back from the violin shop, where I rented the instrument above.  I hope it meets her standards.  The family who recommended her to me told me that their first instrument had to go back after failing her tests.  We’ll see – the shop will gladly trade it in if I’m not happy with the sound quality.  At present I must admit to not being very discriminating.

In karate we have a fixation on “shoshin,” meaning “beginner’s mind.”  The old Buddhist proverb goes, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s, very few.”  As a karate teacher, I have developed some ideas about how things should be done.  But I do my best to maintain my beginner’s mind too; I try to be as open to possibilities as I can be.  That’s one of the things I love most about karate – it gives me the chance to be a lifelong student.  Taking up the violin again has a lot to do with my pursuit of lifelong learning too.

When I got home with my violin, I immediately pulled it out and started plucking.  I quickly remembered how to make Twinkle Twinkle Little Star come out of the thing, so I tried it with the bow, squeaks and all.  I then remembered what to do to produce a scale.  I can’t remember the key, but I know it’s a major scale of some sort.  I wonder how quickly the language of music will come back to me.

Since I’m a linguist by degree, the human language faculty and the languages it produces hold a lot of interest – I speak Spanish, and studied Chinese (Mandarin) for a year.  Karate has given me the opportunity to learn some Japanese, and of course it has taught me a beautiful movement vocabulary as well – a new kind of language I would not have been able to talk much about before learning it.  Music is the most universal of languages; returning to this path after so many years away is exhilarating.  I’m excited to be a beginner again.

Thanks for reading.



  1. I have played violin for about three months (quite short for this amazing instrument) but I remember my excitement about being a beginner. It made me feel like I was learning a new language: the language of violin. I can’t play anything more than Mozart’s Twinkle Twinkle Star today but I certainly know it is an amazing feeling to be a beginner in learning an instrument or a language. I wish you good luck and don’t give up! 😉

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, osmanaz! Glad to know we’re in it together!

  2. […] to know it – I’ve been practicing on my new instrument for almost a month, so it was really only the first two months of coming back to the violin during which I played the rental.  I thought it would be far […]

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