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Miki Tips: Beginner’s Mind

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“Stick to the basics and when you feel you’ve mastered them, it’s time to start all over again, begin anew, again with the basics, this time paying closer attention.”
—Greg Glassman

There is a concept in Zen Buddhism known as shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness when studying a subject.

It’s easy to have shoshin when you’re learning something new – like when you first learn how to do CrossFit. The learning curve is tremendous. Your mind is empty and open, eager to drink in all the new information – the movements, nutrition, new faces, a new community – and process it to make sense for you. However, as we grow in expertise, our tendency is to become more closed. We think, “I already know how to do this.” We stop listening when Coach teaches the proper way to do a movement, or when they correct you in class. We stop observing how we are moving, and only focus on how to get it done faster or heavier, or by any means possible. Add ego to the mix and we’ve got a recipe for a big old bucket of problems down the road.

There is a danger that comes with expertise. We tend to block information that contradicts what we think we know and yield to the information that confirms our current bias. Like when your coach tells you, based on how they observed your warm up, that you might want to scale down the weight and/or reps, and your ego, or your buddy, tells you, “Nah, bro. You got this.” We think we know best, in all cases, because we know just enough to get in our own way sometimes.

The truth is that when you are becoming an expert, you actually need to pay more attention, not less. Why? Because when you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a given subject, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent – a process, I might add, that can take a lifetime. This is why practicing – and play – are invaluable ingredients for your growth as an athlete and as a person.

Let’s all ditch our egos, stop judging ourselves, and commit to regular play and practice! Instead of going as heavy as possible every single time, maybe this time you lighten up and challenge yourself to do perfect reps. Lock out that bar fully at the top. Make sure your chin gets over the bar when you do a pull up. Don’t shortchange range of motion or points of performance. No doubt this might affect your score, but putting in that practice will allow you to do that heavier weight better and more efficiently next time. Let’s help each other to remember to play – that this is fun, that we choose to do this, and that by remaining playful as we learn, we open ourselves to grow in ways we have not yet imagined.

CrossFit is a long game, and it’s easy to lose sight of that fact as we pursue our ranking on the whiteboard. But I encourage you to view your progress as a journey. If your numbers aren’t going up right now, or that movement isn’t happening yet, have faith, keep playing and practicing. Because in the end, it’s about enjoying the process, not the result, isn’t it? So you might as well have fun along the way.

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