When I was in high school, I hated being the ‘new kid’. At college tours and orientations, I balked and was irritated by the way the students were crowded together and talked down to, herded like cattle. When, during orientation, we were finally given freedom to explore the campus, I made a point of getting lost so that come fall semester, I wouldn’t be that freshman. Instead, I happily gave directions to other bewildered students and their parents.
This dislike of being a beginner – of having to admit my own ignorance, and sometimes start with nothing, has sometimes been incredibly frustrating. I have a thirst for knowledge that can be difficult to quench, but trying something in which I have no previous experience is often outside of my comfort zone.
Recently, however, I’ve decided not to look at it as how much I don’t know, but how much I can learn. Parkour has opened up so many doors in my life, and they all seem to lead to a happier, healthier, better lifestyle. A few new interests are nutrition, fitness, and education, naturally, but a deeper and less measurable change is a passion and a joy for life and the endless possibilities that surround me.
I remember an old story about a Zen master and a professor who came to learn from him. The professor was much more interested in impressing the master with everything he already knew. The master listened, and then offered the professor some tea. He poured until his visitor’s cup was full, then overflowing. The professor stopped him, exclaiming “The cup is full!” No more will go in!” The master nodded. “Like this cup,” he said, “you are already so full that there is no room for anything else. How can I teach you anything if you are already full?”
It’s a fault of mine, especially in areas such as martial arts, to be so enthusiastic and eager to impress my teacher that I overflow, and there’s no room for the things that I don’t know. I’ve found it works better if I can let go of the things I know, take that step into the unfamiliar, however scary it might be, and experience what I’m trying to learn without ego, without expectation, as a child would.
One cannot progress in any field without first learning the basics. There’s so much to explore in the world, so many sources of joy and wonder, if we only allow ourselves to let go of pride, acknowledge that we have much to learn, and allow ourselves to be beginners.