Being a beginner is hard. I recently started taking lessons at Bitter Root Pottery at The Village in Woodland Hills. I had seen a video online of a master potter and it inspired me to take a class. Of course, the video was beautiful and made the process look effortless. My first class was anything but effortless. My husband and I went together, and we were both pretty shocked at how challenging it was. We were throwing clay on a wheel to make bowls. I realized quickly how much strength is involved to mold the clay into the shape that you want. It takes a surprising amount of core work and very steady hands. We required a lot of personal help from the instructor and at times I thought, “I am really bad at this!”. However, it was a lot of fun, too! We both made wonky looking bowls which we proudly use for yogurt in the morning.
It was a great experience for me for a couple reasons. The first being that it was something creative and artistic that my husband and I enjoyed doing together (and still do). But more importantly it got me back into the beginner mindset. It’s hard to be new at something. It’s even harder when that new thing is not something that comes naturally. I watched my mind go on a crazy spiral of thoughts the first few times I went to the studio. I realized that I have a really hard time when I don’t think I am good at something. I am not naturally very patient with myself. I watched the whole process in amusement and practiced being kind and open to the new experience. I reminded myself that the teachers had been doing this for many years. I couldn’t expect to be as good as them after 3 classes!
I teach many beginner yoga classes and I see beginner’s all the time. They are excited. They’re nervous. They get impatient with things that are challenging. They sometimes look around the room at the students and teachers who have been practicing longer and might also think to themselves, “I am really bad at this!”.
And yet, they have something that more experienced students sometimes lack. They have an open, honest enthusiasm. They want to learn. They want to improve. They ask questions. They are an empty cup (or bowl so to speak) ready to be filled with knowledge. Sometimes when we get better at something, we loose that. We get jaded and over-confident. That’s why I think it’s important as students (and in yoga we are always students) to remember what it was to be a beginner. Or to put ourselves into situations where we are a beginner again. There is something new to be learned in each of those scenarios. For me, it was invaluable as a teacher to be reminded of the open, scary, and energetic nature of being a beginner. And I even have a few more wonky bowls to show from it!