“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” ~Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki
Last Sunday I was teaching and one of my students said, “I don’t know how you do what you do. Don’t you want to just make us do some crazy yoga pose we have never seen or done before?” The answer to me was so clear only because of my own daily practice. The answer was no. The answer goes back to stepping on my mat each day with the beginner’s mind.
What is the beginner’s mind? How does this work in the practice of yoga? This is the mind we (should) step into each time we get on the mat. It is the mind that is curious to see what arises in practice no matter the pose. The mind that allows you to take warrior two for the thousandth time and find a new place to work. This mind is what keeps us humble and open for new growth.
The reason I continue to teach the same groupings of poses over and over is that I know they work. I have been practicing the same groupings of poses myself since I first met Max in 1999. The poses I practice today really aren’t much different than the ones I learned back then. I have changed. The poses haven’t. I am stronger, more flexible, more meditative, more balanced. Even now (thirteen years later) I can find something new in triangle each time I take it.
This beginner’s mind is what keeps us from grasping- always wanting more. It allows us to use the basics to go deeper into the mental and emotional aspects of the practice without hurting ourselves. After all, according to Patanjali the main purpose of asana (yoga poses) is to prepare the body for meditation. The beginner’s mind allows us to do just that. Each pose becomes a prayer, each pose allows a new layer to be removed, each pose becomes a meditation in motion. When we strive to do more, be more, gain more, we lose the present moment. The present moment is the gift of the beginner’s mind.
*This is an article from our newsletter (published in July). I thought it might be worthy of a re-post.