Thursday, May 7, 2015

Beginner's Mind

From Wikipedia: "Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind".  It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would."

A quote by Marcel Proust:
"The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeing new landscapes,
but in having new eyes."

When studying t'ai chi, part of the learning process to hear the same information over and over.  A lot of information is imparted in every class and it's typical that a student can only absorb a portion of it.  With repetition, students have multiple opportunities to take-in the information and apply it.  This keeps a sense of discovery and newness in their practice. 

The long, traditional Yang style t'ai chi ch'uan form consists of 108 positions or postures.  Many of them are repeated.  The concepts of the positions don't change.  How we "interpret" them and experience them in our own bodies is where there can be variation and new discoveries.  Every time you practice t'ai chi, you are different than the last time you practiced so you have the opportunity to have a fresh, new experience of each move.  You give yourself the opportunity to "see" the 108 moves with new eyes and a beginner's mind. 
The ancient masters said "T'ai chi ch'uan is like a long river flowing." Put your toe in the river on Tuesday and it's a different river than it was on Monday.
The best students aren't necessarily the ones who perform "beautiful" t'ai chi. They are the ones who practice with humility, accept correction with gratitude and use their "new eyes" to keep their practice fresh.