Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beginners Mind and SUP by Len Barrow

My Ego and Sup Surfing

According to the great Zen Master Dogen Zenji, the beginners mind is the Zen mind.   The neophyte mind is playful, open and fluid.  Zen “consciousness” is a mind-set that is ”pre-self like”. The closest likeness is to that of a young child’s or babies mind.  If you put a baby up to a mirror, the child cannot recognize his or herself in the mirror.  This means the child is not aware of the self.  Everything in a child’s world is a moment of discovery and interest.  All is new in this mind-set.  A young child (pre-ego) has no views of rich and poor, good and bad, high and low.  The baby just moves along like a river.  That is why Dogen Zenji states that the beginners mind is the Zen mind.
As we grow older we manifest into egotistical children, teenagers and adults.  We like and dislike, hate and love. We grasp for things that we usually cannot reach.  This often leads to anxiety and depression.  For this reason the Buddha described life as suffering.
For all of my talk of Zen and Buddhism, I can ironically and hypocritically fall into egotistical thinking.  A week or so back I decided to try SUP surfing.  My arrogant concern was that I was to be a kook again.  I desired to cheat my way out of this situation.  More so, I wanted to ”rip the wave” on my first go out.  
I went to the Blue Planet surf shop where I met Robert (the co-writer of this blog) who is an avid SUPer.  He advised me to start on an 11 foot board.  When I looked at the board I was horrified.  It said “beginner” all over it.  My ego kicked in and I remember myself commenting in my head that I could ride a shorter board easily.  I asked him for the shortest board.  Robert said something to the effect of “you will be back for a larger board” but I was on an ego driven mission to shred.    From the shop I preceded strait to the surf zone.
At the beach edge, I stood on the board and fell face first into the water.  I got back on the board and then took a few strokes and fell backwards.  Then I managed to fall sideways.  My friends on the beach were laughing their heads off.  Here was a former US Longboard Champ who could not even stand up. 
After this failed ego driven mission I broke down and got an 11 foot board that Robert had advised me to ride.  More importantly I made a decision to pay attention to becoming a beginner again in the spirit of Zen.  I did a great deal of reflecting on the philosophy of Dogen Zenji where the beginners mind was playful, open, and fluid.  In this way I was able to enjoy being a complete novice again.  I told my ego to go somewhere else as I was to now have a child’s open mind to the SUP sport.
By altering my perception and attention I became a beginner again.  It was so fun. I launched at Ala Moana beach-park Channel.  The first thing that I noticed was that just paddling in flat water was the most difficult thing to do.  The board would tip one way then the other.  The difficulty of getting going was actually thrilling. 
I would paddle once, twice then tree times and whoopee!  I was moving and I started laughing my head off.  Memories began pouring into my head about when I was a child who was catching his first wave.  Everything I did was new and wonderful.  I realized that I just rediscovered the feeling of why I had started surfing in the first place. Fun, Fun, Fun!
I am still a total SUP kook and I love it.  I am a beginner again!  Thanks Dogen Zenji.

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