Saturday, 19 November 2011

Living From the Inside Out Part II: The Art of Learning

I love learning, new things, a new twist on old things, new concepts, new dimensions. Learning new things doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone or everything; just be willing to see, hear and consider what I’ve not seen and heard before. I can still always say “no”. I love receiving incoming missiles of new information and revelation that can be used for practical living, and just for fun too. I agree that a mind is a terrible thing to waste (and so is time). When I returned to school to study psychology I loved having more to do than I could handle. I’d rather have a plate with too much food than not enough for guess what? I could always take a doggie bag and munch again later. J This is how I feel about learning. Surround me with books and information and I can munch on them forever.

Learning is not to be confused with memorizing. Even though I believe in memorization, I don’t live by it. For me and to me memorizing information is only temporary and lasts for a short amount of time. For instance, one subject we studied in high school was “government”. Well, I’m not a very political person, don’t like politics nor the spirit of politicians. But I know that if I am going to become a well-rounded person I need to break through many of the topics I don’t like, and decide to learn about them and identify what I dislike about them as well as how they apply to real people and ordinary living. Or is that ordinary people and real living? Hmmmm.

Back to the government class – I managed to finish the class at the end of my senior year with five A’s and one B for the entire year. I recall studying for the tests the day and night before taking them, and the morning of. I would go to school hours early, and thank God that my government class was the first class of the day, and I would polish up on everything. Then I would go in and ace the tests. But if you asked me a day or two later what many of the topics meant that were on the test and how they could benefit me and others even now, I must be honest and tell you I don’t have much to say. Why not? Because all I did was memorize the information. I did not try to learn it for understanding and application to life. It was not my “favorite” topic even though the teacher was great and I had great classmates too. (My favorite class was band. J But not for this blog space.)

Hmmmmm again. Five m’s this time. Memorization comes in handy when you need to ingest and retain information right away and for short-term situations. But if you want the incomings (I love the lingo of military, police and sci fi movies) to stick to your bones (not my thighs please) so you may be able to use the information again and again in the future, then this is where learning comes in.

For instance, when I’m trying to learn new songs I will write out the lyrics so I can see them – take a photo of them with my eyes so they can be downloaded to my brain as a photograph. I also read them aloud to myself without the music and learn the story in the lyrics. I then study the song to try to understand from where the writer is coming, and to try and relate to him or her. I try to establish a relationship with the song through the lyrics as well as the music, but also the writer. I invest time and concerted effort into the song.

Now I don’t want to have a long-term relationship with every song I may sing because sometimes I’m asked to sing songs that on the surface seem to be “okay” but the spirit behind the artist singing and marketing the song is of such that I don’t want to become intimate with. So I relegate that song to be memorized and not learned. I may wait for the last possible minute to work on it, or I may carry it around on paper even to the performance so I may deliver it well, but when the performance is over, so is my relationship to the song. Memorization is for short-term relationships while learning is for life-long ones, in my opinion. (After all, this is my blog. Thanks for reminding me.)

There are so many methods for learning, and I enjoy learning new methods for learning too. This keeps me on my toes and keeps life exciting. Subjects that intimidated me in school as a youngster now appeal to me because I see from a distance cognitively, and up close and personal experientially that I will benefit from them the more I know. For instance, marketing and economics (Econ is what my fellow geeks in school would call it). Now I must understand these topics in order to understand why some products do well in certain geographical regions and not at all in others. Also investing and investments. Ugh! But hey, I know when the compound interest begins to roll the dice in my favor, I will be glad I invested (pun intended) my resources. Anyhoooo . . .

To put in my time and money (especially when it comes to attending a university for instance, or other learning institution) means I am serious about what I’m uh . . . learning. Education is too expensive just to relegate to the top half of the brain through memorization. Aren’t you glad that your doctor, lawyer, firefighter, and other serious public servants are required to put in the time and energy to LEARN rather than just memorize information?

While studying to become a nurse, we worked with cadavers. Yeah, cold dead peoples' bodies. We had to learn all the organs and veins and arteries, what they did, to what they were connected, abnormalities, why they happened and so on and on. It was so much information to learn in such a short amount of time that I burned out with the cooking. J I knew that I needed to learn the information and why I needed to learn it and that it would benefit me later in life for life . . . but I was tired of learning something I was not excited about learning. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy learning and understanding how the body works etc. but at that level, I don’t think that’s what I need to know in order to do what I desire to do, now that I know what I desire to do (“to thine own self be true” means you must put in some time learning YOU).

You see, the fun part of learning, (can you say “art class”?) is learning information about topics which not only will benefit you for life, but which you enjoy. Like I said before, sometimes it is necessary to learn things that are “boring” but we don’t have to build our lives around learning boring things. We just need to be willing to eat some peas, okra, brussel sprouts and other fibrous green veggies that we hated as children, in order to nourish our bodies in a healthy way. Boring but important subjects would fall into the category of “vegetables I hated as a child”. LOL!! Yes, like politics. They’re not going to go away and we will be affected by what we know and don’t know. (Ignorance is not bliss. We need to know what a “Stop Sign” means so the end of our life will not come when we’ve only just begun.) It’s just how will we be affected and what will we be equipped to do about “it” when the rubber meets the road and stuff starts to hit the fan?

The art of learning has within itself the willingness to be stretched beyond one’s current capabilities to embrace new experiences and the willingness to change one’s mentality to accommodate the presence of new information as a reality, and not just as abstract principles on paper (or the computer screen). To be willing to let go of the “old” to receive the new, especially when the old has already fulfilled its purpose and it’s expiration date has come and gone. When we learn something, we never lose its benefits no matter how old the lesson(s). Au contraire. Instead we build upon it, and it makes room for new learning. We mature through it , because of it, and by it.

Sure enough the art of learning does involve change and if we are afraid of change, then more than likely we may not be having much real fun in life. I have never been one who could draw beautiful pictures, but I do love colors, crayons, magic markers, paint etc. I loved finger painting because I didn’t have to explain what I was creating. Because I did not know. LOL!! I loved it when the art teacher would change us from one form of art expression to another for it allowed me to investigate what was hidden inside of me that I enjoyed and would be willing to become vulnerable to expose to the world. Of course children laugh at what they don’t understand, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. We are no longer children, but laughter is good for the soul and body. (Learn to laugh at yourself, in a nice and healthy way.) Change is a part of the art of learning which enables us to move from what we’re not comfortable doing to what we finally discover to be our niche.

Learning has so many colors. Maybe you learn best by seeing, your cousin learns best by hearing, and your aunt learns best by touching. It doesn’t matter how you learn, it just matters that you keep an open mind and a willing heart to learn and to use different methods for learning. Repetition is a part of learning too, but some people say they only need to hear or see something one time, and they believe they “have it”. That’s cool too. Whatever floats your boat, but just don’t ask me to believe that you will make a good doctor, for I would prefer that you take a second and a third look before making certain decisions, and incisions. J

Some of my favorite Bible verses are found in the book of Proverbs: “Get skillful and godly Wisdom, get understanding (discernment, comprehension, and interpretation); do not forget and do not turn back from the words of my mouth. Forsake not [Wisdom], and she will keep, defend, and protect you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of Wisdom is: get Wisdom (skillful and godly Wisdom)! [For skillful and godly Wisdom is the principal thing.] And with all you have gotten, get understanding (discernment, comprehension, and interpretation).” (Proverbs 4:5-7) [Amplified Bible] ((Pretty repetitive isn't that one?) Some people believe that if you speak about verses from the Bible that they only apply to things connected to the church, but this is not so. The God of the Bible created the universe and all knowledge and wisdom originates with Him. He knows marketing and economics, nursing and psychology better than all of us. Wall Street has nothing on Him (“Can’t touch this”!). He is our sea and wealth of knowledge and understanding. Wisdom was with Him when He created the world, so if we want to learn anything well that we learn, we need to consult the Greatest Teacher and Artist in the universe.

The artwork our Creator has given to us is for our living and for our enjoyment, and its purpose is for us to spend time learning Who He is and how much He loves us. The art of listening is to aid us in the art of learning, and the art of learning is for the art of living. Listen well, learn well. Learn well, live will. Stay tuned for part three: The Art of Living.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Fractures, Breaks & Bruises

Recently I witnessed up close and personal (albeit not against or towards me mind you) a situation where someone was injured. As I observed this person’s actions in the wake of the incident I allowed my mind to recall injuries in my own life and in the lives of others I know personally, and some of the lessons we learned through them. And this is what came to me . . .

Fractures and breaks are those injuries which involve the bones and they can appear on x-rays. I’ve talked to those with fractures and they say the pain is worse than a broken bone. Wow! A fracture is like a crack and it is an awkward injury. Not quite a break, but yet rendering the limb or body part useless for a while, and also needing to be guarded and protected with plaster of paris (no pun intended) i.e. a caste.

A break of course is a . . . break. The bone is no longer one piece but at least two, maybe more. It too must be protected, is painful, and the limb or other body part cannot be used for a good minute. Because it can be seen by all, the patient can and will receive sympathy and much needed help without solicitation.

In my own personal experience I’ve never had a fracture or a breakage (maybe to my little toes when I stumped them on the coffee table in the dark while walking through the living room on my way towards the staircase.), but I have experienced bruising/bruises from time to time, and they can be so painful, especially depending on the location, and of course the depth of the bruise. I noticed that you rarely if ever cover a bruise with a special bandage unless the skin has been significantly cut which would invite an infection. Again in my case, that was never the case. I was blessed for the injuries not to be that extensive, yet deep enough that I am able to empathize with others who have been bruised – physically as well as emotionally and psychologically.

When caring for the bruise I would guard it with my hand or the positioning of my body so as not to allow anything to come in contact with it. I was very “defensive” concerning that injured area. Hmmmm. You can hear what’s sizzling in the skillet can’t you?

Because we’re trying to protect the bruised area we usually keep it covered and hidden from view, but also because they are unsightly and we don’t want people to suspect anything false or maybe the truth, or to think the worst when there is no "worst". Nevertheless, bruises don’t have a good reputation. They can occur at any time for myriad reasons, but our responses and reactions to all kinds of bruises are the same: protect.

Protection usually comes in the form of defensiveness, as previously stated, guardedness, emotionally closed, as well as shortness, impatience, cutting and biting, having a sharpness to one’s personality. So when you think of weapons that are used to physically protect – knives, guns, bats, sharp objects then you can get a mental picture of what happens beneath the surface of our being human when we experience “internal” injuries.

The problem with living from a bruised disposition is that we treat everyone as a potential and probable “criminal” against us, a perpetrator of our pain. Over time, if we do not seek help from being bruised by the words, actions, or deeds of others, but instead continue to internalize them, we build our entire personality around the bruise, and even after it no longer exists in “real time”, our character will still be molded to a phantom. It will be as though we are rehashing the past again and again even when we’re not thinking about it. Yet from time to time something will happen, what psychologists call “triggers” which will awaken the memories in our psyche and we will be taken back to the future. Because the past becomes the present and the present becomes the future; it will be like “groundhog day” until we get tired of being harassed and hassled by what others have done against us, for they’ve done what dogs do: they do their business and move on, but leave you standing smelling like . . . (feel free to fill in the blank with your own descriptive terms.). Ahem. Anyhoooo, we cannot Undo what has been done to, for or against us, but we can decide what we will do in the wake of it all, each and every time. I’m still learning to practice these tips, so I’m sharing them with you as I continue living.

  1. Take a bath. LOL!! This is the first thing to do when you encounter a disrespectful dog. Get rid of the stench and mess, and maybe even discard the clothing. On the emotional and mental side this may take the form of prayer and reading God’s Word first to “cleanse” your mind and emotions from the situation so you can think more clearly. (Even talking it out with a safe humane person.) I know this is what is necessary for me, and it works. But sometimes I have to take several baths after one incident. Don’t worry, this is normal. Think about people who come in contact with skunks! Ick.
  2. Forgive, release and bless. We forgive because we too need to be forgiven. None of us are perfect and we all hurt others from time to time, whether we know we’re doing it or not. Sometimes people may never come to us and tell us what we have done. They may be exercising forgiveness, release and blessing towards us, or they may just be avoiding us to prevent from being hurt again, or they stay away to heal and regroup. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel that if we don’t forgive other’s their infractions (i.e. sins) against us, then God the Father will not forgive us our sins against Him. Hmmm, I really need and want God to forgive me of my imperfections, so I work hard to forgive and release. What does it mean to release? It means you are willing to “let it go” or “let them go”. It’s like setting a prisoner free, not making him/her pay for their crimes. This doesn’t mean you become a doormat for them to walk on you again and again. Think about it: in order to keep a prisoner, you have to become like a “watchdog”. You’re not free to go either for if you leave, who’s going to keep your prisoner for you? And think again: would you want to be held captive by someone you’ve injured? Injured animals are dangerous to be around, and so are injured humans who don’t seek help and healing. And to bless. To me, when I bless those who have hurt me, I experience the greatest relief and release in my spirit, soul and body. Words are a powerful force and when we use them for good towards others, not only do they experience something good, so do we. It has been scientifically proven that people with arthritis are full of unforgiveness, deep resentment and bitterness, and when they forgive, release and bless those who hurt them, their bodies release the toxins and pain of that painful dis-ease.
  3. Learn. The first thing I’ve learned is that as long as I live and remain among other humans, there will be lifelong opportunities to be hurt by them, some in passing, some in my close relationships, some work-related. And guess what? There will be the same number of opportunities for me to hurt others whether on purpose or inadvertently. Another lesson I am learning is to be more quick to hear and listen than I am to speak, because most infractions can be avoided if we learn to use our two ears more than our one mouth. For once words exit our lips, they cannot be taken back. I often ask myself “is it necessary for me to verbally respond, or would it be better for me to just be quiet?” Will my speaking help, or add something good to the situation, or will my words leave victims in their wake? The Bible in the book of James says the tongue is a fire. Here, I’ll let the apostle say it in his own words, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze! And the tongue is a fire.” James 3:5 &6a (Amplified Bible). Remember how the wicked witch threatened the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz? Hmmmm. Don’t play with fire.
  4. Be considerate. Treat others the way I would want to be treated. Think about how what I do and say will affect others by thinking about how I would feel if they did it to me.
  5. Let love rule. Love does no harm to a neighbor. I Corinthians 13. Once again, this is not being a doormat, so you will just have to read this love chapter to see what (and Who) love really is. Love is not sappy and syrupy. Love is not a bisous and it is not a song or a flower. Love is stronger than that. It is not an emotion, for emotions change. There is human love – phileo, eros, and storge. And there is Divine Love = Perfect Love = God – Agape. It is not affected by who and what we are or what we do. It is not controlled by our emotions, words or deeds. It is the most powerful force in the universe and one must receive God into his/her heart in order for this Agape to become a reality within and through one’s life. Period.

I am sure you can add to this list from your own life experiences, and you know like I know that it is not always easy to pat your head and rub your stomach and chew gum and walk backwards all at the same time. J But once we begin to slow down our roll i.e. our thoughts and words and the speed with which we share information and respond to incoming missiles from others, we can decrease the number of casualties in society from becoming bruised souls, for what goes around indeed comes around and we reap what we sow. But maybe this sowing and reaping principle will open our eyes even wider when explained this way: when we sow a seed, it is not a seed that we reap. No, instead we reap a tree (or some other plant) with fruit which contain more seeds with the potential for more trees and fruit, and so on. And don’t forget, unless we cut down the trees after the first season of fruit-bearing, they will bear fruit again, and again and again.

Do we really want to reap the words and deeds we sow into the lives of others? Do we really want a return (compound interest style) on our “investment”? Do we really want to be bruised as we have bruised others? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Anyhoooo . . .