Last night, Pearl tried Taekwondo for the first time. She loved it, and watching her and the other 5-7 year-olds was simply awesome.
At the beginning of the class, the teacher showed the kids the ready stance. He spoke about readiness. What it means. Why it matters. Eyes forward. Feet planted. And no thinking. If you’re thinking, he said, you’re not ready, because then when something happens–and you never know what will happen–you will have to stop thinking about whatever you’re thinking about in order to respond. “Yes, sir!” they responded, their little fists at their sides on the exhale.
A simple teaching. I sat on the corner of the mat, watching and nodding.
Sometimes we wait a long time thinking. There’s a good chance what we’re thinking is, “I’m not ready.”
And then we prepare. Inhale. Acknowledge the teacher, who in turn acknowledges the students–they need each other, or there would be no class, he pointed out.
I waited a long time, fidgeting, distracted, restless, questioning. My teacher waited patiently, unfazed, knowing I’d eventually realize I was ready to stand at attention, my innate ability to respond to whatever happened surely stronger than my self-doubt, fear of failure, and terror of loss.
And then the freedom of running fast across the room, from one wall to the other, the sheer pleasure of receiving instruction and assistance, the satisfaction of learning, of stumbling, of trying new things, of remembering left from right, foot from fist, abandoning self-consciousness and leaving perfection in the dust of just doing.
Being ready–like coming out, like waking up–is a practice. Something we do at the beginning of class, at the beginning of the day, at the beginning of our lives, and then throughout them.
“I was born ready,” I’ve heard people say. And I believe them.