Inspiration for this piece about the learning process came from a new friend, a 4 month old puppy named Mojo. Mojo is the third installment in a series of Labrador Retriever dogs we’ve had over a 22 year period, so we know something about what to expect. All Labs have similar traits, but they all have different personalities. They range from being quite calm, to bouncing off the walls energetic. Some learn quickly, and some are harder to train. And so far we haven’t met a lab who isn’t crazy about food. We can already see that Mojo will be relatively calm, and relatively easy to train. But his particular set of charms and talents are yet to be revealed.
Mojo is just a puppy. He doesn’t have a full grown body or a fully developed brain. What he has is boundless joy, energy, and a desire to chew on everything within reach. Mojo is not yet what he will become. He doesn’t know many of the words mean we’ll be using to communicate with him throughout most of his life. He hasn’t quite figured out what’s available to him and what’s off limits. He doesn’t know our routine the way he will later on. And he doesn’t yet have the capacity for knowing these things, because he has more growing to do. So, when we see him do something dumb, or he makes a doggy mistake, we give him a break. He’s just a puppy! Later on, when he goes out of bounds we might say “You should know that by now”, which is another way of saying, we’re getting a little impatient, so get with the program.
Where I am as a person is not where I’ll be, later on. The learning process is ongoing.
Once we reach our our late teens, we’ve gotten our physical body to a certain stage of maturity. We’ve grown emotionally to individualization, that stage where we feel separate from our family of origin. And our mind has matured to a point where we can think for ourselves, somewhat. But that’s just the very beginning of a lifetime of learning through experience. By the time we die, perhaps another 50 to 70 years later, we’ll know a little more of what life is about, but most of it will still be a mystery.
For the most part, we’re puppies the whole way, with more unknown, more unanswered, and more undeveloped than known, answered, or developed. But for the sense of security it brings us, we like to say “I know”. It makes us feel safe to tell ourselves that. If we were consciously aware of how much we don’t know most of the time, it would be overwhelming to the point of paralysis, so our system helps us out by putting on blinders to most of what we don’t know, and focusing us on what we’re learning right now.
And yet because we tell ourselves we know, we expect ourselves to know everything. We tend to judge ourselves for not knowing, and get frustrated when we realize we don’t know. As if we should know by now. Hurry up, and get with the program. But we can’t know all the answers. Creation is designed to keep us in a state of cluelessness, precisely because it’s a learning environment. That’s why we call it Earth School.
We’re set up here with the challenge of not knowing, because it keeps us off balance enough that we’ll continually gain strength and knowledge, just by being here and paying attention. The whole setup is designed for us not to know, so we can be a continual work in progress. To survive, we get used to that, learn not to focus on what we don’t know, and tell ourselves it’s OK. Except when we bump into something, get challenged, get confused, get sick, get fired from a job, loose a loved one, or run into any of the other millions of difficult situations set up for us here as part of Earth School. Then we have a tendency to get impatient with ourselves for not knowing what to do.
Becoming impatient with ourselves is just one of the many unconscious patterns we develop that work against us. These patterns tend to be sticky, but when brought to the surface they can be worked with, and eased out. I like to do that for myself, and help other people do that as well.
Last year I developed a guided meditation program called Lighten Up, Stop Being Hard on Yourself. If that’s a subject that resonates with you, perhaps you’ll want to check it out, and let me know what you think.