This time, however, I’d be modest and unassuming. I’d even request a refresher on my previous lesson. I’d start over. It helped to remember a basic teaching from Zen master and author Shunryu Suzuki that I’d learned years before in my inner-athlete days: "In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few." I’d open myself to new possibilities by becoming a beginner again.As before, the session began on the rowing machines. I sat down with nothing in mind, shadowing the movements of the other students. The stroke? I listened as the instructor broke it down into several small movements.As I followed her guidance, I discarded my previous notions the moment they entered my mind. Where before I had been impatient to get out on the water, this time I applied myself to the rowing machine with diligence. When she insisted we keep our knees down until the very last part of the stroke, I made myself forget that rowing rafts required a deep knee bend just to initiate a stroke and get a bite of water. When she suggested we control our stroke by wrapping our little fingers over the ends of the oar handles, I ignored my prior training to do just the opposite to avoid pinching my pinky. I did as I was instructed. My intent was to learn something new.When we were ready, we pushed off from shore in an eight-woman shell. There was that moment of pure pleasure, the heady feeling of floating. Away from land, we glided over the water as a leaf drifts on the wind. My own performance wasn’t perfect, but I was in sync with the others; I had a strong, if studied, stroke; and I felt the rush of adrenaline I always get in boats. Not only that, the instructor noticed my improvement and said,"We have a good little rower here!"A beginning rower at that. Rebecca Lawton is the author of Reading Water: Lessons from the River. She lives in Vineburg, California.Originally published in MORE magazine, July/August 2006.