In yoga there is a lot of talk about maintaining a beginner’s mind in your practice.
So what exactly does that mean? And how does it relate to triathlon?
Often in yoga practice or at triathlon training (and in life if we’re really honest), we base our experiences today on our previous encounters. For example, we often arrive at training today expecting that we should at least be ‘better’ at a given session than we were yesterday. Or we tell ourselves as soon as the we see a session from our coach in our plan – ‘I can’t do that’, because I couldn’t do it last time. We make assumptions based on yesterday in almost everything we do. From our Yoga postures to our relationships with loved ones and colleagues.
Having a preconceived idea when it comes to our practice, or in triathlon's case, training, is very common and unfortunately not very helpful. We all have skills that we struggle with. It might be related to tight muscles, lack of experience or fear, so we often approach it with a sense of being defeated before we have even attempted it. Sometimes we aren't even aware that we have that mindset.
On the other end of the spectrum, if we are super confident about a particular session, if we assume we have already mastered the basics, we lose the ability to learn anything about the sport, skill or ourselves.
When we have been practicing something for many months or years, it can be a challenge to remain a beginner. If we believe we have ‘mastered’ it or if we believe we are more skilled than our fellow athletes, then we have closed the door on growth. We have kind of missed the point. If we start to judge or make assumptions before we truly experience then we lose the ability to be completely present in and out of training.
This doesn’t mean that we completely forget about all of our valuable learnings but rather we place them off to the side so we can let go of ‘knowing’, see what else we can learn in this moment and allow it to be an experience.
With a beginners mind you are able to constantly open yourself to these new experiences. With an absence of preconceptions we can remain curious and keep our practice alive. Each session is a new experience, each breath an opportunity to begin again. We start to take this off the field and into our life. Each conversation and encounter, even with the same people is brand new. Each day presents a brand new opportunity. We can start to release the grip on autopilot, be truly mindful and experience deeper connections with the world around us.
‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few’. ~ Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki