Book Excerpts

Beginner's Mind

teetering …
a toddler balances
ice cream


We all have to start somewhere.  And for a new endeavor, that means at the beginning.  “Teetering” … yes, that will be part of it.  Learning, forgetting and studying again and again to finally “get it,” to finally “own it,” will be part of it too.  I look at all Martial Art beginners as toddlers, in a way.  They wobble:  they bobble.  They forget:  they lose their balance.  And though they might not drop the ice cream, they drop techniques and concepts and probably will for years down the line.

The art of learning requires a Beginner’s Mind.  A Beginner’s Mind is an open and receptive mind.  It has been said for centuries that a cup already full is a cup that has lost its usefulness.  When students reach a place where they believe they “already know it,” they have become that full cup, without potential, and in serious danger of limiting their talent’s possibilities forever.

Being a constant beginner.  That’s the attitude!  Don’t expect anything.  That’s the attitude!  Simply embark on the humble path of learning.  Follow the words of your instructor.  Practice at home.  Ask few questions but search for many answers.  Stay anchored and don’t miss participating.  Continue to realize that most of your questions and all of your doubts will be satisfied over the next 100 years! … I’m long range minded.

About the time you think you know something, that is also about the time you should emerge, yet again, with the Beginner’s Mind.  Forget about what you know or don’t know. Forget about knowing or not.  Keep the beginner’s mind: remain empty.  The techniques you’ve studied properly will continue to develop and enlighten you for years to come. Take a look around.  Notice how many of them apply to your everyday life.  I’d say, “All of them!”  Whether you take up golf, piano, photography or any other discipline, you are best off if you hold on to the principle of being the perpetual beginner and don’t stray from it—not even an inch.

Possibly, one day in the future, you might take a moment and look at yourself as advanced!  But then, in a split second or less, empty your cup once more and continue on your journey of training, learning and practicing.

Keep the cup empty—always.  Keep the ego checked at the door.  One of my teachers used to remark, “If it isn’t good for you, just cut it off!”  I always hope he wasn’t speaking literally! In regards to ego, however, he was!

Stay focused.  Remember, the beginner’s teetering will eventually leave on its own.  With proper instruction and a diligent attitude, you will stop the wobbles and bobbles and become solid.  You will find your center, your balance, and eventually your advanced self … without even knowing it.

It takes time:  it takes you.

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© Don Baird
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