I love beginner's courses. So I'm particularly excited to be teaching a 4 week long beginner's meditation course starting on the 3rd August (for details and to sign up click here). I've been practising yoga for over 15 years and meditating for around 12 and both are really about getting better and better at the basics - and becoming calmer and more aware as you practice them. Like meditation much of yoga is ‘simple but not easy'.
So what of the beginner's mind? The term is so over-used that it is almost a cliché. But like many clichés, there is something to it. Whether we've been practicing for a week, 10 years or a whole lifetime, when we come to a new obstacle, we are all beginners. If we are genuinely hitting an obstacle, then we have got to a place that we've never been before - we are in the unknown. We may, however get more skilled at being beginners. And that means becoming more skilled at being in the unknown and making our way through it: great skills both in yoga and in life.
The beginner's mind also describes an attitude - one that is helpful in achieving great things. As Author, Edward S. Finkelstein put it, ‘bigness comes from doing many small things well. Individually, they are not very dramatic transactions. Together though, they add up.' We sometimes push hard to achieve what we want but bravado and will-power will only get us so far and after a while it gets tiring - for us as well as for those around us. Learning to have a beginner's mind is actually a highly advanced technique, as well as a powerful skill. There are two key ingredients: humility and honesty. These simple ingredients will take you far because truly embodying them requires many other great attributes: courage, insight, kindness and clarity (to name but a few).
They say that positive thinking only gets you so far, and then you get a parking ticket! As soon as we think we're right, we ‘know', we shut down. We stop being open and taking in information and, generally, we have missed the point ‘perfect is the enemy of good'. When we get rid of perfectionism, we are freed to make mistakes, to not know and to be in the unknown. These are all things that we need to grow. With a beginner's mind, you embrace the possibility of getting a parking ticket (because it is a real possibility - even if you're not parked illegally!). But you don't need to blow that possibility out of proportion. Learning from every step you take, step by step you explore what the best course of action might be for you. This is the stuff that real champions are made of.