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Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

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This morning, my husband got up very early & woke our 5 year old so they could go outside to see the Planetary Alignment. The sky was clear, and the moon was nearly full behind them. It was a magical experience for my tiny little astronomer to be introduced to the galactic bodies by his dad who’s watched them since he was young.

My son asked me to let them star gaze alone, so when I got up a little later, he was engrossed in a show he likes to watch where little cartoon jets explore the solar system. He was so excited to have seen the planets with his own eyes, all lined up.

I was excited, too. His wonder and happiness reminded me to be mindful of the truly spectacular and valuable experiences: observing the universe around us, appreciating the beauty.

It reminds me to keep my gaze up, and my eyes open.

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While pursuing goals, it’s important we keep our focus on what we hope to enjoy and experience when (and as) we achieve them. Otherwise, the Idea of the goals can take over, distracting us from what we really seek.

Hakuin was a master of zen, who tried to keep his students focused more on the practice of zen than the idea of zen. Meaning, getting their minds undistracted from the pursuit of something elusive, so they may more keenly observe what was right before them.

To remind them, he liked to tell them about the old woman in the village who owned a tea shop. She was a master of the Tea Ceremony, and understood Zen with her whole self.

Naturally, each of his students eventually went down to the village to see her for themselves. And each time, the old woman recognized them coming, and could tell with just one look whether they came seeking to share her Tea Ceremony, or to ask her to explain her thoughts on Zen.

Compassionately, she had resolved to give each student what they sought. Those who came for tea, she graciously hosted with a truly enlightening experience of peace and attentiveness. Those who came for a teaching, she hid behind the door then surprised them with a sharp whack from her fire poker, beating at them until they fled.

Of all Hakuin’s students, only one in ten enjoyed the Tea.

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It’s tough trying something new, especially when we’re excited to succeed, yet dread failing. I don’t know what’s tougher: those initial tries where success feels doubtful, or overcoming all the barriers to even starting it at all.

We also have inertia to overcome, which can feel like the highest barrier at all. Maybe we’re comfortable where we’re at. Maybe we don’t feel strongly enough to break out of our shell and risk embarrassing ourselves, or even just wasting our time.

The problem is, the only time we waste is time spent stuck in the same old rut, not growing, not expanding, not fully exploring what it means to be our own unique selves. The bigger problem is how much it’s just basic human nature to find those ruts and cozy down into them for as long as we can. I’ve come to feel that when I least want to move forward into something new, that’s when I most need to take even small steps down a new road. That’s the only way to snap myself out of it and keep moving.

If there’s something you’ve been meaning to try someday, now is the time to find out how you can make it a better part of your life. Commit to taking some of those steps forward, and schedule specific times you can fit some of them in.

If you can’t think of anything you’d like to pursue, try picking a topic you’re interested in, and start to research what different resources are saying about it. Allow others’ viewpoints to both inform and challenge you, as you work to expand your way of understanding this topic. This is another great way to explore new ground, and grow ourselves as human beings.

Whatever path you choose, please choose one that leads you to grow in new ways. This world is better only through the people who inhabit it, and therefore it benefits all of us, when each of us finds ways to better ourselves.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve spun my wheels a lot dwelling on stuff without finding a solution, and getting hung up on not knowing the answer.  The worry didn’t help.  I just burned energy going nowhere, because NOT burning energy made me feel like I wasn’t doing anything — even when there was nothing more I could have done.

I’ve read studies on inspiration and the “Eureka!” moments, and the current line of thought is that we don’t get those magic moments by pushing the problem through our head.  We get it when our subconscious has finished mulling it over, and we step back and give it enough space to give us the answer.  That’s why the “Aha!” tends to come not while we’re yelling at the computer, but while washing a glass.  Time spent worrying and struggling actually impeded that process.

I just saw the other day that Sri Aurobindo said, “True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become.”

I guess the trick is recognizing that point where THINKING about something is getting in the way of PROCESSING something.  Where the pursuit of knowledge actually gets in the way of us truly knowing something.

I think that’s why for a while I’ve been saying that the most important thing to learn is “how to learn”.  I’m still trying to get that right. 🙂

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