Unlearning Learning

12112308_10153708374273829_2470997090873670660_nPhoto courtesy of  Paul Blackley and surfing provided with just the right balance of practice and wise advice by Chris from Isurf

There is a real skill and joy to be found  in learning how to learn – rather than getting everything from a book or a manual – or these days a you tube “how to” video and sorting it out in your head  before you even dare to begin.

It seems to me that with our huge bank of readily accessible knowledge and expertise, we are somehow disempowered from the learning process. This works OK under controlled conditions, – but in the real, messy, creative and unpredictable space that most or our life takes place within, it can leave us paralysed, afraid to start.

So much of our everyday lives are now governed by complex systems far beyond our control  and this in turn leads to a kind of helplessness:

We rely on cars that can only be diagnosed by computer systems, the results requiring analysis by “experts’

Other experts in the form of “life coaches” tell us how we should plan our futures, “diet coaches” and “personal trainers” tell us how to look after our bodies, “Super Nanny” tells us how to bring up our children.

The goal of perfection leaves no room if you’re not careful,for not knowing, for learning, for trying things you’re not very good at, for finding joy and contentment in the process itself. There’s a danger of living in the “never quite there zone” or even worse, of giving up trying.

There’s an overall sense that we are no longer capable of running our own lives, of taking responsibility for ourselves. We have become the passive occupiers of our environment divorced from the hands on, dirty, messy reality.

From this the individual learns that it’s dangerous to take initiative and to think outside the box, native intelligence is suppressed for fear of making mistakes and personal confidence and self reliance disappear. This seems to be particularly obvious in children, many of  whom seem to  fear the consequences of simple interaction with the natural environment – with rain, cold, wind, mud and physical fatigue.

To learn in a way that nurtures resilience and self-reliance requires just the right balance of challenge and safety, it requires wise teachers modelling techniques, giving encouragement and laughter. It  also requires the confidence to get it wrong, to suck it and see. To start with  a beginner’s mind and learn with humility.

Learning in this way can  bring with it a sense of meaning and personal value – together with a connectiveness of shared wisdom, cooperation and trust. Once you leave the mind behind – at least now and then, there is an oportunity to connect directly with the body – something that seems a relative rarity in our hectic technology driven world.

It’s a way to develop a kind of earthy grounding – it seems to work best for me outside, when the feeling of weather on skin is providing a connection to the environment, in the company of nature, practicing basic human intererlatedness skills of generosity, humility, listening. Simple hands-on stuff. That’s why it works.



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