I say that I am a student of life, but until this year I don’t think I truly understood what this meant and in all honesty, I was simply tinkering round the edges.
I’m not sure what changed, the menopause, my age – I’ve just turned 50, maybe the forced lockdown creating the space to do what I could not before, or maybe it was just the right time, who knows. But since the start of the year, I have followed my intuition, opened my eyes, started to actually read all of the newsletters I have signed up to, clicked on the links that have captured my interest (even if only fleetingly) and brought lots of books (most of which have yet to be read).
And once I started doing this, I found that I wanted to keep going – I signed up to talks, interactive online sessions, and any courses that caught my eye, I didn’t overthink it, I just trusted that they had caught my eye for a reason and therefore I should take action. Then I actually turned up to them and then I actively engaged with them and before I knew it, I was learning some really interesting stuff, that intrigued me and gave me a beautifully intrinsic sense of achievement.
So, they not only turned up again and again, but I looked for more courses and more learning because I really liked the way it made me feel. And I have come to realise that learning is about so much more than learning. There is something so comforting, inspiring and exciting, in discovering just how much there is to learn, that humankind actually knows so much, that there are answers, or ways to find answers, to nearly all of our questions, that we do not have to quash our curiosity, make the best of it, suck it up, or live in a stagnant world – where there is learning there is growth and where there is growth there is hope and where there is hope there is motivation, desire, joy, and progress.
And I have learnt that learning is just like getting fit, the more I show up and engage, the easier it gets and the more I am able to do.
So, now when I say I am a student of life, I really am. I try to learn something every single day, to engage my brain, to make me pause for thought, to live in the here and now, to question the world, to question myself, and to widen my perspective and deepen my curiosity.
And amazingly all of this learning has been hugely beneficial for my mental and emotional health. It’s helping me to understand who I am as a unique human being, why certain things make me feel the way I do, what I can do to support myself, how I can communicate more deeply and with more compassion with my fellow human beings and that the wilderness out there does not have to be so scary, that it can be navigated and that I do not need to know everything, I just need to trust that I will learn what it is that I need to learn, when I need to learn it.
Socrates words remain as true today as they did when he said them:
Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.
Our education is a lifelong journey, without end until the end.
I am discovering a huge world of interesting stuff, right at our fingertips, in any form you could possibly imagine, about any subject you can possibly think of and the vast majority of it, is free. My list is enormous and grows all of the time – as a result of being open to learning, but it is my list and it is important that you find your own – just look up and the universe will put the right thing in front of you, you just have to open your eyes and be willing to do so.
And contrary to popular belief, learning does not have to require huge chunks of dedicated time that feels unachievable, it’s far easier to make it a habitual part of your day than you might think.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Listen to talks when doing jobs, going for a walk, waiting for your kids to do their activities, or driving from one place to another.
- Whenever a book catches your eye – buy it and create a mini library somewhere in your house, or if you prefer audio or online books, create an easily accessible virtual library – I’m incredibly visual and love the physicality of books so I have created an area in my snug which houses all of my books in a filing system (that means something to me). I also always have at least 1 book by my bed, in my bag, and on the kitchen side, basically anywhere that you walk past regularly and will catch your eye.
- Create10 minutes each day to sit down in the peace and quiet and read – don’t overthink it or beat yourself up for not finishing books, in fact, I often don’t even read a book in order (unless it’s a fictional story that I’m binge-reading), I just pick one up that I am drawn to and randomly flick to a few pages. I simply have faith that whatever I am meant to read I will do, if I create the space for it, and learning a little is better than nothing at all.
- Look for short, online courses which can be as little as 30 minutes a week. Learning comes in many different forms, it does not have to be driven by intellect but maybe curiosity or wanting to learn a new skill. It often helps to treat it as a hobby, something you have chosen to do and can have fun with, rather than a terribly serious scholarly activity.
- Watch a well-written documentary, a comedy, a hard-hitting drama, and really listen to the deep messages which can often offer profound observations on humanity and our behaviour if we watch them with intent and search for meaning rather than purely focusing on their dramatical content. I’ve actually found that going back and watching some of my favourite series again and in a slower time (as I already know the outcome), is hugely beneficial in recognising far more subtle messages and learning something deeper and more soulful from them.
- Create the right space for you to learn in. Space and its energy are hugely important to me. Space needs to provide comfort, functionality, be aesthetically pleasing, but most of all, provide a haven of peace and quiet, to encourage your mind to be still, to create the opening for the new learning to enter.
But the main thing is to just start, find 10 minutes each day, google something, read this article, pick up a random book, listen to a podcast or a youtube video, write down a list of what you would like to learn more about and then just take the next best step. And you will find that as you do this, each and every day, all of those 10 minutes add up and momentum is created and with it a motivation to learn more, to explore and of course, all of this will give you something much more valuable than knowledge, it will help you to get to know yourself, to understand what you really care about, what inspires you to action, what brings you comfort and what breaks your heart.
Learning is ultimately about getting to know ourselves and our fellow human beings just a little more and that enables us to spend our time on the things that really feed our souls and that in itself brings contentment and little by little our outer self changes and then we find ourselves living much truer, meaningful and more sustainable lives.
So please, don’t ever leave school, just create your own.