5 Lessons in Learning

 'The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.Brian Herbert

Learning is a progressive, continual undertaking. It invites us to open our minds, to consider alternatives, to grow and discover the potential both within and outside of ourselves. If we're not learning, we're staying static. We're settling. We're stagnating.

To learn is to move towards the doors of freedom and find out how we can break through them.

Sometimes it's a pain in the face having to learn though. We might feel like we know enough already or that we 'should' know all we need to know. We might be fearful of what 'can of worms' our explorations could uncover or even what we're going to do with the realisations we make ourselves. Because, what then? Then, we have the knowledge to move on and our justification for staying small or staying safe loses significant strength. But quite often, once we realise that there's more out there it's going to be hard to stop us going after it anyway. And while that could be a scary thought, I cannot recommend enough the act of doing it regardless.

We're all constantly learning and growing and seeking. We will never know it all. Regardless how much time, energy and commitment we give to the pursuit of perfection, we'll never be these infallible intellects with all the answers; some kind of encyclopedia-esque entity that just has nothing more to discover in the world. 

We need to legalise learning and the fact that if we want to move forward we're going to have to embrace it. That's what we're all about here after all; educating and informing and sharing ideas. Blog posts are the result of learnings I've picked up over the week, sometimes lessons that take longer to process and sometimes I just need to look back over old ones and remember what I've learnt before. In any case, here, we value the engagement in education, knowing from experience its capacity to enhance our liberation in life.

So what I'm saying is, I've learned to love learning and here's some stuff that helped that happen.

'The mind is like a parachute, it works best when open'

Becoming open in our mindset can be a worrying thought at first. When we're set in our ways or stuck within our own confines, outside ideas can seem like a threat. But opening our minds to that which others have to share or ideas that might contradict our own, puts us on the path to learning. Of course, it's uncertain, it could be uncomfortable and it could be challenging but the rewards will speak for themselves. 

If we can choose to be open, even if initially we refuse to act on anything we take in, we're still making a move towards learning. Entertain new perspectives, listen to the experiences of others and just gradually let them in. Let them swirl around our minds and contemplate them even if that ends up in an internal argument or we eventually decide we disagree - at least there's something happening and that's exactly what will steer us towards finding our own answers and opinions.

'The expert in anything was once a beginner'

Learning is vulnerable. It means admitting that we don't know it all, that we're imperfect and we're new to this. In order to accept this, we need to release ourselves from the prison of expectations that keep us barricaded in. We need to let go of 'should' and pressure and the echoes of 'not good enough' in our inner monologues. 

We haven't done everything, so how could we possibly know everything? Let yourself be new, let yourself be at the beginning of the journey. The pressure we put ourselves under to know everything already just cuts us off from the opportunity to actually learn. It's like sending a child home from school because they don't know how to read. It seems ridiculous but that's how we treat ourselves sometimes, ready to beat ourselves up with our stick of perfectionism just because we've fallen short of impossible expectations. There's no shame in being a beginner, it actually shows that we've tried something new, we've moved out of our comfort zones and had the courage to get something better for ourselves. 

“To make mistakes or be wrong is human. To admit those mistakes shows you have the ability to learn, and are growing wiser.” Donald L. Hicks

Learning about ourselves and our lives gives us the chance to dig up fantastic and occasionally frustrating self honesty and awareness. We get to learn about who we are in our best and worst manners. Along this journey, of course we're going to come across stuff we don't particularly like. We might realise that we make mistakes, we act in ways we're uncomfortable with, we react in unhelpful behaviours, we say things we don't mean - we need to realise too that this is all wonderful material to be welcomed. We don't learn if we just look at the good bits, we learn from our colourful, messy, mistake-heavy moments and they teach us how we could do things differently.

If we fear being wrong, we keep ourselves blind to these opportunities for growth. Self awareness is key to personal development and yeah sometimes it highlights the bits we're not  so proud of. But in embracing this and allowing ourselves be wrong, we get valuable fuel to move forward. So be wrong, be messy and then be able to change.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Albert Einstein

As in any learning, we need to get involved in order for the lesson to hit home. So get stuck into it, be the student who keeps putting up their hands to ask questions, think about it consistently, be active in the pursuit of understanding. Be incessantly inquisitive. Life is your lesson. It has an endless curriculum that we're lucky enough to be enrolled in. 

When we have opened our mind to learning, we begin to seek it in everything. In events, in disappointments, in doing well - there's always something to learn. When we become active participants we enrich our learning and get the most of each nugget of knowledge. We make use of our lessons and practice them well. We repeat and implement the learnings we've found. We take action in changing our habits and routines and putting what we've learnt to use. 

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron

The more we learn and grow and move on, the more some lessons get used and others can become less necessary. So it's okay to go back and learn the same things again and again. Sometimes we don't realise that we can apply the same knowledge to different situations or we discover that we've forgotten how to approach a certain challenge. Sometimes the same issue will keep arising because we still haven't fully learned what it's trying to teach us. This is all okay and all part of the process.

Maybe shame will rear its head when we realise it's time to revise, but the fact is, we can learn our lessons as many times as we need to. They will stick and we will conquer our challenges, and yes this could take time. Being patient and persistent will be key; just as you don't learn a language after a brief bit of vocab, we won't have all the answers straightaway. But they'll come, stringing their sentences together in each revision and speaking out more fluently each time.

When we understand the value of learning, the idea that we'll be constantly learning is an increasingly exciting thought. The world opens up and we get to ask questions, find new answers, and open our arms to new perspectives, concepts and opinions. It's a limitless venture and one that will only benefit us if we learn to let it. 

'Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.' Anthony J. D'Angelo


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