Jan Parker first told me that these are three of the most debilitating words to any practice. And she was right!
In seven years, I have learned the 108-move solo form three different times from my two taiji teachers. This most recent time was an 8-day intensive with a focus on principles and applications.
Of course, the first time I learned the form, I knew I knew nothing, so I was a sponge. It took me nine months and much practice every day. Everything my teacher said was the first time I’d heard it, considered it, looked at it, or thought about it. Maybe it reminded me of other things I’d learned in other arts, but still it was new. That was great. I loved it. I couldn’t stop practicing, because there was so much new to experience and embody.
The second time I learned the form, three years later, I was, of course, not the same sponge. I was looking for new information, something to add to what I already now knew. (uh oh….there’s that idea that ‘ I know that’ feeling). And what I found is that my teacher was right about “I know that’; there really is nothing like already knowing something to shut down the mind to the possibility of going deeper in one’s understanding of something, or even of really receiving correction. I lost something real important in my practice, some enthusiasm or something. I kept it up, but I had a little too much of the “I know that” mind. This is why the zen masters talk so much about beginner’s mind.
This third time learning the 108…..for whatever reason, I felt much more like a sponge again. And lucky me! I feel like I have a brand new form…from the inside out. There are some moves I will do the same with a different understanding of what I am doing. And there are a few moves that I will practice quite differently from how I ever did before. And in one or two cases, I am correcting a misunderstanding that has actually kept me from moving forward in the practice of my art. So glad, I didn’t know that!
If you are one of my students reading this, I hope you are excited about the new aspects of the 108 practice that I will share with you. And I invite you to notice the power of believing “I know that” to close your mind to the possibility of what is still to discover in another person, in a field of study, or in an art, or even in a form you have learned.
And for me,…. I am inspired again and again to cultivate beginner’s mind every day. (Thanks for the lessons, Sam). Not only in seminar with my teachers, but in my practice, and in my teaching. And everyone else, beware of those three little words: I know that!
‘Til the next move
Enjoy your practice
Such a powerful lesson tonight, thanks for sharing some of your Canadian workshop experience. It has made a difference already. I got some of that today, will get some again next week and the rest, down the line. Thanks for being willing to dig deeper in to your lessons with Sam. Cultivating beginner’s mind, oh, yeah! That’s me, a sponge for sure. Thanks for that memory of yours, I’m on the same road except that I’m a student first and foremost. I have some practice but start over every single day. What you brought today to your teaching calls me to go and explore every single thing, of how “this feels” and where it leads me and then, how pung/clunky is that? And then, “how can I rest there”? Almost too much, but wow, so much to look at. Thank you, Shifu Dorian.
You’re welcome Laur – keep up the good play!
You are more than welcome!