Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Just Like Walking
(note - the above photo is not me). Although it could have been. In fact, it could have been any of us. Barring disability, usually in the first year or two, we learn to walk. It's a trial-and-error process that is fraught with initial failure. We stand, we wobble, we fall, we cry. We get up and try again. Eventually, we make it. It's not easy and inconsistent at the beginning. It hurts and is frustrating. Still, we persevere and, having done so, experience a new world of possibilities that come from no longer crawling but from standing and walking upright. We are faster and can now use our hands at the same time to reach something higher than we could on all fours. We experience a completely new vantage point where things look different than before.
I can't think of any baby, barring disability, that does not ultimately figure out how to stand and walk. That said, every baby struggles and falls for awhile at the beginning. Every baby experiences the frustration associated with being unable to do something the first time you try. Babies cry but they don't give up. At the beginning they rely on help from adults but they are also striving for independence. Babies don’t decide “ walking is too hard. I think I’ll just stay down here...”
Our training is often like this. There are setbacks and frustrations at the beginning. Often, it feels like the body will not obey the mind. The hands and feet just don't go where we want them to. Intellectually we understand the movement and principle but we have trouble doing it. We are inconsistent and our performance varies with each rep. Sometimes, people give up on martial arts training because they "just can't get it" or "it's not for me". Luckily, babies don't have the same ego, and they intuitively know that walking is worth the struggle.
Eventually, walking becomes second nature for people. Given enough practice, so does almost anything else. I am always amazed by the incredible things human beings can do through practice - not just physical things but mental and emotional things. I am amazed that through practice and habit people can overcome nearly any obstacle - many disabled people learn to walk and run as well as anyone else.
In Zen Buddhism we often refer to a "Beginner's Mind" or "Children's Mind" and infer the sense of curiosity and wonder at the everyday beauty of our life. To me this Beginner's Mind also means letting go of the ego associated with failure so that we can invest the practice needed to acquire, and ultimately master, new skills. As far as we can tell, babies don't feel shame that they can only crawl when other toddlers can walk. Instead, they focus on imitation and practice until they, too, are up and moving.
Whatever you want to do, the first steps will be tough, but don't give up.
You will get there. I promise. When you do, it will be worth it.