Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beginners Mind

Just did my daily yoga session which now concludes with some practice pop-ups as recommended by my buddy Rich. I'm still in that stuck place not getting out as much as I'd like, but there's light at the end of this short tunnel.

I've been reading a book called Surf Divas, written by two sisters who run Surf Diva Surf School in San Diego. It's cute and sweet and encouraging of all sisters to get down and learn to surf. Of course, it's also geared towards sisters who want to pick up cute guys and go shopping. I don't really relate to that these days but each surfer chick her own, right?

The more I tell people about my fledgling attempts to ride the waves, the more I hear from other people, women especially, how they are dying to learn to surf and want to come out with me. From what I am learning, it's the eternal irony. On the one hand, it's great to turn people on to surfing. On the other hand, there are only so many waves and breaks, and the more people out there, the fewer waves there are for each person (or so it seems?). Hence those bumper stickers you may have seen that say "Surfing Sucks, Don't Try It."

As soon as I moved to LA in 1997, I expressed the desire to surf to some locals. One, a female friend who grew up near a heavy local scene in the South Bay, warned me that I'd get my ass kicked if I even tried surfing locally. Another, a smoking hot writer/surfer dude friend of mine, warned me that surfing was definitely not for girls and that I'd never be strong enough to do it. ("Surfing Sucks, Don't Try It.")

As luck had it, though, an old friend from the east coast had moved to the Bay Area and become a NorCal surfer (where the water is COLD). Crazy! He's a Jew from the Upper West Side. If he could surf, damn it, then so could I. My first year in LA, he came for a visit with two surfing friends and they took me out in Malibu.

Three things stand out from the experience.
1) I wasn't wearing waterproof sunscreen. It got in my eyes and I was blinded by stinging pain. 2) I peed in his friend's wetsuit and worried about it all afternoon.
3) I caught a wave.

Oh, and one more of his friends was a girl. Take that, LA surfer dude!

Then during Labor Day Weekend of 2007, I got to go out again at a friend's beach house in Carpinteria. I spent so much time paddling, though, that when it came time to pop up, my arms were limp from exhaustion. Ah, well. I was excited enough to promise myself I'd spend the summer of 2008 learning to surf.


So here I am, making up for lost time. But just today, when I was practicing my amateur pop-ups, I had this thought - I've been doing yoga for 21 years.

I'm not a yoga instructor and I'm not a yoga champion. But I've got a pretty good Warrior 2, and my Lotus pose is sweet. I can lay down my mat pretty much anywhere and anytime and do some sun salutations. Yoga is as much a part of me as cooking and working and writing and everything else I've been doing since I was 19 and becoming an adult.

And yet, I still remember one of my first yoga classes. It was not pretty (like the eggplant parmigiana I baked for my boyfriend in 1990). But I didn't focus on how good or bad I (or it) was. I just liked it. I liked how it made me feel during my practice and especially afterwards. I liked going to yoga class with friends and having a good meal afterwards. And, back when I was a regular at Bryan Kest's Power Yoga Studio in Santa Moncia, I liked standing in line on Santa Monica Boulevard, waiting for the previous class to get out.

So, yeah, I'm a beginner and remembering why, so often, I avoid doing anything I'm not already good at. But I'm also experiencing the wonder of doing something new that I'm not already good that. As the famous Zen Monk Shunryo Suzuki-Roshi wrote: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few".

So here's to possibilities.


  1. When I was in Hawaii two years ago I bought a video called Learn to Surf 123. It's by a gal for gals and it's rad. I got it for my daughter (then 3).

  2. I meant "(then 1)." Sheesh I am an idiot.