Thursday, December 5, 2013

Beginner’s Mind, part 2

Back in a post here I talked about SJT’s concept of “Beginner’s Mind.”  I’ve thought a lot about this concept and how it applies to our learning process.

Beginner’s Mind is an easy concept: no matter how many times you’ve played a drill or a song, you always want to approach it as if you can learn something new.  But what if you really look at this concept for all its potential?

- It applies to when you are practicing.

This is the basic, surface-level message.   If you think you “know” a drill or song when you’re practicing it, you’re not letting yourself improve as much as you could if you are thinking that you still have progress to make.  Are you striking in the same place every time?  Is your face showing the right mood?  Could you be kiai-ing more?  If someone took a picture during a big motion, would you be happy with the results?  These are just a sample of a long list of questions you could be asking yourself when you play.

- It applies to when you are being taught.

It’s really easy to think you know something and tune someone out who’s teaching it, whether to you or the rest of the class.  I find that hearing how someone teaches something I’m familiar with helps me when I have to teach it later.  I also like hearing different people explain the same thing in different ways.  You never know when someone will explain a concept in a way that just totally clicks for you.

- It applies to when you are observing.

You may have watched people play a song 1,000 times, but I bet there’s something to discover in the 1,001st.  What sticks out?  Is everyone’s energy “on”?  How’s the group tempo; where does it fluctuate?  What would you do differently?  These are questions that you can ask by looking at the group, let alone each person individually.  Even if you don’t/won’t make those comments later, by looking for things in this way, you are still learning.

- It applies outside of the dojo.

It’s not something you only want during practice, but also at performances.  What can you learn from how things are set up, both from your group’s side as well as the stage crew’s/presenter’s side?  Even the little things like setting up stands and getting the drums out are activities you can look at anew, either in terms of efficiency or thinking how you would teach someone to do it.

- It applies outside of taiko/art
Someone who isn’t able to find Beginner’s Mind in taiko probably has trouble doing it in their life as well.  While it is true that familiarity breeds contempt as it were, and over the years it can be hard to keep looking for new things to learn, the general mindset is either there or it’s not.  It’s quite fair to not be interested in something, but is your attitude towards daily things “what can I learn from this?” or more “I already know how to do that.”?

Whether it shows in their behavior, comments, or general vibe, a person with a Beginner’s Mind will invite people to want to teach them.  A person who lacks it tends to get fewer comments and eventually it leads to a vicious cycle of not wanting help and not getting it.

Beginner’s Mind doesn’t mean that you’ll always find new and wonderful things, only that you’re trying.  Are you trying?

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