Learning to Occupy Changing Times

“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

I just registered for a professional development workshop. This is my third formal learning experience in six months along with all the informal learning I imbibe in just through day-to-day living. I seem to continually seek out new learning experiences.

Seeking learning experiences is something common to all life. All of us who yearn to learn are following an evolutionary urge to become more complex, more highly evolved beings. We actively embrace being “learners” rather than simply relying on information we’ve already learned.

We are discovering how to occupy inner and outer changes through learning.

We learn from the very beginning…

As infants in the womb, we are already learning. Cells involved in keeping us safe from disease learn to distinguish self from not self so they know what to attack and what to leave alone. As babies, we learn to recognize the voices and scents of our caregivers and we adapt our behavior to be certain we receive the care we need.

As residents of this dynamic living planet, opportunities for learning are continuously available to us. Whether we learn comes down to how we choose to engage the experiences, ideas and viewpoints we meet.

It helps to remember that learning opportunities show up in different forms.

Sometimes my learning is about logging another useful skill, like how to use a new video conferencing platform. At other times, it’s a mirror in whose depths I uncover disorienting aspects of myself, like deeply encoded, unconscious assumptions about the worth of a person based on their gender identity.

Learners are explorers…

It also helps to remember that as learners we are people willing to experience awe and look at life with new eyes. Being a learner cracks open the rigid mental and energetic structures we’ve built around what we “know” and offers us a glimpse of the infinite potential found in the unknown.

Learners see beyond what they’ve always done and believed, perceiving new approaches to individual and global challenges.

Learning helps eliminate encumbering preconceived ideas or expectations we otherwise might try to drag with us as the “learned.” Being learners means we are putting ourselves out there in the path of transformative experiences. Nervous, scared, excited, but out there.

Occupying change takes practices…

Over time I’ve discovered these practices support my learning.

  • Be curious. Meet new ideas and experiences with your mind and heart open.
  • Be kind. To yourself, to others, to new circumstances.
  • Make space for new ideas even if they don’t fit with what you already know or believe.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Discomfort passes just like any state of being.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Make learning a “no judgement” zone.
  • Move your current beliefs to the background long enough to try on new ones. You can always choose to stick with your current beliefs if they truly are the most life sustaining for you.
  • Invite the new ideas to stretch your perspectives, expand your worldview and offer new possibilities.
  • Be patient.
  • Create space and time to reflect on and integrate what you are learning.
  • Stay curious.

Tracie Nichols writes poetry and facilitates group writing experiences from under the wide reach of two old Sycamore trees in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is the co-founder of the Embodied Writers writing group and a Transformative Language Artist helping women write themselves home. You can find Tracie on her website.

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