“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
— Zen Master Shunryu Suzuk
It’s Sunday morning and I am in the studio. I get there ten minutes early to squeeze into one of the remaining spaces left. There is a sea of serious faced seated yogis interspersed with those already practicing various stretches. I am not a beginner, or at least in any obvious way. I have taken teacher trainings, workshops and retreats. I have even transitioned into the role of teaching. I drank the punch, and enjoyed every last drop. But something I have always had an affinity for is the beginner. The timid student looking on with shock and amazement at the size of the class, the heat, the acrobatic like abilities of the yogi next to them. It is the mind of the beginner that I strive for in all things yoga and beyond.
The beginner is open. To be a beginner is to not know the answer. To stay curious throughout the process because it is new and fresh. I have often seen in both students and my own personal practice a resistance to change. This is the way I’ve always done it and it works for me is a common thought process. However the beginner could treat each moment as if it were the first time this had ever happened. Without preconceived notions, the beginner creates space for new concepts and understandings.
The beginner stumbles (and gets back up). Perfectionism is a personal favorite of mine. Wouldn’t it just be grand if I could do everything right always? To the beginner this is unrealistic and unhelpful. Failure is a part of growth and personal understanding. Fall, and get back up. Creating a sense of internal appreciation for the process of both the perceived wins and losses could lead to such greater happiness, awareness, and fulfillment. This is what the beginner has to offer.
Beginnings don’t end at the studio. To expand on what is learned in one setting to another is transformational. What if being a beginner applied to other aspects of my life? What if I treated this moment new, and that moment new, until each moment were a place of great interest and insight? To create a greater sense of awareness to each moment is one of the beginner’s greatest gifts.
Though I have rolled my mat out thousands of times, I aim to treat it as if it were the first. I have never taken that breath before. I have never practiced that yoga pose on that day at that age before. But beyond this, I have never lived this moment before, and to recognize that is a gift of the beginner.
Kate Douglas B.A. Psychology, 500-Hour Certified Yoga Teacher, is a long-time practitioner and teacher. She leads workshops, private sessions, and classes in the greater East Bay. Find out more at facebook.com/KateDouglasYoga.