Beginner's Mind

Yesterday was the first day of squash camp for my 12 year old son. He'd never played squash before, but boredom trumped fear, and he agreed to try something new.

At registration, we started to suspect that this might not be a beginners' camp. Kid after kid rolled in, sporting team jerseys and carrying quivers of racquets. 


When I picked him up at the end of the day, I prepared for the worst. This isn't a kid who embraces novelty and challenge. So I was surprised to see his face light up with a big smile.

"Yup," he said, "I sucked."

Turns out, I'd signed him up for a competitive camp. The other kids were players. My son was a newbie. They were there to learn strategy. My kid had to learn how to hold the racket!

He had a great time because he was too busy to feel embarrassed, he said. He accepted that he was a beginner so he didn't feel any pressure to compete. He simply relaxed into learning the game.

"Mom," he said, eyes sparkling, "I completely lost track of time. When we left the courts, I couldn't believe it was dark outside! I forgot that we'd already eaten dinner!"

My son just had the wonderful, rare experience of beginner's mind.

I was so happy for him! "Son, that's why it's awesome to be a beginner. You don't have to be good. You don't judge yourself. You get to!" 

I'm not one of those super calm people. Traffic just slays me! But we've been talking about flow, about doing things that absorb your attention so much that you lose track of time. We want our boys to discover their passions, particularly my oldest son who is off to high school next year. Since they have long working lives ahead of them, they might as well find something that engages them.

Personally, I encountered beginner's mind when my body crapped out. That's when everything became new again. In many ways, it was a liberating time. I learned to be gentle and forgiving of my body, or else suffer debilitating pain.

I learned to celebrate one lap in the pool, because that meant I'd successfully put on my swim suit (a Herculean task).

I learned to parlay my expertise with Photoshop into wireframes for a symptom journal app. And I learned to love being a beginner!

This morning, I went to the gym for the first time in a few weeks. Despite the remnants of a nasty summer bug that had kept me homebound, I enjoyed a gentle work out. No expectations, just the openness of stretching. It was nice to go low and slow again, not rush through a grueling workout. It was nice to be a beginner again. 





natasha gajewski