Awe and Innocence


Can you remember the last time you stared at the stars in awe?  Do you remember wondering if worms really have seven hearts?  Thinking about how there might not be life on earth without the giant magnetism of the moon?  Those things in science and nature;  mysteries of life that baffle and fill you with a sense of wonder and smallness.  Take knitting for example.  How in the world did anyone figure out to make all of these little loops that fit together to make an argyle sock?  A couple of shivering chimps in a forest with two sticks and some extra long butt-hairs said, “Gee, I think we can make us here a sweater”?

Recently I took the very first class from a yoga instructor, just back from his teacher training in Brazil.  The very same teacher training that I did only just last year.

It all came rushing back:  all of that raw terror.  Raw because you just spent a month peeling back so many layers it’s like skin singed with third-degree burns.  Emotions, axons and dendrites all aflutter from exposure to thoughts, memories, fears and insecurities blistering and bubbling at the surface that had previously been comfortably repressed for most of your former life.

I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes in this one year.  A thousand new starts, a thousand little deaths, a thousand triumphs and a thousand ass-over-teakettle wipe-outs.

But there he was, stammering through his very first yoga class.  And not even stammering all of that much, to tell the truth.  A bundle of nerves, pacing grooves into the studio floor, body language wilted with whatever the antonym of temerity is.  As I practiced, my heart swelled with compassion and pride, trying to emanate encouragement from my sweat glands.

It got me thinking:  we’ve all been there.  At some time or another, doing whatever we’re doing now, that maybe we have been doing for a very long time, we once did for the first time.

I hesitate to include a Madonna lyric, but you know where I’m headed.

There once was an innocence to the inquiry.  A passion in the pondering.  Maybe it is the first time you did a handstand; felt the blood rush to your head as you balanced in an upside-down world devoid of gravity.  Or the first time you had a child, sold a house, hit a homerun, passed the bar exam, fell in love or travelled to a foreign country.   The first time is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating because you are making the leap to travel down an upaved road into new, unchartered territory.

And once you’ve done that thing a thousand times over, a little gets lost along the way.  Awe becomes rubbed out in a wash of predictability.  Childlike wonder morphs into habit and boredom.

Becoming a yoga instructor changed something for me in my own practice.  It stripped away a little of the mystery; a little of the awe, some of that newness, that beginner-ness of one who is simply a student—nothing more than a sponge in which to soak up and retain.

And so this is a dedication to the students.  To the learners; the dreamers, the wishers, the  liars, the hopers, the pray-ers, the magic-bean-buyers.  To the Beginners mind, “which is the open mind; an attitude that includes doubt and possibility, the ability to see things always as fresh and new.”

To the students, who are always, every day, my teachers.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ted grand
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 18:23:22

    What a lovely reminder to keep going back to beginner’s mind, over and over and over again. And over again. And again. Thanks, Jennifer!


  2. Tory Zimmerman
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 16:51:58

    I agree! so nice to see you, and thank you for this Jen!! xoxo


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