Being a Beginner – Becoming a Master
“At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.”
Last week when my dear friend was visiting from Austin, she suggested that we choose a yoga pose for our photo-op. We gleefully skipped through the yard and assumed our position. It was great fun being able to create this magical moment with her.
No, I promise this is not about yoga or how to do a headstand (most who know me know that yoga has been a major transformative practice in my life.) — but about something we all struggle with — mastery. We all have teachers in life, and I like to use yoga as my instructor.
Backdrop to this playful moment: Practice. We both have spent many hours of hard work in developing the balance and core strength in mastering this pose.
I remember when I attended my first ashtanga yoga class, I thought that I would never be able to use my body with the agility and strength that was showing up with others around me. My yoga instructor encouraged me to “be a beginner”. Start only where I am. And ONLY focus on myself and what is in front of me – and nothing else. Period. Slowly, I worked with that frame of reference. Gradually each week my practice got stronger.
I am always learning to approach my practice as a “white belt.” There are no mistakes – only learning opportunities. And each practice was an opportunity for learning – about myself, my ability, my thoughts, reactions. While not letting this become me, I was able to maintain the wonder and awe to keep exploring.
Some days my practice feels like I’m going backward; it is as if I’m starting over….again and again. Other months, it feels like I just stay in the same place, forever. These days still can provoke reactions in me. And yet, with wise guidance and lots of practice, I have learned to accept where I am in that moment; and yet, to persevere. Not struggling and pushing, but with more responsiveness to where my body is at that moment with gentle acceptance and continued practice. In this place, I learn to fall in love with the flow of the practice itself – not in just “getting there”.
Now each time I approach a headstand, I approach it as a “white belt”. With a beginner’s attitude I surrender to the basics of my practice. The foundation of what makes a beautiful, strong headstand. The basics keep me grounded – out of my ego. It helps me maintain my foundation and without this I would be on my back on the floor.
I often use my headstand practice as a guidepost when I am moving into a new challenge. I try to remember the basics of mastery: practice and being a beginner in life.
We all find ourselves in new, daunting situations and challenges that predispose us to withdraw, get frustrated and walk away, or plunge in and burn out never to reach our goal. And yet, a mood of fear or distrust in ourselves can only keep us further away from our target. Mastery requires moving into whatever it is we want to tackle with the spirit of a gentle warrior. We must cultivate courage to maintain our focus and tenacity to continue practice despite our setbacks.
What is something you want to master in your life?
What can/does your practice look like?
How can you cultivate a “white belt” attitude? And, what might that look like for you in your practice?
What are “the basics” that you can hold onto to help you cultivate mastery?
And lastly, have fun as you are learning! It makes the ride much more enjoyable. ( ;