I remember my yoga firsts very well. Like the time up stood up from wheel or the time I first lifted my legs into handstand. They both frightened and delighted me and I had no idea how they happened. Oh the joy of being a beginner, no expectations, no judgements, no idea. Everything is new and fresh.
And that is exactly where I found myself today when I went to a Hatha class. Except it wasn’t Hatha. The teacher announced that we were doing Iyengar. Iyengar is the yoga of props. So before I knew it I was belted, bolstered, sand bagged and roped quite literally into a pose. I had no idea what was going on. I had to keep looking to the person on my left who was performing some kind of acrobatic contortions with ropes to figure out what I should be doing. I was lost, confused and totally out of my comfort zone. The yoga teacher in me had now become the beginner student.
In Zen they call the beginner mind Shoshin and it has some beautiful child like qualities to it.
The beginners mind doesn’t look to what they think should be happening because they don’t know what should be happening. Therefore they retain a curiosity. The curiosity leads to inquiry so the question becomes more important than the answer. It really stops you being an expert, or a ‘know it all’.
When we don’t know what is happening we lose our judgmental self. This is the part of us that looks at a situation and assesses how it should be. When we are judgmental of situations we become one-sided and contracted. A beginner’s mind is open like a parachute. It can take in any situation for exactly what it is.
When we let go of being the expert and confess we have no idea what is going on we access the spirit of inquiry. To let go of our notions of knowing all is a difficult practice. When we empty our cup though, we make room to fill it with new ideas, new ways of looking at the world.
Practice for today: Think about trying something new. Dispel the fear of being a beginner. Be like a child, open, living in the present and inquiring. Take off your expert hat and see what happens when you live your life as a student.