What Is Learning?


” Our education system focuses entirely on sharpening the intellect. The enrichment of the quality of the emotions has receded to the background. This produces incomplete human beings. ” – Sanjoy Mukharjee

““And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god… the intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools but it is blind to ends and values.” – Albert Einstein

These days, even as an individual working person, we are told we need to promote our “brand”.  Among other things we need to show that we “know” things. It’s not easy  for most people to discern how much another person knows.

Formal education, on it’s surface, can seem convincing. We’ve come to value it to such an extent that employers require much more education even for entry positions,  and the general public has come to trust heavily degreed people’s ideas.

But what are the streams of “knowing” and how much of that comes from collecting knowledge? Perhaps we are underestimating the wholistic cultivation of the individual: awareness of body and nature, empowerment of intuition and being grounded in fundamental ways.

The doctor who is hyperactive and red faced, the lawyer who has thrown fairness out the window, the structural engineer who over-specs to protect their license, the psychotherapist who projects their issues, the policeman who bullies. All these people are fully “educated” according to our accepted systems.

We can that see the gap between rich and poor is exponentially widening. In a sense our education system is following suit. The large institutions seem to be more focussed on revenue and take advantage of  the career market accordingly. The education demand on millennials entering the work force is immense. Students rack up huge debt to purchase  a “ticket” to enter a globally competitive economy where their odds of sustainable employment are a great risk.

In order to survive, their obvious route is to get “qualified”, then to join forces with rich large companies to find new ways to exploit the masses.  Or if they are really clever, find an ethically brilliant win-win scheme to somehow benefit many and sell their startup to Google or whomever.

But not everyone can be the one in a million. Where does that leave an ordinarily smart, hard working person who wants to contribute to this intense and demanding machine that is growing beyond any of our control? Where a college program starts with 700 and has 30 graduates, and a single job posting has 1,000 applicants?

And to what end, when those who graduate and get jobs are all repeating the same learned ideas as each other?

Perhaps my perspective is unique. I spent the first 20 years of a working life playing in rock and roll groups, having left school at sixteen. This led to learning composition, audio engineering, dealing with intellectual property law, creative process and more – going beyond rock and roll to many forms. It was  doing, it was personal study, menteeing with great masters and so on. None of it was in institutions and I earned no letters to add after my name. My greatest learning was sharing a room with a musical director who was a yogi and taught me meditation, a cultivation i embraced for life and opened understandings that permeated all subjects.

There was very little  book learning for these sectors of audio engineering, music and artistic works , until later, when many of my contemporaries (who learned the same way as I) developed courses for universities and private colleges. The fundamentals of the ideas we study in the best schools do not come from people who learned them in other schools. They were stumbled upon, by personalities who were curious and of great fortitude. If was their ability to intuit, and their greater perspective that served them, not so much their knowledge.

I recall sitting at a dining table, at a wedding with a lawyer sitting on on one side of me and a doctor on the other. With great curiosity I asked questions about their fields – the human body, how courts avoid bias when rendering judgements, professional ethics. Like so many similar conversations, there was a sense of “flatness”, a very limited spark, a kind of tunnel view. A surprise at ordinary questions, as though they had never come up before!

What moves those rare individuals who shine in their field?  Not just the greats, but those who do their work humbly and with feeling, truly offering something of value that inspires themselves, helps a client and in some small way actually makes the world a little bit brighter?

What do they teach us in schools, and what do our cookie cutter work environments cultivate? Where does the spark come from, that illuminates the mind, the heart?

Does it come from collecting facts and methods culled from rules, studies and statistics? Does it come  from following a protocol echoed by thousands after one person in the field mucked around and discovered something original?  When do we get to the part where we start to muck around and discover how things work? After ten years of school, then ten years slugging it out to pay it off and earn some stripes, will there be some spark left, and will we remember the intrigue that called us into the field?

We have grown to develop skills in a very limited way and forgotten about developing our minds, our body our heart. Buddha Shakyamuni, who didn’t go to school, discovered that wisdom is equal parts insight and compassion. Thousands of other masters from mystic and contemplative lineages of endless cultures discovered same. They too discovered that by awareness of, and respect for  body, breath, mind, nature, suffering, humility, all life, etc, we can find a path to ordinary and great things. the fields of science and business disregarded humility and compassion and got us some very clever things: nuclear, corporations and usury. Clever, but wise?

We have forged ahead with self gain, cleverness and force, unaware of the impact on the wholistic sense. AS Dr. phil might say – how’s that working for us?

The yoga of body, mind, breath and heart would cultivate skills and powers such that we can write the books not just read them. “Teach a man to fish”.

Sitting down, the spine comfortably straight, step outside the stream of patterned, incessant thoughts … How Is the breath doing? Yikes,  such a discovery already! How is it doing now, and now? So simple, clear, yet we’re already having trouble with it! The simplest task.

What opens up as we learn to do this? It is something an ordinary, sincere person can do, and it can lead to greatness. A level of insight and humility that is profound, and was there all along.

more at: www.PracticeWithGary.wordpress.com


About garyjustice

Writer, Producer, Facilitator. We're always shining, ever brighter...Let's Make Something Beautiful!
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