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Lions Roar : May 2014
I t is natural to fall, to fail to execute a movement, no matter what level of mastery we’ve achieved. The concept of training—of apprenticeship— is fundamental to learning: progressing from what we know to what we don’t, which immediately implies estimating, trying, and erring. No one learns to ride a bike without a bit of hesitation. To get down on ourselves at every failure is to condemn ourselves to permanent incom- petence. Being arrogant is the surest way not to learn. Because everyone knows that to learn anything, we must (once again) accept that we don’t know (something). This is reminiscent of one of the teach- ings of Zen master Shunryu Suzuki that we might reflect on again and again: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibili- ties, but in the expert’s view there are few.” Human life has an incredible potential for freedom, for perfection. No other spe- cies has the ability to wake up one morning and decide to become better and stronger. We alone have this freedom. We must con- template this opportunity again and again; we must rejoice in it and make a firm deci- sion to use our intelligence and our time wisely—to use our energy in a constructive way, in a way that conforms to our values. Thinking about impermanence while reflecting on the preciousness of human existence can lead to unexpectedly power- ful insights, if we’ve meditated correctly. It’s challenging at first, but it can help us become less complicated and a lot calmer. Practitioners of parkour can benefit from the exercise; it helps us reset our priorities and begin trading our illusions for clarity and madness for true courage. The idea is not to become more fearful; on the con- trary, the reflection helps us take useful and calculated risks and avoid doing stu- pid things that we might come to bitterly regret. It gives stability to training, provides a reason for learning. Without any insight, enthusiasm can wane. A reflection on the nature of life—at once temporary and pre- cious—combined with humor and com- passion can bring about real inner change over the long haul and provide a practical wisdom and lasting joy. ♦