Adventures in Learning

Photo: Peg Ryan

There are few certainties in life.  No matter how much knowledge we’ve accumulated, it’s still safe to say that life is about learning.  One of my favorite song lines comes from Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock song: “I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning”.  So if you’re afraid to come to a class because you think you won’t know what to do, try to remember that none of us (myself included!) knew what to do when we first started.  Everything I do now is a result of trying, adapting and practicing.  There was no innate ability or talent.  Just a desire to learn and consistent effort.  Often in the beginning, and certainly as my body as changed through the years, I have had to accept the realities of my abilities and adapt my practice accordingly.  Surprisingly it is not that difficult.  I’ve been able to continue to benefit from my practice even though my movement may not look the same as someone with a different body type or capabilities.

For the past few weeks I’ve been suggesting that we reframe some of our approaches in order to let go of what has become the default reaction and allow ourselves a different experience simply by thinking differently.  So here is another opportunity:  instead of approaching a new activity with fear and insecurity, try thinking of it as an adventure in learning.  When we were children everything was new and unknown.  The only way to learn was to take that leap without knowing what to expect. Meditation teachers often use the term “beginner’s mind”.  This refers to one’s initial experiences with the practice when everything is new.  No preconceived notions.  No judgments.  No right or wrong. No expectations. Try thinking of your movement practice this way.  Start slow and simple and give it some time.  Stay with the experience rather than focusing on outcomes or even goals.  If something seems difficult, instead of saying “I can’t do that” try instead thinking “Maybe I can find a different way to do that.”  Make the movement smaller or slower or do fewer repetitions.  Try different approaches like bending your knees. Use your fists or forearms instead of your wrists.  Incorporate props like pillows or blankets.  There are so many different ways to make your practice your own.  Each day your experience may be different. Approach each effort with a “beginner’s mind” and allow it to be a new experience.

The bodies we inhabit are miraculous.  Each of us is a precise collection of muscles, bones, veins and nerves with systems that keep it all working together. Work with your systems and let them work for you. We have the incredible senses of sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell.  Instead of lamenting what you can’t do, remember all the things you can do and adapt what you want to do accordingly.  Celebrate your ability to move and breathe and treat these profound capacities with the reverence they deserve.  It’s never too late to try something new.

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