At the start of yoga class last night, my teacher said, “We practice so much, we have to remember to be beginners. Be beginners!”
By which I understood her to mean that we need to hold in our minds all the things we learn as beginners in each moment of our practice. To pay attention to the basics of sitting, the basics of standing. To approach our practice with a kind of unknowing, a willingness to learn and be taught. And perhaps most importantly, to give ourselves permission to make mistakes ??? we’re beginners, after all.
In a way, this is a continuation of my thoughts from last week when I was writing about the fearlessness of children ??? how as new writers they don’t have pre-conceived notions of what’s good or bad. They just write. In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says:
“When I teach a beginning class, it is good. I have to come back to the beginner’s mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing. In a sense, that beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again.”
Be beginners! It’s a good thing to strive for ??? both in yoga and in writing. The trick, is of course, to hold on to the beginner’s mind while also bringing to bear all that we’ve learned since we were beginners. We need to balance our wonder and openness with all knowledge that we’ve gained from making our beginner’s mistakes. In One Continuous Mistake, Gail Sher paraphrases Carl Jung:
“We learn nothing from our successes“which simply prescribe business-as-usual. We learn everything form our mistakes, which require us to analyze where we went wrong and invent fresh strategies.”
I believe in writing from this place of a being a seasoned (?) beginner. I like to wade into (for me) unknown territories of poetry and language. To try things, to play, to experiment. And although I don’t like it so much, I’m trying to get better at failing.
Which is why, I think I’ve been having so much trouble with in my attempts to write a manifesto. I was invited as a politicized artist and educator to write and submit a manifesto to a new journal that is launching with a collection of manifestos.
To write a manifesto, you have to be definitive. By definition, you must declare and proclaim. I’m not often a proclaimer ??? I equivocate, I ask questions, I offer up alternatives. This probably has a lot to do with my gender conditioning, but I think it’s also my personality. I’m wondering how, if I’m always questioning and experimenting, can I justify any kind of proclamation?
Writing a manifesto requires bravery, confidence in one’s self and ideas, and a belief that these ideas are worthwhile, worth being read, worth being taken seriously as a new way to look at the world/literature. How brave am I?
I’m afraid I might fail ??? afraid that what I write won’t seem be smart enough or offer up anything new. So perhaps the way into this is to write a manifesto firmly situated in my beginner’s mind. To say what I really believe and risk appearing ridiculous. To learn as I do. A beginner’s manifesto.
I’ll let you know how it goes.