Mastery and the Beginner’s Mind

December 13, 2011 Caroleeena hoopdanceHoopingPoiUncategorized

Sometimes I hear a new hooper who is rushing breathlessly to learn the next trick say, “I’ve mastered everything but this…” and I have to smile. Mastery? Really? I’ve been hooping since 2003 and I don’t feel like I’ve come anywhere close to mastering any aspect of it. I just keep learning how much more I don’t know. It’s humbling.

I think what people are really seeking is the next milestone, the next deliverable, the next thing to conquer, the next rush. It’s the antithesis of “Be Here Now”. Instead of enjoying where we are, we rush past on the way to the next. Instead of savoring, we don’t even chew. Instead of exploring, we assume we’ve already found all the treasure.

For example, people are quick to rush past waist hooping never knowing how much they don’t know — for example, the exact push point for a stall on the side, the angle required to change planes from horizontal to vertical with a single push, the footwork required for a barrel roll, the stall required to maintain the hoop throughout that roll, the armwork that accents the waist hooping perfectly, the footwork that moves it across the floor, the breaks (from inside, outside, from the top, from the bottom, using the hand, the forearm, the upper arm, the knee), the lifts (up, down, forward, backward,sideways, catty-cornered, with spin and anti-spin), the assists, the drop-ins, the list goes on and on and on… And those are just the things I know about waist hooping. I have no idea how many more things I don’t know. Tons I’m sure. It’s mind-boggling. But I am trying to be content with letting my mind be boggled. I think it makes me happier.

I suppose it’s normal to aspire to mastery, especially in this culture. But it’s disheartening too — to think you know a thing only to learn later how much you don’t know. It can feel like one step forward, two steps back. And I think it limits our ability to learn. One cannot add wine to a glass that is already full.

I think instead of seeking to cultivate mastery, we may be better served by seeking to cultivate “Beginner’s Mind”. Beginner’s Mind is a mind that is alive and awake to many possibilities. Beginner’s Mind has no preconceptions. Beginner’s Mind sees from many different perspectives. When we are certain of a thing, we allow for only one possibility. When we are uncertain of a thing, we allow for many possibilities! Beginner’s Mind is like a child’s mind in that it is curious and excited about new information whereas the adult mind is often likely to seek only information that confirms what it “already knows”. Information it thinks it has mastered.

The Beginner’s Mind also looks at things from different perspectives. It may see from the hooper’s perspective but it is just as likely to see from the hoop’s perspective, from the ground’s perspective, from the wind’s perspective, from the tape’s perspective, from the garment’s perspective, and from the perspective of the bird flying overhead. It is open to information from many sources. It is the difference between the mason and the sculptor. The mason seeks to impose his will upon a piece of stone. The sculptor seeks to release what is in the stone already.

Finally, the Beginner’s Mind does not seek to learn a thing with the intention of some great and final outcome. A child does not learn to play baseball because they want to one day be the best baseball player ever. They just want to play baseball!

In my journey, I aspire to let my hoop inform me rather than presume I am the master of the hoop. We are partners, I sometimes leading, my hoop sometimes leading. I look for the lessons in the circle. I aspire to let my body inform me rather than presume I can master my body. We, too, are partners and my body has much feedback for me if I will just pay attention. I aspire to play for the sheer pleasure of playing. But mostly I aspire to live in a state of awe, realizing that there is an enormous pool of possibilities and potential beyond my imagination, most of it untapped, and that what I think I know today may be proved wrong tomorrow. And when that happens (and it does) I aspire to laugh.

Once we grasp that there’s a lot we don’t know, that we can’t even know how much we don’t know, once we allow that we are nowhere close to knowing it all, we can release that need, that ego trip, that self-defeating state of always looking for the next rush and open our minds, allow ourselves to experience now, and therein discover treasures beyond our wildest imaginings.

beginner mindbeginner's mindcaroleeenamastery

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