Trying new things is hard. Returning to old things is hard. Doing anything worth doing is probably hard. 😉
But as the darkness of ignorance falls away we become more comfortable, less afraid, less annoyed. The new is always challenging, which is why we rush past it — getting to know that new boyfriend, wanting to ace that class, mastering that new exercise routine. Basically, we want to light up the new landscape and turn it into a comfortable old one as fast as possible.
I know. I’ve been trying a lot of new things (and new old things) these last couple of years — dating for the first time in over a decade, taking a screenwriting class after almost two decades away from that medium, trying a whole foods diet, wanting to start camping around Georgia, giving away 90% of my possessions, making secret BIG plans for 2019 (coming soon!)…every week I’m out of my comfort zone. It’s a challenge. I sometimes do want to wave a magic wand and be better — be great — at all this new stuff.
But honoring the darkness of not knowing even as it falls away, is important. The more comfortable I can be in this state of pre-knowing, the more I’m willing the return here. To try unusual things. To be willing to laugh at myself — when I fail, when I fall, even just when I have no freakin’ idea what I’m doing (Podcasting: “Hello, hello? Is this thing even on?”).
According to Wikipedia Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.
I would argue that when starting something new, you should also have a ‘master’s calm’. You want to be open and learn but you also want to be in a place of joy and play and have faith in yourself. We often judge ourselves far more than other people do, and we’re embarrassed or ashamed when we make mistakes, when we fail. It seems hard-wired into our brains to look at a single failure as a reason to give up — “Oh well, I guess I’m just not good at that.” But the truth is that everyone really good at “that” practiced to get there. And even if you don’t want to become a master, you’ll be surprised how a few months could make you much more proficient.
When you can stand in the place of not knowing, not yet achieving, you honor your worth outside of your accomplishments. And then you feel less confined to what you already do well. I’m very good at my retail job, but it has nothing to do with who I want to be, or what I want to do in the long run. And so while it’s addictive to stand where you’re already lauded, is it ultimately fruitless if it is not your true home.
Better to step into the darkness, lost, the tiniest flame in your hands and the widest, wildest landscape before you. Better to fail at what you love. Better to succeed along the margins of your destiny. Better to honor yourself before others honor you. And to find peace in the nudging hours of the growing dawn instead of waiting for the riotous applause of the noonday sun.
Better to dance in the darkness and stumble and rise again. Better to join the stars in their magnificent twirl across the heavens.