I really love the Buddhist concept of “Beginner’s Mind”. This is one definition:
Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.”
Or, as Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”:
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
It’s not easy to cultivate this mind state. Habits of mind are deep things, knowledge is important.
But so is a sense of wonder and delight at the new.
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal this week because I’m at a new beginning for myself, or a renewed beginning, really. I’ve started an exercise and stretching routine, and I have been diligent about keeping it up for the past several days.
It’s not that easy to get back into doing something you haven’t done in a very long time.
In fact, sometimes it downright sucks. Trying to do even simple stretches and situps and pushups is difficult, but knowing that you used to be able to handle so many more reps with ease, remembering how this stuff used to be so much easier… really sucks.
But getting frustrated is very unhelpful. It was the main reason why I haven’t been able to keep up any kind of exercise routine for very long for years. I’d get started, all excited to get fit and feel healthy and slim down, and then… the awareness would grow that all of this was so much easier before… and if I had been a better person, then I would have never stopped training, god it’s so frustrating, I still can’t fit into those pants, why isn’t this working? God, what’s the point? May as well give up now, I’ll never be able to regain what I’ve lost, I’ll never be that 105 pound kid, so lithe and strong. That explosive, ever-moving ball of energy on the fencing piste. I’ll never be able to kick above my head like I used to.
Who could persevere against such cruel judgment?
But this time, I’m meditating. I’m learning how to let go of judgmental thoughts. To treat myself with the kind of care and compassion I would show a friend, to treat myself as I would want a friend to treat me.
I’m learning to embrace impermanence, to learn to appreciate change.
I’m learning to see with fresh eyes, to delight in the ordinary.
I begin, again.
Now, I focus on the fact that every time I stretch, I can go a little further. Every time I do sit-ups, I can do a few more. Every time I do pushups, they get a little easier. Every time I do leg swings, they get a little higher.
Now, when I get up in the morning, I feel stronger, lighter on my feet, my core muscles coiled and ready like a spring. Every day I get a little more confident about my body’s abilities.
This time, I’m not doing it to fit into those pants, to be slimmer and more attractive, and therefore more worthy of love.
This time, I’m doing it for me. I’m training, you see. I want to do martial arts. I want to learn how to fight with a staff. I’m doing this for fun, for the delight in being able to launch my body through space with strength, grace, speed, and power to meet an attacker. For the strength and grace to be able to take the blows and still keep going.
Yeah, for the sheer badassery of being able to dance with a staff.
pic credit: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/494059021592492814/