Conventional wisdom dictates that the best way to learn about anything, is to approach one who you consider to be wiser than yourself, and to then observe, absorb, and apply the lessons that they teach you. I have a great deal of respect for those who are well versed in any specific area, who have the intent and dedication to follow a path, and the innate commitment and discipline to focus completely on whatever path they have chosen. Hard work, and tenacity are traits I respect, far more than talent.
Recently, however, I have broadened my view. I have come to the conclusion that, as with so many things in life, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Yes, you want to learn things, and you want to become a “better” person (whatever that may mean), and you want to broaden the scope of your knowledge. But, I am increasingly getting the sense that the most essential elements of being able to learn, and to take the truest joy from life and the lessons it can teach, are overlooked. We seem to skip a few steps as we make the transition into adulthood, and overlook the basics. Or, the basics are superceded by the superficial concerns of the ego, and a strange obsession with the presentation of ourselves that we offer, rather than nurturing the most important element of Ourselves. Our Truest Selves.
Fortunately, I’ve had the best teacher I could have hoped for to help me broaden my view over the last few months. He’s only five months old, but I’ve learned more about how to approach the experience of being alive from simply being around him, than I have from any blog, or book, or conversation I’ve had. He doesn’t talk about how to live, or how to take joy from life. He just does it. It’s incredible.
This has been a difficult year for me; my psychological outlook has made a dramatic shift, and I often feel as though I am in some kind of freefall – I no longer wish to control this chaotic feeling, but it is a dramatic change in my internal landscape, which has led to the dredging up of many insecurities, emotions, and experiences which I have kept repressed from my consciousness for a lifetime. After having a creative outflow last year, I’ve found it more challenging to allow myself the freedom to express myself completely. The Voice of Reason and The Rational have made a dreaded comeback, questioning every move I make. I find myself becoming irritated with people who I feel talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, in whatever context. I have been on a soul search which has led me to broaden my intellectual knowledge, but, frustratingly, hasn’t been able to inform or incite the psychological and creative breakthrough I seek, to build on the progress that I made last year. In short, I’ve been battling the crippling feeling that I’ve stagnated, and I have been searching for the knowledge that will help me to move to the next stage of my personal development. What I didn’t realise, is that more intellectual knowledge, at this stage, isn’t what I need. What I need, is an example of someone who embodies the lessons that I need to learn. I need an example I can respect. Who I am willing to allow to teach me. No mean feat, as the Inner Critic that so fiercely criticises me internally, often, (in an act of mercy), focuses its attention on others, and is no more merciful towards them in it’s judgement.
It’s both unsettling and exciting making huge changes to the way that you live your life. You’re finally allowing yourself to dream, creating the world that you wish to inhabit, and progressing in the direction that you feel passionately about – but, you’re daring to do it differently. You’re not emulating what anyone else has done, following a predetermined path, or walking a road that is well lit and signposted by travellers who have made the trip before. You’re the first – the explorer who is finding a new way – and as you walk along your path, lit only by your belief that you are heading in the right direction, you feel a fear that paralyses you into inaction. You contemplate just how far from the rules of convention you have deviated. You have to muster up all of your courage to take one more step forward, and, more often than not, learn to do the basics, all over again.
One day, you realise the most fundamental truth of all. It isn’t where you’re going, or your final destination that will provide you with the joy that you’re looking for. It’s the basic fact that you’re alive, and able to experience what it means to live. The elusive path that you’re walking is, simply, your Life journey. Yours. And only Yours. The essential element that we seem to overlook when we “grow up”, is the basic appreciation of being conscious, alive, and gifted with the ability to enjoy the infinite joy that being present can bring. A realisation hits you, like a thunderbolt, and you feel a strange mix of excitement and complete confusion. You know, to your core, that it’s true, but you are still plagued by the concerns of the material that distract you from this basic, unquestionable truth. You become strangely aware of your body. Of the amazing things it can do. You develop a renewed faith in the merits of humility in the pursuit of knowledge. You start to love yourself more, and desire a truthful interplay between yourself and the world around you. You realise that really, you don’t know anything. You’ve got a lot to learn. All of a sudden, you don’t mind that there aren’t any quick fixes, or predetermined outcomes. You’re excited that you’re able to live to see where Life takes you, learning everything you can along the way, embracing every step.
You’re like a baby, learning to use your body for the first time, trying to learn how to communicate what you’re feeling, or what you need, and attempting to understand that you’re actually alive, and a presence in this world. You’re finding the basic essence of who you are as a human being, far from the trappings of the escapism of the material world that distracts you, moment upon moment, from recognising, facing, or understanding what it actually means to be you. The most terrifying element of all? You can’t sit around theorising about it, intellectually contemplating what it means, or talking to people about what you think it means. The only way you can find the answers you’re looking for, is by walking forward, one step at a time, and living each and every moment in as truthful a way as possible. By being willing to make mistakes, over and over again, until you get to wherever it is you’re meant to be. By continuing to believe in the path that you’re walking. By living each and every moment, as Your True Self.
I wouldn’t have thought that it would be a baby who would provide me with the guide I was looking for – but it makes perfect sense. Seeing him observe the world with such fascination, responding to every sound, sight and smell with such interest and excitement, or watching his eyes widening with recognition when his Mum or Dad walk into the room is a lesson and a joy beyond anything I have experienced before (and he’s not even mine!). Watching him embark on the earliest stages in the development of his relationship with the world, complete with endless attempts to roll over onto his front, a love of things that rattle, and the strong bonds of love he is developing with his family, is both a privilege, and a valuable course of study. He doesn’t worry about how confusing it all is, or whether it’s embarrassing for him to try to roll over and fail, or that he’s good at this, or bad at that. He’s not concerned about whether or not he’s on the “right” path. He’s far too busy extracting as much experience as possible from the experience of being alive in the Here & Now. I’ve never been around someone who is such a shining example of the way I seek to live my life – with complete freedom, abandon, joy, excitement, and most of all, love. I feel tremendously lucky to have such a wonderful Life Teacher to help me navigate the questions that swill around my Very Average Sized Brain on a daily basis, showing me that it’s really only falling over a few times and having the courage to keep trying that keeps you moving forward.
Here’s to many more years of tutelage.