Be Your Own Best Student

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Teaching around the world for six years taught me more than I ever imagined. I’m still harvesting powerful nuggets about teaching, learning, how to be my own best student from that experience, and integrating them into new learning adventures.

Teaching becomes an adventure in learning how to learn. True, powerful, accelerated learning happens when we share our learning and challenge ourselves to become our own best student. In challenging situations I tell myself:

Be Your Own Best Student!

Teaching is a contact sport and a great way to learn even more. The magic happens when we stay in the curiosity and openness of a student, even when we’re teaching. When we teach something, we’re naturally forced to bring more application and care, as students, to something we’re going to teach others, than we typically do.

Scholar Stones, Tunghai University, China. A scholar is one who goes to school. “School” comes from the Greek, “skholé”: ease. What do scholars learn from the stones? Hmmm…

 

The preparation required for teaching my courses taught me and took me deeper into health, wealth, investments, super-rapid learning at a level far beyond whatever I thought I knew about these topics when I got started.

What motivated my teaching was meeting bright, creative, intelligent people and having fun with them. I met lots of beautiful people and had some great experiences. I was also challenged by how little I saw people doing with what I offered them in response to what they asked of me. We have been ingrained with a very passive, consumeristic approach to so-called “learning.” The deep, sustained, self-led adventure of discovery that true learning is finds little reflection in the culture at large.

Naturally, I wanted my students to benefit the most from what I taught them. The benefit in teaching is to keep learning, including with and about the students!

It took me a while to get the learning at the heart of my disappointment. Disappointments are mis-appointments, failures of appointment that arise when we appoint someone to fulfill something they don’t or can’t, or can’t at the speed of our expectations, our appointments.

Growing Our Forest of Learning

Initially, I focused on what people learned, and didn’t learn, and “what they did with what I taught them.” But learning doesn’t happen at the speed of giving a class and then expecting something to “happen.” Learning is everything like gardening, or growing a forest. It is a growth process, and a cellular and neuronal one, at that. It happens at the speed of LIFE, and connection, and stimulation, and interest, and health.

Many people considered my workshops, and working one-on-one with me, as important turning points in their lives. I was often surprised by the depth of impact certain experiences had for clients which I didn’t even necessarily consider as part of “what I was teaching.” Discovering what they had learned offered me more invitations to my own learning and to discovering how others learn, what motivates learning, and learning occurs in and from the shape of the structure that is growing in learning.

All learning is self-led. We don’t learn from what someone teaches us. We learn from what we experience. In any shared experience we are having our own experience and it’s our experience that’s significant for us.

We have been “taught” so much in our lives, in ways that are scientifically designed for NOT learning, that any time we sit people down in chairs and start talking, it’s very likely that deep learning is NOT going to happen .

It’s too passive and the authority is exterior to the learner. And we all have profound trauma and resistance to this sort of activity, even though many of us still sign up for “courses” and “workshops.”

A Crisis in Learning

The crises affecting the world are crises in learning, in engaging coherently with a dynamic, living reality. Many of us have become profoundly resistant to learning with others and have very little experience leading ourselves in learning. Speaking from my own experience, I consider myself as having been “teachable” for most of my life.

I’ve sought out teachers with exceptional levels of mastery throughout my life, paid my dues, my respect, put in the time, the practice on my own, and followed directions given. And still something was missing from my experience: I had to become and remain my own, and my students’, best student. I had to become self-teachable and self-teaching to truly catch what my teachers had pointed out to me years before.

I had to learn to not only take, but to receive what my teachers offered me as if in a sacred, spacious basket, and then lead myself into the lived experience of just one teaching until that teaching grew into my living. I had to offer myself and invite myself to often-unknown experiences.

Instructional programming does not teach us to learn and know through contact with what is, up to that point, unknown. Few people shape their lives to have the leisure to explore and know their world through slow, patient contact nor can they imagine how little is required to live with such leisure. Many spend their entire lives in unexamined and foregone conclusions of what the world is and isn’t, and what is and isn’t possible within its dynamic unfolding.

Deep learning (and not the sort of parroting we’ve been trained to do) requires directing our attention ourselves, in a leisurely manner. As students, we teach ourselves. One great way to accelerate learning is to learn how another student learns, and NOT to have someone “teaching” us. This is what many enduring cultures call “Elder Sister/ Elder Brother” learning. It’s the way children and adults naturally learn in indigenous communities; running around and living with a band of related friends, at all stages of development, engaging with life coherently and from the level of their current mastery.

That’s the way of classical apprenticeship: we work alongside a person mastering their craft. We learn by doing, but also by having conversations, laughing, flirting with the master craftsman’s daughter, helping him with chores, hanging out and getting related.

Few people today have any sense of this. We learn in environments that are profoundly non-relational.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, “Scholar at the Lectern.”

Learning How to Learn

In the universities where the elite master the art of ruling themselves and others, like Oxford University, learning isn’t centered around “going to classes.” Instead, one enters into relationship with a mentor who guides one’s learning. People who study at Oxford say, “I read in Physics at Oxford,” for example. At such universities, yes, there are lectures, and they are given by scholars for scholars. But students are not getting led by the nose from course to course throughout the day. Instead, they are busy reading, studying, and mastering the art of teaching themselves.

People passionate about learning share their learning with people who share that passion. This is the way learning has happened among free people, i.e. capable of freeing and leading themselves, forever. It’s a very different set-up from the factories of stupefying programming and technical training masquerading as “universities” for “the common folks” today.

In essence, the elite learn how to learn. The ruled are indoctrinated in what to learn.

“The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.”
— Eric Hoffer

Learning Experientially

What we learn is born of our experience.

I’m in the business, or rather  the un-busy-ness, of learning, mentoring other learners, and creating learning adventures that are connective, revitalizing and prompt learners to lead themselves in learning. We learn together.

When we share our passion for living and learning with others, something happens for us: we get to be with someone having a different experience in connection with Life that is TOTALLY available, and NATURAL for us as well.

Sitting on our backsides listening to someone lecture for hours is not an ideal format. That’s not how we learn. Slaves traditionally get instructed by getting talked at and shown the “world” through representation, not through direct contact. They get programmed to perceive “the world” without directly connecting the world and their senses. This results in people who live in an “imaginarium,” ideas that they have of “the world” acquired without connection to the world. Picture what we erroneously call “students” today, spending decades of their lives between four walls.

Free people learn to make sense of our world, with our senses, with reality, and with engagement and connection to the reality of what we are learning. Real learning happens in motion, preferably outdoors and engaged in some creative process that’s hands- and feet-on. It’s a contact sport. Real learning is fun, gets your entire body engaged in the process of discovery, and has you in touch with the real world.

I love to take people on the land and to new countries, sharing adventures in learning, discovering the world, and experiencing and creating something alone and together. The experience itself is creative. It’s fun, it’s relaxed, playful, and everybody learns from the heart of their own experience. Real connection happens.

That’s the way learning happens in traditional, ancient, indigenous cultures: you go hang out with someone who’s dedicated a lifetime of passionately learning, discovering and engaging with the world and you hang out with them while they’re passionately learning, discovering and engaging with the world, with you, learning together, engaging and discovering in active, connective engagement.

That kind of activity grows something inside of us. When real learning happens, real growth and extensive new connections get made inside our own, whole-body neurology.

Something magical happens in the process.

I’ve been doing that with clients, in the wilderness, leading people in connecting with Sacred Places; at their homes, working on projects, like creating food forests and permaculture projects as food and income sources, rocket stove mass heaters, and projects that provide continued nourishment and enrichment for participants. I take people overseas, showing them how to learn languages, live richly and earn, make friends, and create lasting connections, while traveling anywhere in the world. It’s wonderful seeing how much more natural and connective people’s learning becomes.

I’m not “teaching” them in artificial, pre-fabricated conditions. I’m learning with them, and with everything around us. And they’re learning with someone who’s actively and creatively learning in circumstances that are often as new to me as they are to them. I just bring a different dimension of experience and savvy to it. But you also bring your own, and learn to recognize, appreciate and activate it in new ways. That’s were the fun’s at: in being students, in learning with the Aliveness. We’re having real conversations, real adventures, and engaging in real creations. We share living, engaging, learning and discovering newer dimensions of what we’re experiencing and creating together.

In this grounded approach to living and learning, we each discover something for ourselves, and together. Learning is shared in connection to the real world and in relationship. In connection we learn, discover and create together. What’s learned emerges from contact; with each other, with the land, with the weather, with our joys and our discomforts in being together, with the Aliveness that we’re in and our connection to what concerns and interests us.

To learn: be your own best student!

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