Friday, November 17, 2006

Beginner's Mind

I have mixed feelings about not being a beginner in martial arts anymore.

Now, as an experienced student, a brown belt, it's my responsibility to tend to the newer students at the dojang, to take on jobs like writing the newsletter, to expect extra duties. Kind of like being a mom . . . but I'm not sure I want to give up being "the kid" yet.

Still, there are rewards from taking on the mantle of the "experienced student." It's deeply satisfying to help newer students, and having more duties at the dojang means I'm really part of that place.

I guess a good way to achieve rewards both of the beginner and of the experienced student would be to strive for the "beginner's mind" while I'm learning and growing as a martial artist.

One author describes the beginner's mind concept this way:

One way to promote right effort in your studies is to assume the attitude that is known as "beginner's mind" in Zen literature. Beginner's mind is an empty mind. It is to approach each situation or task without expectations or preconceptions. It is willingness to accept what happens, to deal with life as it unfolds.

Beginner's mind is a perspective that is always fresh. It is the realization that no matter how many times a task or situation is encountered, it is always new, each time is different, and it warrents complete concentration and sincere effort. Beginner's mind is present mind. It recognizes that the situation or task at hand is a unique event that only occurs in the present moment. Beginner's mind knows that what life brings to be done in each moment is a new beginning, a whole world unto itself that will never appear again.

--John J. Gibbs, Dancing With Your Books: The Zen Way of Studying

"No matter how many times a task or situation is encountered, it is always new."

Sounds like good advice for us learning martial arts (especially sparring) . . . and just about anything else.

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