Sometimes beginners are useful for regaining Beginner’s Mind, the attitude that makes us receptive to learning.
I woke up yesterday morning not particularly receptive to going to Tai Chi. I was tired from a week of fighting winter. Why should I go? After eight years, I pretty well can predict what our instructor Bob will teach on any given week based on where we left off in the form the previous week. The part of the form that he would be covering was not one that I found particularly challenging. While I admit I always pick up a handful of points to help me refine my practice, the thought didn’t give me a lot of motivation. Why should I go? “Because,” I told myself. So, I switched on a comedy sketch in my head to give me some energy as I got ready and drove to class. Thank goodness for a good imagination and that article about the Miami Marlin’s Manatees.
We have a class of students of mixed experience levels. Some have been coming to Bob’s classes for over ten years. Some are in their first year. Most of us are in the middle. Yesterday, when Bob asked for questions before we moved on to the new material for the week, one of the first year students raised her hand. In a nutshell, she said that what we had been learning in the form recently made no sense to her. We had learned about all these wonderful spirals in the beginning of the form and how energy in Tai Chi is circular. Now we were doing all these kicks that didn’t seem to have any circular motion at all. Her questions woke me up. I had never thought about these ideas. Her questions renewed my curiosity about those darn kicks, my nemeses. Her questions also made me pay more attention in the rest of class. As I left for home, I felt that I had just enjoyed a very worthwhile session. Why had I ever considered not going?
Most of us are aware that the more experienced students help the newer students. In our class, Bob will often put the senior students in the corners of the group to use them as points of reference as we do the form. But, I think some of us forget about the contributions that the newer students make to the group. They open us to questions we may have never considered before. They get us out of our “been there, done that” attitude. They renew our excitement about learning.