The Zen buddhist word for this is shoshin. Practicing shoshin asks us to surrender our preconceived notions and keep an attitude of open mindedness.
To discuss this concept, I’d like to go back to when I was a beginner teaching yoga– because that was one of the first times I really stepped outside of my comfort zone.
When I was younger, public speaking was incredibly uncomfortable. I had no self confidence and no sense of self. I literally felt like a flopping fish in front of people.
Teaching yoga really helped me get comfortable speaking in front of groups of people- sometimes large groups, sometimes small groups, and sometimes just one or two people. I really kind of grew up teaching yoga- it was something I did from the time I graduated college until I finished Physical Therapy school 7ish years later.
When I was a super super early beginner, I followed a constructed sequence. I didn’t want to deviate from it because I knew it had all the foundational parts of the class that I wanted to include.
When I was like an early beginner, I was too scared to deviate from the plan because I didn’t want to leave anything out.
Then I entered the phase/ mindset that I think shoshin refers to- that space as a beginner where you have some foundational ground to stand on- and where you’re willing to experiment and find out things that might not fit into your current schema of how things work.
I think this is such a unique place to be.
Its not like the most beginner phase because there we’re just trying to make everything fit into our boxes so that things make sense. But that phase in any context isn’t really reality- things just don’t fit into boxes very well.
I think this is why they call a Doctorate of Physical Therapy an entry level degree. What? its a fucking doctorate. I’ve been in graduate school for 3+ years and I have an entry level degree? This is crazy.
I think what new grads have as an advantage over people that have been practicing for a long time is that willingness to try shit! They are not super attached to certain techniques working. They still have that beginner’s open mindedness.
I think its the natural way of things for that open mindedness to narrow overtime, which is why I think it takes conscious effort to widen our scope again.
I think because I saw this phenomenon during my short time practicing physical therapy, I have made an effort to keep a beginner’s mind as a nutrition coach.
I’m in that space where I understand the foundational elements at play- and I’m new enough in the field (with almost 3 years of practice) that I’m not attached to any one way of doing things.
My default way of doing things is to have clients track macros. But I have clients who don’t ever track macros. I have clients who take pictures of their food. I have clients who weigh themselves daily and clients who don’t ever think about going near a scale.
There just isn’t one way to do things.
Each individual’s history, preferences, and goals require a unique approach- unique to them.
And I’m not doing any wizardry over here. Just listening to people- making my best assessment of the situation- and working together with the client so we can start walking from point A to point B.
And those of you who have worked with me know this- sometimes as we’re walking to point B, it changes or we realize its not really where we wanted to go- so we redirect for point C.
It happens all the time.
I think that’s what I love about this work so much. Even I am surprised where this work takes clients.
So I think its important for me to keep a beginner’s mind so that I can ebb and flow with the process as the client’s wants/ needs also evolve.
Another context to think about this concept… with my training over this past year, as I’ve been peeling back the onion layers that are my injuries and compensatory patterns, my rehab exercises started off pretty complex and they have become simpler and simpler as I have figured out specifically what areas need to be addressed. In motor learning, this is known as part practice- that is taking a complex skill and breaking it down into its component parts- the idea being that strengthening the component parts will better set you up for success with the complex movement pattern.
Doing rehab work definitely takes a mindset shift as it is tedious and difficult work. I’ve found that keeping the “beginner’s mind” helps me stay engaged and remember that I’m never to advanced for the basics- AND that there’s a possibility that what I’ve been doing hasn’t been the most effective- and I have permission to try a different way.
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that keeping a “beginner’s mind” is very closely linked to “remaining curious” (which was the topic of my last post).
It’s no coincidence that I’ve taken 2/10 posts to write about these ideas.
They have been fundamental to my growth personally, athletically, and professionally.
Thanks for being here :))