November 25, 2013

Be a Beginner Every Day. ~ April Martucci

The intermediate student thinks they know something; the beginner and the advanced know they know nothing.

One of the main objectives in yoga is to be present. We hear this ubiquitous phrase everywhere: be present. If you have been listening to anything in classes, you have at least picked up on that. Focus on the breath, watch your mind. If something interrupts you, any thought whatsoever, come back to the breath and be present.

Sound familiar?

Congratulations if you have gotten that far in your practice. It’s a huge challenge to quiet that chatty mind—the monkey mind—but let’s take it a touch further.

What does it mean to ‘be present’? Being present while simultaneously still full of our own agendas and ideas of how things ‘should’ be is an oxymoron. Certainly it is possible to be ‘present’ in any space, but when underneath it all we continue to hold on to our fixed beliefs, the things we think we know, well, then we are not maximizing the benefits of this very simple, yet profound teaching.

Being present requires that you make space inside yourself. We must cultivate a ‘beginner’s mind‘ in all situations regardless of how practiced we are. You can be doing downward dog until you are 95 years old, but if you are holding on to what you think you ‘know’ for all those years, you are missing the point of this ancient practice.

One of the main goals of yoga is enlightenment. An enlightenment individual is present all the time. They are not remembering what so and so did to them, or how they think things should be.

They are not dwelling on a dead past or fantasizing on an unborn future.

I heard once that Al Pacino showed up to perform Salome with a whole story about the character in his mind and how he would read it. When he arrived, the director said a totally different thing. Pacino famously discarded his pre-conceived idea and stayed present by shifting into a new perception which was given to him. Obviously, he is skilled in his craft. But we can all do this. And the reward is so great …it is less suffering.

Recently in Nashville, I took a wonderful yoga class. The teacher was definitely experienced, but that is not what made it great for me personally. What made it great was the way that I was able to maximize my practice was by emptying my cup—I showed up with nothing that would interfere with what I needed to hear on that day (the radio static interference is ego & fear).

Perhaps it was easier because I was already open and available to anything (as many of us are when out of the comfort zone, travelling). Physically, I was literally in a different American state, mentally my state of mind was clear, curious. But just like Pacino was able to jump into a new perception immediately, I too, am able to  more easily empty out and be present. It’s because I have been practicing this, my craft, for several years now.

Even if I go in with a ‘script’ in my head, I discard it for what ever is really happening.

“Our bodies have gotten used to being tight,” she said.


And our minds have gotten used to thinking we know everything.

When you show up at work everyday, you have an idea of how things will go most days. You have an expectation derived from experience and history. Normal.

When you show up to see a friend, unconsciously, you already know what you know about the person standing before you—you have imprinted your mind with ‘how they are’. Normal. They do this to you, too. We all do it. We are rarely ever present. We have seen the movie a million times. When we see it again, we ‘know’ what is coming up.

The yogi is not ‘normal;’ the yogi is radical. It is radical to live in this way—radical because it is not the norm, and it is hard work.

With our most intimate relationships, we act out of fear more often than love. That fear creates a story in our minds that creates a false safety.

We do not own people. We cannot ‘make’ people change. Fear convinces us that we can control everything and everyone from the control panel in our own minds. It is all illusion.

What if we showed up empty, new? Every time, each day.

A classic example of not showing up empty and present is when you imagine someone has slighted you. Maybe that co-worker, friend or partner had a crummy day. We all do from time to time. But rather than shrugging it off as them having a bad day, you take it personally. So the next time you see that person, you give them a slight back. An eye for an eye. And then you say that you practice being present in yoga?

It’s not enough to focus on the breath. We need to let go of thinking we know something. Know you know nothing everyday—then you will know that you have progressed in your yoga practice. Just like on the mat—when you don’t overstretch your hamstrings by going farther farther farther—instead you go deeper.

Allow life to unfold. Life is mysterious and magical. Operate from love not fear.


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Editor: Renée Picard

{Photo: ╚ DD╔ on flickr}


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