I wrote yesterday about how hugely important it is when we exit the middle.
The short version:
Beginners don’t need to be given challenges because everything is challenging.
In an advanced practice, you find challenges, because you have a conscious, intentional relationship with yourself and the world around you.
It’s the middle you want to watch out for. When you need other people to create challenges for you.
Most people think the middle is where you are until you get good, but the middle is where you stay until you decide it’s time to be conscious.
And … lots more to say that I didn’t get to.
So. Some answers to questions, and more thoughts on all of this.
What about rest? What if I’m used to resting in the middle?
Rest is a big deal.
And an advanced practice isn’t about straining. It’s about being present and having a conscious relationship with everything you do. So of course rest gets to be a part of that.
You can be engaged and still allow yourself to rest. In fact, you can be engaged in the process of resting.
In yoga (yes, again with the yoga examples), it’s the beginners and advanced practitioners who prioritize rest and the middle who scorns it:
Someone coming to a class for the first time will totally take you up on that offer to “take a child pose”. And people with advanced practices have enough awareness and sovereignty to know when they’re worn out, and to take a conscious, intentional pause.
Beginners love shavasana because they’re exhausted. In an advanced practice you love shavasana because that’s what you’ve been building up to.
But if there has been safety and rest (or other useful qualities) in your experience of the middle, you definitely get to take these with you when you leave.
What if you’re gifted so you sail past the beginner stuff and land in the middle?
This was Sheridan’s question, and it’s a good one.
We need to differentiate between the material you encounter at the beginning of learning something, and the approach of being a beginner.
When you bring the qualities of the beginner — genuine curiosity, receptivity, willingness to be wrong — to whatever it is you’re doing, it’s conscious.
And once your relationship to what you’re doing is conscious, you have an advanced practice.
You can still breeze through the material, but as long as you’re having a conscious relationship with it and yourself, you’re not in the middle.
In fact, by asking that question, you’re not in the middle.
Is that what people mean by “beginner’s mind”?
Beginner’s mind is about taking on the qualities of beginning:
Curiosity. Receptivity.The willingness to be wrong (or surprised!), the noticing of things, the excitement, the anticipation, the lack of attachment to any One Right Way.
When you’re in this state, everything is new.
And yes, the (obvious) implication: as soon as you choose to consciously invoke these qualities, you’re in an advanced practice. Engaging with beginner’s mind is an advanced practice.
Exiting the middle: pursuing “beginner’s mind” and going beyond it.
It’s the combination of choice plus conscious awareness that does it.
It’s not the mindset of beginning-ness all by itself. It’s the fact that you’re consciously choosing this state that negates the middle.
And choosing the challenge of being in it.
So an advanced practice is not just agreeing to approach things like a beginner might.
It’s making a decision to invoke the qualities of beginning, with intention and focus and maybe even with love.
But what if the middle is where I belong?
It is really tempting to stay in the middle. Because that’s where the struggle is. Where you’re constantly trying to get better.
And it feels good. It feels familiar. Striving for an advanced practice that doesn’t really exist, instead of choosing the actual advanced practice of engaging with where we are.
We all go through this — I have been in many a middle. In fact, I’m probably in all sorts of middle spaces right now. The middle is a place that we all stand sooner or later.
We just don’t have to stay. And the second we’re conscious of it, we’re already on our way out.
What about when you want so badly to be “advanced” that you can’t move forward?
Back to the yoga example … my teacher used to say, “it’s better to do yoga with your head, not with your leg behind your head”.
And I knew he was right, but it was so appealing to keep striving to get there. So I stayed in the struggle of the middle, hoping that someone would help me (or make me) overcome something.
I knew, intellectually, that I could be the person who engages with her own relationship to something, instead of the person who needs to master something.
But I didn’t want to exit the middle.
What if I can’t stop judging myself for being in the middle?
That’s part of the middle. It’s part of being there.
We’re there because we don’t know that we don’t have to stay there. And we’re there because we beat ourselves up for being there.
The middle itself is not a bad place, necessarily.
It’s just that we don’t need to stay.
We don’t need our desire to be good at something to keep us captive in the struggle of trying to get somewhere. Because as soon as we decide to mindfully, compassionately find out more about where we are, we’re done being there.
But how do you exit the middle?
You choose it. The way out of the middle is choice. That’s all.
An advanced yoga practice does not require you to be able to stick your leg behind your head or balance yourself on an elbow.
That’s the stuff the middle strives for.
An advanced yoga practice begins in that moment when, say, standing in the post office, you begin to notice something about how you’re standing or how your’e breathing.
You are in a state of reconnaissance: observing yourself and your relationship to your surroundings.
You notice. You question. You make adjustments. You meet yourself with love. Or: you meet your inability to meet yourself with love.
It’s about saying yes. And asking questions.
I don’t care if we’re talking about business or gardening or embroidery, it’s all the same. You exit the middle by saying yes to this state of being engaged and present with what you’re experiencing.
So the challenge that we’re saying yes to doesn’t have to be big and super challenge-ey.
Having a conscious relationship with yourself and your stuff is the challenge.
It might only be the challenge of noticing where your breath is. The challenge of giving yourself permission to stop when things get hard. Or the challenge of paying attention to what you’re feeling and thinking in any given moment.
But it’s yours. And you choose it.
Confidential to CB.
And everyone else who hit a wall with yesterday’s post, or whose monsters are using this concept of the middle to make you feel bad about yourself.
You’re not in the middle, sweetpea. The middle is where we are when we choose not to consciously engage with our stuff.
If you’re asking yourself questions about your relationship to the middle, that’s conscious engagement. Which is already a very advanced practice.
And the thing is: consciously interacting with ourselves and our stuff is hard. And you are brave and wonderful for being in it. That is all.
And comment zen for today…
Oh, this is hard, challenging stuff. Working on our stuff is so full of things to trip over.
It’s a process. And sometimes it’s also kind of a pain in the ass.
Wishing you support with whichever part you’re working on. As always, we let people have their own experience, and we do this by being supportive and kind and not giving advice unless they ask for it.
Internet hugs all around, to anyone who needs one.