27 Feb Beginner’s Mind
One thing that I am grateful of during this pandemic is the accessibility of quality yoga/meditation courses and certifications that are taught online by really good and experienced teachers. I took several of them – the shortest took me 12 hours to finish, and the longest took me almost 2 years.
I love to learn, and in my profession this is a must. The nature of learning is that we stand in a state of unknowing in relation to what it is that will be learned. In approaching anything which seems new or a little strange, I believe that we need not view it from the attitudes and confines of other systems, traditions, or already established beliefs and concepts, but perhaps “suspend our disbelief” for awhile and enter without too many preconceptions with the openness of “beginner’s mind.”
Each time I begin a new phase of my own learning there is an initial period of excitement at the revelation that I am opened up to, the connections that emerge between once fragmented and unknown pieces of knowledge and experience. The threads of this new information grow and form into ever-extending webs and patterns of insight.
Yet what I have sensed is still only a possibility, like an image of light and shadows, the vision of a new state of connectedness and wholeness. There is much work to be done before the new knowledge is embodied in me as a living, breathing and loving reality. Then I am truly at the beginning, like a newborn child, about to learn as if for the very first time. I am a beginner yet again, humbled by my ignorance and awkwardness, vulnerable in my inability. And yet I carry somewhere in memory that sense of possibility: a vision of potential, wholeness, and love which acts as a guide for the steps I will take blindly. Silent in the inarticulateness of this knowing, and patient in my trust of it, is the only way I can proceed, if I am willing.
When I started Aquanimous Yoga in La Union, it was from this place of darkness, of not-knowing. It was as if I were about to enter a story whose characters were familiar, like old friends, but their adventure was as yet unknown and untold. What would be its texture, shape, and ultimately its meaning, for myself and for my students? I took the first step with the faith that the seed would unfold as promised and something of value would emerge. I was challenged to trust in nature’s cyclical process and in her mysterious call to come into being and meet the unknown.
The same process happened again when I moved back to Manila to hold classes at the Makati Shangri-La only to be cut short by the pandemic. I had to find other ways in order to continue. And now that the world is recovering and opening up again, and new possibilities are presenting themselves, my approach will be the same: to have a beginner’s mind, while at the same time there is faith and trust that with my portfolio of skills, experiences and networks, I will be able to adapt to new tools and tactics, and thrive in this new economy.
It is with a beginner’s mind, I continually find, with which the AY Practice must also be approached as it presents specific challenges that practicing on land does not. When we practice on a board that constantly moves, every second we can physically feel and experience change. Every second the pose feels new, and we have to constantly adapt to these changes as they happen.
As such, many of the classic yoga postures that you may be familiar with are approached differently and are slightly modified on the board. To approach learning from here means letting go of attachment to what you already know and cherish on a regular mat, to seem to forget, to allow the old to die. On the board, we are naked, raw, a little naive, emptied of what is unnecessary. In this state of openness there is room for something new to enter.
It is my intention in Aquanimous Yoga to help bring greater awareness and a sense of wonder to the experience that is your own living body, and insight into the patterns of mind that are made visible and tangible through the body and its movement. The work itself is very much about allowing an open and flexible mind, and if you choose to explore our classes, I hope you will do so with this same open-minded quality.
Taking in and letting go is a natural process, like the waxing and waning of the moon, like the expansion and contraction of a breathing cell; yet it is often hard for us to allow the dying and the cutting of our attachments without feeling some resistance and confusion.
Each moment must die for the next to come into being. So too our experiences pass continually through the cycle of death, new birth, life, and again death. What we feel to be our difficulties and problems are not these processes of change themselves, but our feelings and attitudes toward them and our reactions to them.
Our problems – the places where we feel blocked or the areas of weakness and blindness unique to each of us – are actually our gifts. If we look deeply enough into these dark places, we will discover something truly meaningful that is of great value to us and of great benefit to others.
Whenever we cling to a moment, an experience, a love, there is the question: “Why? What is the nature of this clinging?” This is the beginning of our search for freedom. We find that at the heart of the problem lies our strength, our reality, and the essence of our own unique being.