Beginning is hard.
Whether it be a new project, a business, an assignment or an exercise routine, starting is often the most difficult part. Really, for a lot of us the hardest part of our day is beginning it, leaving the sanctuary of our warm, nest-like bed as the cold and world wait outside. The alarm goes off and the internal argument begins; a grumbling discussion about whether or not you have to get up or if you can think of a reason to stay a little longer.
What does it mean to begin? When does the beginning become the middle, and then the end and who decides when you have begun? Does the day begin at one past midnight, with the sunrise or when you wake?
The hardest part is the recognition that this decision is up to you. Our circumstances may dictate when we should rise, but ultimately the choice is ours.
For the majority of us who live in the city, our life revolves around work and responsibilities. We wake up, get out of bed, do what we must to get ready and start our day.
How is this relevant to beginning something you have never tried before such as, for example, starting to practice yoga? Because, in its essence, it is the same. You begin because, for one reason or another, you decide to.
Often, beginning is made analogous with walking a path, a neat metaphor as they are so easily comparable. When I think of starting, however, I envisage it slightly differently.
To me, it is a dimly lit corridor, one with an unknowable end and numerous doors laid out before my feet. Each section is different and new, as if the carpet, walls and even doors themselves have been slightly redesigned by someone with a new vision.
I look at beginning in this way because I don’t think its as simple as walking down an open path. This implies both that it can be stepped off and that one can return to the start, an unobstructed walkway which allows its pedestrian to go backwards as much as forwards.
The old adage of ‘there is no going back’ is more applicable than people think. Once you have attended your first yoga class, you cannot return to the beginning of your journey down that hallway. You have gone to your first class and you can never go to your first class again: that door has closed behind you. You will stay in this next section until you decide to take the necessary steps needed to continue through the next one waiting patiently in front of you.
It is easier not to start. If we don’t begin, we cannot fail. Yet failure will always be the greatest teacher, as any successful person by any definition will espouse, and regret and resentment are the neighbours waiting to settle in if we decide to let fear take up residence within us.
Maybe the key to the beginner’s mind is to recognise fear, but not succumb to it; to approach newness with the same openness and excitement children do. Without the years of emotional baggage and failed attempts so many of us carry, kids are free to tackle life with joy and a desperate desire to experience and learn. They see the hallway and begin to run headfirst toward the potential adventures which lie ahead. Fear hasn’t yet seeded in their minds, shading the vibrant colours of life with shadows of doubt.
The basic axiom of most happiness and spiritual teachings is that there is only now. The future and past exist purely in thought, regardless of how real they may feel to us. Not beginning something we know we want to is sacrificing the happiness of now for the prospect of what may or may not be. Children understand this innately; living in the present with no regrets because they do what their hearts ask of them.
I read once that the most important step any person can take is the next one. We may not know where our feet will take us, in fact we almost certainly won’t, nor where the hallway will finish or lead to. What we do know, however, is we will never know unless we walk through the first door. The first step is the hardest, an honest act of courage and faith in ourselves, regardless of the pursuit.
Perhaps the key to beginning, to the beginner’s mind, is approaching life with childlike abandon. Perhaps it is understanding there is no ‘one step forwards, two steps back’ because those doors have permanently closed behind us. Perhaps it is recognising how not beginning and simply staring down the hallway is unthinkable, a personal torture we are unable to endure.
It may be all of these, or none, but in the end beginning is simply taking the first step, one foot in front of the other as we walk forwards with the knowledge that once we do, we won’t need to look back.
Everyone has the strength to start something new. You begin each day, and even when you don’t, you have before and you will again. The only truth any of us can be assured of is that we have this life to live as we see fit, to be who we choose to be. Beginning is hard, but not beginning is harder.
The sun will rise tomorrow, as will you. Shine brightly and maybe your light will show the hallway is beckoning, welcoming you to a new door begging to be opened.
– Ziggy Razuki