Beginner's Mind

I typically practice yoga at home on my own but every once and a while I’ll mix it up and take a class. The other day I decided to be less of a hermit and went to a local studio.  It was a beginner class and I just wanted something simple because I had been surfing a ton and my body was pretty tired.

When the teacher walked in and got going I could tell he was pretty new to teaching yoga.  As he launched into his introduction and began talking about yogic philosophy my mind started to wander.  It went something like this…Hmmn, I wonder how long he’s been teaching? Did he just read this from the little tab that comes attached to the Yogi Tea bags?  What’s this person going to be able to teach me anyway? I’ve been practicing yoga for 14 years and teaching for 10…I’m the most amazing yoga teacher ever… Well, not really that last part but you get the idea. And on I went.

It was about then that it hit me. There I was putting myself on a pedestal thinking I was an expert with nothing more to learn.  The content of what the teacher was saying was irrelevant at that point because I had instantly judged and labeled him and decided I knew more/was more experienced than him. I had mentally checked out.  In that moment of realizing I was completely lost in my own world, not listening, not present, I was able to come back and actually listen.  The curious thing was, when I dropped my internal dialogue, I found that what the teacher was saying was actually quite wonderful. I connected with him and went on to have a really great class. 

Chilling at home later that night, I found myself thinking about having recently taken up tennis. I played a bit growing up but had very little formal training. A few months ago though, I decided to really jump in and took lessons and committed to playing more consistently. I thought about my mindset when I would show up for a tennis lesson or match. I was so open to learning, to doing well and to making mistakes (which I make plenty of). Then I thought about my tennis mindset compared to my yoga mindset (specifically on that particular day) and how important it is to be open and keep a beginner’s mind.

It can be incredibly limiting when we think we are the expert and know everything.  Of course, this doesn’t just apply to how we approach our yoga practice, but to the work we do, how we choose to communicate with others, how we look at a sunset, etc. The applications are endless and really apply to every aspect of life. The renowned Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki put it beautifully...

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts there are few.”