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beginner’s mind

There is much talk in my Buddhist circles about the importance of keeping a beginner’s mind. To me the idea of the beginner’s mind is all about my attitude. When I open to the present moment with curiosity instead of thinking of some future moment things don’t feel so heavy and impossible. This has been crucial to be conscious of since starting the yoga immersion three days ago. Yesterday was super rough. I was in a great deal of pain and then the frustration kicked in and then the tears. So many tears. After a while it was difficult to tease out what the physical pain was and what was noise in my head turned into feelings of failure and inadequacy. And I let myself go there, I need to in that moment.

This morning when I showed up to the immersion and got on my mat I set the intention to practice with a beginner’s mind. When I caught myself (in like every other pose) worrying about if I will ever be able to do that pose as close to the classical form as possible, I brought my attention back to my breath, my body and the moment – I focused on what was actually taking place instead of something way far off in the future. I put my mind and heart towards the steps I needed to take right then and not the steps that were ten steps away from me. Practicing this way gave me room to enjoy the process and through that I was able to bring the lightness and joy I want to bring to the mat every time I get on it.

Another aspect of the beginner’s mind that I brought to the immersion today was letting go of failure. This was extremely challenging especially after such an emotional day yesterday. I just wanted to try it out and see if it would work. In many areas of my life I can bring this idea of letting go of failure in with no problem. In culinary school last year I showed up and wrote many recipes that did not work! They were terrible. I had limited experience with raw food, let alone using all those new ingredients. I made a lot of not so tasty food projects. It was humbling and incredible experience. Not once was I afraid to fail.

I have difficulty taking this part of myself to my yoga practice. When I cannot do a pose I make it personal and when I make it personal I get into trouble. Instead of looking at not “getting” a pose as a failure today, I reminded myself I am a beginner. I had to remind myself of that a great deal in the advanced poses. Five months of a rigorous asana practice since not having one for nearly a year after my injury, in many ways makes me a newcomer. I am a beginner in this practice with the benefit of the wisdom from my previous experience. Today I know when to stop pushing myself and I also know when it is safe to go further. Gently reminding myself I am a beginner takes the pressure off having to do the pose perfectly and allows me to fully experience the pose at whatever stage it is available to me in the moment.

Tomorrow is day four of the immersion and I am looking forward to it. I have gained insight and clarity around myself and practice in the last few days and I know there is so much more to experience. I plan to continue with this theme of the beginner’s mind by shifting my attitude towards the joy that is available to me if I open to it. When fear and ego get in the way I will re-direct my mind to my heart and let them go. I aim to practice with as much love, gratitude, commitment, and playfulness as possible.




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