The Beginner's Mind

Oct 21, 2020

Since becoming a yoga teacher one of my biggest challenges is practicing in a truly mindful way. One would think that knowledge and practice would help. The practice does, the knowledge not always.

My challenges tend to show themselves in three different scenarios.

Scenario One

I am taking a class with an incredible teacher. They take us through a phenomenal sequence.

What goes on in my mind: Wow my shoulders feel great. That was a great idea! How do I put that into my own class? Will I remember it? Oh yeah breath, return to the breath. 

What were those cues again?

Scenario Two

I am taking a class and the teacher says that figure four pose is a great way to stretch the psoas (it is not). 

What goes on in my mind: Nope wrong pose, wrong muscle. Why are they speaking in a forced spiritual voice? Oh yeah breath, return to the breath. 

Where did they train? Do they really know what they are doing?

Scenario Three

I am practicing alone and my movement is guided by body awareness. A tight thoracic spine directs me towards putting together a sequence of poses that feels incredible.

What goes on in my mind: That felt amazing. What class will I put that into? I was thinking of writing a second article on thoracic spine mobility. Oh yeah breath, return to the breath.

My students are going to love this!

In all three scenarios I should know better. The problem is what I 'know' leads to expectation, judgement and ego. 

Knowledge is a funny thing. 

There is a zen concept Shoshin, which is often referred to as ‘the beginner's mind”. Author James Clear explains it as “the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness when studying a subject.” 

My 'knowledge' prevented me from practicing with a beginner's mind. An approach that would allow me to enjoy and ultimately learn more from my experiences.

In my personal practice the biggest challenge is to arrive on the mat with curiosity, a playful attitude and no expectations. All things that lead to practicing in a more mindful way.