Recently I began practicing yoga. Mostly I’ve been attending beginner classes. It’s been fun to be a beginner, to be new to something and thus to not be expected to have some level of proficiency. We are always beginners as children, but sometimes as adults we get so used to mastery that we are uncomfortable with the vulnerability and mystery of being a beginner.
We may shun the label “beginner” as if it denotes a lower status than “experienced.” But that’s our pride talking, not our spirit. Our ego doesn’t like to be awkward, vulnerable or uninformed. Yet as children we were all of these much of the time. If we are unwilling to be a beginner, we close ourselves off from learning. We make no space for curiosity and creativity. We cannot grow. Our efforts to avoid being labeled a beginner actually cause us to be awkward, vulnerable and uniformed.
There is great freedom and excitement in being a beginner. Freedom, because I don’t have expectations to meet. If I don’t know a yoga pose, if I cannot hold my balance or am not as flexible as another, so what? I’m a beginner. I have to learn. I have to work and practice so I can move forward. The excitement of being a beginner results from the wide open horizon for learning that beginning invites me into. I enjoy the remembrance of what it was like to be a child, to see possibilities with breathless, wide-eyed enthusiasm, to plunge into a sport or hobby with no agenda but fun.
As I’ve thought about the delight in being a beginner, I recall an incident from a few weeks ago. I went to lunch with a friend, to a restaurant I had not visited previously. I had the opportunity to try something new, but chose instead to eat something familiar. Looking back, I realized I missed a chance to be a beginner, to explore something new, to be vulnerable and to let another teach me. I had an occasion to be curious and childlike, and let it pass me by. My loss!
Although I hope to gain some yoga experience, I want to remember the excitement I’ve experienced in being a beginner. I look forward to finding something else to begin. And next time I have the chance to try a new food, I’ll approach it joyfully.