Saturday, May 12, 2007

Learn to Learn

Sometimes less is more.

You know how when you are trying to learn something, you try too hard? The effort and concentration, and above all the fear of messing up, all seem to make the whole activity difficult. But when you have done that thing enough times, it seems so easy... We all have such experiences: remember first learning how to drive?

What is it about repetition that makes an activity come easier? Well, we let go of the fear when we have done it many times. We let go of the self-judgment when we know we have done this thing just fine. And eventually our body-mind develops a habit of this activity and we don't even have to think about it any more.

So what if we could actually learn something new as if we already were experts? What if we could be so self-forgiven that we can just do the action with full confidence. What if making mistakes was not so scary, looking good not so all-important. And vice versa. What if we took an activity we thought we knew really well and studied it? What if you could study your own posture, the way you walk, as if you were learning it for the very first time. As a beginner practice as if you were an expert, as an expert, study as if you were a beginner.

Life is ever-changing. And change requires adaptation - and learning. If we stop learning we stop growing and adapting to life... we get stuck, we get old. Old is not chronology, old is unadaptive. Old is not the quality of skin or the strength of muscles, old is weak in the mind and poor in aspiration. By this definition, the opposite of old is not young: the opposite of old is alive!

Reach out to others and learn something from everyone you meet. Take a risk and try a new restaurant, a new food, a different kind of job, talk to people you've never said hi to before. Go away to somewhere exotic: or explore a new street in your neighborhood, actually sit in the park bench you pass every day. Take classes in things that a week ago you never would have dreamed of taking: or take the classes you have been waiting all your life to take! Risk learning something, and in the process you will learn about yourself.

And what greater task in this world do we have than to find out who we really are? If we only knew that, all the world would be at our feet.

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