Shoshin: Harness Your Beginner’s Mind

The 2018 CrossFit Games Open has been so much fun! The energy and excitement is palpable and contagious. With 1 week left, I also sense we’re all a little tired from the weekly cycles of it, but I know we got something left in the tank to finish with gusto and make some memories.

I want to talk about what comes after the Open. You know, the other 47 weeks of the year. If you’re not able to Rx many of the movements yet, it can be frustrating and motivating at the same time to look up at the bar or rings and wonder, or watch the person next to you rep something out with ease that you can’t do 1 of yet. And whatever Dave Castro cooks up each week is all that’s on the menu, so you’re forced to confront where you’re at with these movements, or go hungry. Via the leaderboard, you also get to see where you stand in the world. Like scrolling through highlight reels on Instagram, it can make each of us feel a little small at times. Don’t worry, it’s not true.

One of the things I’ve learned to pay attention to is how people “play.” It’s like when kids hang out in the backyard and come up with a game without instruction, or find something creative or playful to do on their own. Making sandcastles, role playing, dancing, arts and crafts, etc. It gives an intuition on where their enthusiasm is, and what brings them joy without a coach or parent pushing them one way or another.

I see this happening now mostly with the gymnastics skills each week after all the heats are finished, and it makes me go “hmmm.” It’s fun, it’s giggly, people are still pushing themselves and taking risks, falling down and getting up smiling. That’s what’s up.

It also gets the gears turning on how we can get each of you to your next level. Now to be sure, we have some higher priorities than achieving particular skills in the gym, such as your safety, long-term health, proficiency at CrossFit’s 9 Foundational movements first (which doesn’t include pull-ups or handstands), and enjoyment of exercise. Doing a muscle-up in the gym is going to have very little direct carryover to your day to day physical function doing [insert your job and typical household chores]. But it is as worthy a pursuit as any, and that pursuit may be quite enjoyable and create a nice synergy with the higher priority items.

Part of the beautify of CrossFit is that a few times a week for an hour or two you can literally train like a competitive athlete does (but in a scalable way), and feel some of the highs of sports that you may have thought were all in the past, or would never be. Further, if you’re training and don’t have a serious reason not to progress at something (such as an old injury), then it’s actually our job and commitment to you to make sure you eventually do reach those milestones! Even if it takes years, as it should in many cases.

Anyhow, back to the kids. What is it about their play that is so heart-warming? I think it’s their Shoshin.

Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “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 would.

Think about your current mindset surrounding a pull-up, muscle-up, or handstand walk. Does it contain some judgements about your current abilities, how far they are from where they “should” be, maybe some body image thoughts laced in there, and a self-assessment cherry on top of whether you are capable of the growth necessary to achieve? Call it a judgement sundae.

Now imagine an adult telling you as a kid that you should take your sandcastle building more seriously. Then enjoy a hearty laugh, since we all hopefully agree how ridiculous that sounds. Except in the case of self-judgement that adult is you, and so is the kid. Ahh the perils of adulthood and our expectations.

But you can work your way out of this thinking. Beginner’s Mind is what we need to cultivate, and it can be done. You don’t have to be a kid to see something with a fresh perspective. You can also set goals for yourself and make a commitment to them while you understand at the end of the day it’s all play. The secret of high achievement is to make it fun.

You can also trust in your coaches to guide you, and let them take care of the details while you “play” at one of our upcoming Excursions, because we’re paying attention to what brings out your Shoshin, and believe you are quite capable. Stay tuned!


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