Shoshin

October 5, 2009

Shoshin“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryo Suzuki-Roshi

In college I had occasion to work with an amazing mentor who helped me a great deal in refining my approach to sport.  One of the things he talked about was the Zen Buddhist concept of Shoshin or Beginner’s Mind.  He was always reminding me to approach things with the curiosity and clean slate of a toddler, not bringing my preconceptions with me to the athletic table.  From time to time I remember to experiment with this concept and I usually learn something from the experience.  For a while now I have been wanting to learn something completely new so I can have a genuine beginner’s mind and can reconnect with that feeling.

With that in mind, I joined the local women’s lacrosse team last week.

GB started playing hockey for the first time this summer and it was so much fun to witness the falling-in-love-with-a-new-sport process.  Every hockey day GB’s eyes would light up at the thought of playing and it got me thinking about starting something new of my own.  Although I have played my fair share of team sports including soccer, field hockey, and rugby, I have never so much as touched a lacrosse stick or watched a lacrosse game.  Which means that lacrosse it the perfect avenue for me to practice having a beginner’s mind.  I do not know the rules of play, the positions, the equipment, or really ANYTHING about this sport.   I did not eve know how hard the ball would be or whether it would be bouncy.  It’s all new, new, new.  And very exciting.

I could barely contain myself all day on Saturday and was elated when 3.30pm finally rolled around.  I didn’t know anyone on the team and even that was an exciting prospect for me.  The coaches handed me a stick and off we went to do drills.  Since part of my mission in taking on a new sport was to practice having a beginner’s mind I decided to learn how to play lacrosse left-handed.  I’m right-hand dominant so I figure my right hand can always catch up later.  It’s much easier to learn a new skill with your non-dominant hand first and I figure I should use that window of forgiveness granted to new players to putz around with my weakest side.  That way my mistakes will be attributed to my newness and not to my pfaffing with my non-dominant hand.

Being a beginner was so refreshing.  I let go of a lot of my usual expectations of myself and allowed myself to soak things up and ask questions.  I forgave myself my mistakes and I watched others to learn from their skills as much as possible.  I even tried not to apologize when I made a bad pass (is that what they call it?) or dropped the ball.  Consequently, I had an absolute blast.  I worked pretty hard out there and really enjoyed myself during the end-of-practice scrimmage.

I still have a few weeks of keeping my head in the triathlon game, but it sure is fun to know that a new and exciting sport is waiting in the wings.

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