Monday, 26 April 2010

Beginner's mind

A few weekends ago I was privileged to be one of the tutors for a two day " Youth training and development program" that the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain hold several times a year to help promote, introduce and teach woodturning to youths up to the age of eighteen.

This course is the second that I have been invited to teach at. For me it is a rewarding and very enjoyable two days and I know that all the youths that attended also enjoyed the course.

One of my observations on both the courses was the open and responsive mind that, dare I say, the younger generation seem to have. Um, I am not sure I want to put myself into the older generation bracket but I guess compared to the 14-18 years old youths I am.

During the two days it was very apparent to me that younger people seem to naturally follow instruction and practice without any preconceived ideas about how it should be done or if they get it wrong. They just enjoyed the moment and the process that they were involved in.

This I have tried to follow for many years within my other studies/forms that I have undertaken.

As I try to progress my work more and more creatively I have found the need to return again and again to what I saw in the youths that I taught, and that is "Beginner's mind".

Over the years my skills with the tools have I hope developed to the position where I can make what ever I want without worrying if I have the necessary tool skills to complete the project. I do not believe I am the most proficient, but can now use them as an extension of my body without thinking about what I am doing with them. Similar to when I drink a cup of tea, I do not need to think about where my mouth is in relation to the cup. I can sip and watch television or read a book. However from time to time I spill my tea and also have spillages with my work.

This I started thinking about and realised that I had lost "beginner's mind" which the students I teach have in abundance.

The thought process I had adopted was always thinking of the the next step, more connected with I was "to" do as opposed to the "moment". The connection with the tool had been lost. While I consider myself as said to be fairly efficient at what I do, there is no doubt that I can refine and become better within my work, to think anything,be it tool skills, creativity, finishing or selecting of the wood, or just connecting with what I am doing in more depth.

After all how can I be truly connected with my work through a creative thought process if I am not concentrating with the moment with an open, clear mind.

Realising this I decided to concentrate on my "beginner's mind", with working in the moment. By taking every step I do right back to the beginning and looking afresh with an open mind helps me to refine the process, or at least I hope. After all I have asked myself, how I can expect to refine what I am doing if I consider that what I am doing is the only way in which to proceed.

This thought process I have worked on for many years, but have also found that when I become proficient in a particular form, I then in turn spend less time keeping an open/beginner's mind.

This I have been discussing with my Zen teacher and looking at ways to incorporate it within my work. After all my turning is in the moment and has to be practised, just the same as with my creative work, both go hand in hand.

I realised that I can not continue to progress, to become more connected with what I am doing, and therefore to express myself fully through my work, unless I look to a higher form other than just being proficient with tools. To believe this to be the case I feel would only blinker me to the wonderful rich creative process that exists if only we can open our minds. The tools that I use are only after all an extension of my arms, that in turn are moved by my mind.

Realising this, which in itself is obvious but forgotten I decided to look at going back to producing bowls along side my other work.

The bowl is a wonderful vessel that can be more than just a utilitarian item. The practice of making a bowl as I have been taught is not about the bowl itself, but the empty space within it, the material that is removed and not what is left behind.

Each piece of material removed is a chance to refine and practice. Not being mindful of this meant that I had merely become a mechanical machine producing items. The negative of this I have seen in a days work when I have not been totally connected with my thought process. The work in turn seems to loose something, to have no depth. Where as on the days I am for want of a better turn "On form" the work made if I am fully connected seems to be set apart, to be special.

My practice involves connecting fully with what I am doing and trying to complete a cut on the outside or inside of the bowl in one out breath. This may sound strange to some, but within all the forms that I have studied where movement or exertion is applied, it always occurs on the out breath.

The lifting of a heavy weight or any other form of exertion is on the out breath. This being the natural law of the human physiology for all movement requiring a degree of exertion. So why, I thought to my self, have I forgotten to concentrate on this within my work. Probably because it now becomes so natural that I have forgotten about its relevance.

Buy concentrating and thinking of each moment as I connect with the tool I can look deeper into what I am doing and in turn look afresh and the whole process of my work with an open mind.

This at the moment is where I am. Looking at the whole process, with an open mind, taking on "beginners mind", while concentrating on the moment.

It is not easy but then I guess if it was it would not be worth doing.

No comments: