This season is about being thankful and giving back. And of course, in an ideal world, we’re all usually thinking of what we appreciate in our lives and doing our part to give to others. But of course it’s lovely to have a time when we all collectively focus on being extremely thankful and the act of giving.
I keep a gratitude journal, and I encourage everyone to keep one too. I typically write in the morning when I awaken, just jot down a few things that I am grateful for to start my day. And I try to mix it up and think of things that are new and I have not been paying attention to. But for this I wanted to dig even a bit deeper and think of something that is often the Unsung Hero of things to appreciate.
So what I am focusing on being thankful for this week is education and our brain’s insane capacity for learning. It has been years since I’ve been on the learning side of a classroom. Recently ~ and completely unexpectedly ~we had a donor approach our team and offer to pay for us to take classes at the Mindfulness School. We were all extremely grateful and recognized it immediately as a truly lovely gesture. It will deepen all of our own individual mindfulness practices and give us even more language and tools to teach it effectively to young people.
But I did not think much of the class itself. I first taught in a first grade classroom in 1992, and I have taught in a wide variety of educational settings in the many years since then, some with more success than others. I’ve always tried my best to understand what motivates my students to learn ~ and in contrast ~ what causes them to disengage? I taught at a middle school for years, and I could clearly see some young people I cared for become literally averse to learning in the classroom. I would try different strategies, tactics, anything to get them to see that learning could really open up any doors they wanted for themselves.
So now I turn that mirror upon myself. When did I, a self proclaimed avid educator, stop so actively learning? Yes, I try hard to be a consistent student of life, to learn from my mistakes, to be reflective about my choices, etc., ~ but when did I give up pushing myself hard to intentionally learn new things?
I’ve wanted to learn Spanish for years ~ have I done it? No. I’d love to be much more skilled on the computer ~ have I taken a class? Nope. I’d love to dance salsa, but I took a class one time, was surprised and even a bit embarrassed by my lack of natural ability, as I was a dancer for years ~ and did I ever sign up for another class? No, I did not.
Full disclosure: I’ve never even read the manual that came with my new car, although I’m certain that would make my life easier to know how to switch from Bluetooth to the radio, instead of the random pushing of buttons I do every time to make it work. The struggle to put off learning is real!
So today I am grateful that even though I may have given up somewhat on intentional learning for a while, my brain has never given up on me. I can literally still study and learn anything that I want.
I challenge you to join me. This first class we are taking is only making me want more. Reflect.. and ask yourself.. what is something that you would like to learn? It can be as small as a new recipe or yoga pose, a new vocabulary word every week, maybe even a different way to drive to work or how to help your kids make the best slime. Literally anything! Really try to awaken that student in you, the part of you that wants to be an active and excited learner.
And then see where that takes you! It may well lead you to want to learn something else or start down another path exploration and new information. Our brains crave knowledge the way our bodies crave good health and our hearts crave love and connection. Let’s be thankful to our brains and our ability to always keep learning, to always keep growing. Our brain’s ability to adapt and change and grow is nothing short of a daily miracle. Let’s give it some great new food.
There is a story on Youtube of a single mother who learned how to build her own home and built it from the ground up, with her children, a home she could have never afforded otherwise. She had the need and desire to learn, and that effort changed the course of her and her family’s life dramatically. With knowledge, literally anything is possible.
And to our benefactor, who gave me this tangible gift of our class and the intangible yet invaluable gift of sparking this excitement for classroom learning in me again, I am forever grateful.
So what do you want to learn? Go get started. What are you waiting for? Our world gives us so many forums today to learn new things. Take advantage, follow a podcast, get an app, take a class, read a book, join a group, watch on Youtube. Anything! You, your brain, and your loved ones will thank you for seeking more education and knowledge which can at any time change your one precious life.