• Liz Lucas

Shoshin - “Beginners mind”

Wye Creek

Shoshin - “Beginners mind” in Zen Buddhism meaning having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, just as a beginner would.

As the leaves start to change in the northern Hemisphere, I am enjoying the joys of a cool and wet springtime in New Zealand. For the next 3 months I am taking a course to perfect my backpacking guide skills as well as acquire rock climbing guide skills with an organization called Pure Exploration. The next 3 months are going to push me mentally, physically and socially!

The Beginners mindset

Takeaway: Celebrate the milestones and enjoy the process of learning something new and challenging.

So far, I am 3 weeks in and those 3 elements have been tested. Most notably is my rock-climbing experience thus far. Before this course I had been outdoor rock climbing a total of 1 time and already I can say I have multiplied that number by 4.

Climbing up a rock attached to a rope is not the most calming experience. The amount of trust you need to have in your belay partner, gear and in your body is immense. This makes it the perfect opportunity to practice my mental toughness skills. As a softball player and coach the sport has been ingrained in me and because it was my whole life there were no more elements that were new to me. This is great for coaching but it does create a bit of space between the mental toughness skills I talk about because I haven’t gotten to practice them as much myself. Well, I am here to saying I get to intensely practice the skills I try to teach. This blog is meant to shed some light on my experience and some of the skills I am practicing.

2 years ago, I was lying on a yoga mat crying because I had an immense emotion of not being good enough because I was the only one who couldn’t do a handstand. Someone came over and expressed how jealous they were that I had a beginner’s mindset. What the heck. . .I am crying here and that’s what you have to say that is a beautiful thing to be a beginner? I just want to fast forward and be able to do a handstand!!! I took that comment to heart and it came up again as I begin this course. With rock climbing most of us on the course (10 students) have little experience and so we get the pleasure of seeing it as complete beginners. The beauty, the fears, the questions are all new to us and it gives everyone a new perspective on it.

As a beginner, I see the rock as a rock. I see this as a towering thing that I can’t even begin to imagine can be climbed. This is the first thought, the next is I might die if I try. Ha! After we are shown that we can be quite safe with the idea of being redundant (1-2 backup measures to ensure you are safe) I begin to relax a bit. Then I, of course, just barrel up my first rock and make it! Wahoooo. Great I am now a rock climber!!!!. . .. NOT. That is the first of many ascents and many battles to test. In this moment I celebrate the success as my arms are tired, I look down and realize I just climbed pretty high. Once the euphoria wears off, I start to compare myself to others, to say things like, “well I did that one but surely I can’t do another”, “It was luck that I did it” and on and on. Luckily, I stopped myself and did a little gut-check to know this is not going to help me progress in this sport. I decided to repeat a few phrases (because saying them once to myself isn’t going to do a thing, I need it branded into my head).

I allowed myself to 1. Enjoy the experience of being at a beautiful natural spot, the sun warming my red cold nose and remembering that I am in New Zealand learning to climb rocks and 2. I am learning, I am learning, I am learning. These 2 things propelled me through my week as I reminded myself to not be so critical and just enjoy the experience, I am not going to be an expert any time soon, so I may as well buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Remember to allow yourself to be a beginner again, mess up, and enjoy the process. It is a beautifully messy experience.

Choose to Be Happy


Lake Wakatipu

Choose to be Happy,


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