Do you remember learning to drive a car? I took Driver’s Education in the summer of 1988, and during one memorable class lecture, I was surprised to discover that the “go pedal” is actually called the accelerator. Was I embarrassed by this lack of knowledge? Yes (my parents still get a laugh out of this one!). Did it stop me from going back to class the next day? No way! Learning to drive meant freedom, so I was willing to feel like a dummy. I’m sure you remember being in the car with an instructor when you were first learning how to drive. Were you an expert after two hours of driving instruction? Of course not. We didn’t expect to be driving experts the first few times out…that’s why we were practicing!
Who decided that in order to try something new we have to be an expert?
Whether it’s a new hobby, activity, or language, adults often think they have to be “good at something” in order to try it. But how can we be good at speaking Italian if the only Italian word we know is pasta? Who expects us to be good at skiing if we’ve never stepped into bindings? How can we be an expert at yoga the first time we unroll a yoga mat? It sounds ridiculous to expect ourselves to know everything about something the moment we decide to try it. Yet, we often dismiss new experiences because we don’t think we’d be “good at it.”
Anytime we try something new, it can be intimidating and scary. We might feel confused or nervous. Maybe it would be easier to just not try it and stick with what we’re good at doing.
But what if you shifted your mindset to one of curiosity or inquiry? How would it feel to try speaking a new language for a few minutes each day, by yourself, at home? What if you signed up for a ski lesson with a friend? Could you adopt a beginner’s mindset and step onto the yoga mat with curiosity and wonder?
What is a beginner’s mind?
A beginner’s mind is a shift in the way we look at something. It means letting go of our expectations and preconceived ideas, while being open to the opportunity to learn and experience without fear of judgment.
Zen Buddhism teaches a concept of “Beginner’s Mind,” Shoshin, as a positive attribute, something to cultivate. Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki said in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice, “In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”
Why does it matter?
When we adopt a beginner’s mindset, we may discover that we’re eager to learn a new skill, try unfamiliar foods, or manage stress in a different way. Challenging ourselves to step out of our comfort zones can help build confidence, provide a fresh perspective, enhance creativity, and develop gratitude. When we take the step to try something new, we might gain perspective from a different point of view.
How to begin
Now that you’re ready to adopt a beginner’s mindset, start with the familiar. The next time you’re driving to the store, can you approach this task with curiosity or wonder? What do you see, hear, and observe as you’re driving? Then, when you get to your destination, pause and notice how you feel? Has anything shifted in your mindset?
Then, challenge yourself to tackle something NEW you want to try, like signing up for a yoga class! Before your first class, remind yourself of the qualities of a beginner’s mind:
- Let go of expectations
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes
- Focus on questions
- Delete “should” from your vocabulary
- Recite a phrase or mantra that helps you stay in the beginner’s mindset. Some examples could include…“I am curious.” “I give myself permission to be a beginner.” “I am letting go of expectations.”
And, just for the record…I failed my driving test, even though I knew where the accelerator was located. But, after a weekend of practicing parallel parking between two cones, I was able to pass the second time around. I’m still not an expert, but I keep practicing my driving skills every day!
No flexibility required
Whether you’re looking for a productive way to manage stress, you want to release tension in your lower back, or you need to take some time for yourself, YOGA can help!
Here’s the good news… you don’t need to be able to touch your toes. You don’t have to know the difference between warrior 1 and warrior 2. You just have to be willing to adopt a beginner’s mindset and unroll a yoga mat. If you can breathe, you can do yoga!
A Starter Pack is the perfect way to begin or re-start your yoga practice. We’ll meet online for three private yoga sessions, addressing your questions, needs, and intentions. Let’s practice together!