MY SUMMER OF BEING A BEGINNER

"In the beginner's mind there is no thought, 'I have attained something.' All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice." - Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, from "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"

Today felt like the first day of fall in Colorado. We get more sunny days here than San Diego, so the summer can drag on through September. It made me reflect on my past summer and all the new activities that I started to participate in and how they humbled me.

I started off learning to swim. In June, I could barely swim across the pool just once! I remember in one of my first swim classes, one of the people at the pool ran up to my trainer and said, "You better go help that guy! It looks like he is about to drown!". He was not far from the truth at all.

I was also learning to ride a road bike. Not that I didn't know how to ride a bike. I just didn't know how to ride one that fast, as I soon found out when took a dive going 30 miles per hour down hill. And I used to think turf burn was bad.

These two activities led me to my first sprint triathlon in which I was passed in the water by two different heats (men in their fifties and sixties and women) that were started long after my group. I may have been a world champion in one thing, but in another, I was in 101st place thanks to the fact that there were only around 200 people there!

I started practicing Jiu-Jitsu with my good friend, John Davie, who you can hear on the podcasts that I have been doing lately. I pretty much get choked out or put in an arm bar several times a day, unless my training partner is just being nice.

Finally, I started my masters program in psychology this past month (I will tell you all more about that soon and is my excuse for not writing more lately). Although I spent many years as a student, a whole decade off from school, made me feel like a freshman all over again. Thankfully, when people are 33 years old, they no longer dunk your head in the toilet.

So, good for you Trevor! You want a cookie or a medal?

As much as I would always like a cookie (preferably chocolate chip to any moms reading my blog), that's not my point. My point is that I had forgotten what it was like to be a beginner! I coach youth and high school players all the time that are just learning lacrosse for the first time and I used to have little compassion for them. I would think to myself, "Why can't they just catch the ball? How hard can that possibly be?". Well, about as hard as it is for me trying to swim a single lap in a pool or as it is for me not to get tapped by a blue belt in about 10 seconds or less.

It made me see how important it is to be positive and encouraging with my younger and less experienced players. It felt so good for me to get words of encouragement and support from the people that I was learning these new skills from. It also felt so discouraging when I was constantly told what to do better or what I was doing wrong. Why wouldn't it be the same for the little laxers that I work with?

I realized from my summer of being a beginner, that it's important for us as coaches, as teachers and as parents to always be learning something new. How can we teach others to learn a new skill, study a new subject manner or behave in a new way if we have forgotten to be beginners ourselves? The answer is we can try, but we will not be as effective.

Sometimes I have been accused of being a "jack of all trades but a master of none". That's fine with me as long as I am being a "beginner of one" on top of that. As Shunryu Suzuki wrote in that quote above, this is when we are really able to learn something about ourselves and through that, others.