Have you considered that there are a lot of things you might be giving time to that are not teaching you anything? Gregge Tiffen (Pleasure Is Short, Wisdom Is Infinite – May, 2008)
When you’re truly awake, everything teaches you something.
We tend to think that life’s learning mostly comes from big events. In particular, we look for the ‘life lessons’ in problems and challenges that we face. ‘What is my learning from this illness, accident, death, being fired, fighting with my best friend?’ we ask. And rightly so, since life’s challenges consistently come with opportunities to learn. Life’s joyful events (weddings and celebrations of all kinds come to mind) likewise hold learning for us, and not just when something goes awry.
Considering the above question in one of Gregge Tiffen’s dandy little booklets of wisdom, I came to a deeper awareness that life’s learning isn’t just in the big stuff. Every moment is an opportunity to learn … IF I’m awake, aware, and want to do so.
Everything holds the potential to inform or teach me something. From observing, reading, taking in information in any form I learn ‘about’ things. I learn ‘from’ those things when I experiment with applying what I’ve learned about. Such experiments teach me what works (and what doesn’t).
Over the years I’ve learned to be less frustrated by experiments that don’t work and more curious about how to make something work. When an attempted repair here at home doesn’t work, I aim first to understand just what is ‘broken’. With that understanding, I can look for an approach that addresses that issue. There was a time in my life when being unsuccessful at tightening a cabinet hinge that had pulled loose would have sent me into a near tirade of self-abuse. This week, realizing that the holes were stripped, I employed two toothpicks and a bit of wood glue with little ado. A good dose of self-satisfaction followed. I’d learned a new repair tactic, and I’d experienced a touch of how I’ve grown.
When I’m awake, I’m aware of how much Cool Hand Luke teaches me about caring for another being and of how much I’ve learned about the basics of caring for a pet. When I’m awake, I learn how my choices about investments of time, energy, and money reflect my priorities. Or, I discover that I may want to choose differently.
As I awaken to greater self-awareness, it seems that the only things I “give time to that don’t teach me anything” are things that I do without that awareness. When I look back at what I’ve given time to this week (or any week for that matter), I realize that my choices reflected my priorities in the moment. When I’m awake to learning, the age-old bugaboo about ‘wasting time’ is silenced. From a game or two of mahjongg solitaire on the computer, I become aware that sometimes I need a bit of distraction. From more than a couple games, I learn that I’m bored and/or avoiding something. From witnessing violence in the news, I learn how sensitive I am.
Indeed, I’ve learned that when I’m truly awake, everything teaches me something.