I’m a teacher and I love to learn. If I could I would go to school and be in training courses for the rest of my life. I love to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the world. Every time I learn something I grow and become more. My eyes see more clearly and I understand something in a way I did not understand it before. I evolve in ways that help me appreciate difference and change my thinking. When that happens I realize yet again that what I once thought was true is unraveling. I become aware of how much I don’t know and how much there is to learn.
This learning and growing is humbling and keeps me present to what is real. I participate in life with eyes that see more clearly what is right in front of me. I become more human and vulnerable. I feel softer and yet stronger all at the same time.
I wear colored glasses. I’m not sure what color they are, they change with the way I feel about what I am looking at. I am aware though, that what I see is not necessarily true. What I look at is colored by my perceptions, history and my DNA, all of which have formed my beliefs about the world I inhabit.
I brought Sally Hess, a very interesting and thoughtful Modern Dancer to USC for a Dance residency many years ago when I was on the faculty. She was a serious meditator and spent an hour each morning and evening in meditation. I asked her why she mediated and what benefit she received from it and she told me something I have never forgotten. She said, ‘it’s as if there is a clouded window in front of me and in the corner there is a tiny spot that has been wiped just enough so that if I look really hard I can see there is something there. I can’t see it clearly but I can see that something is on the other side of the window. As I mediate more and more I begin to understand that there is a world I can not see clearly but know, without question, is there. I am curious to find out what is on the other side of the window so I continue to sit quietly and wait for the images to become clearer.’
I don’t have that kind of patience to sit and mediate for two hours every day. I swim daily and after 10 laps or so I get into a kind of meditative state and lose track of what felt important when I started swimming. The even repetitive flow of my breathing connects me to a deeper, calmer and more vital part of my self. When I am finished I live in an easier and gentler way and what is outside of me merges more with what is inside. Maybe that’s what mediators feel like after they have sat for a time. I might call that harmony, a merging of the inner and outer worlds.
What I am sure about is that I want to be open to learning. I want to be resilient enough to accept that what I think is true may not be true. Most importantly, I want to be moved by life. I want to witness what is around me as a question to be discovered, not an answer to be defended. I want to be open to grow and change and always see things as new.
I am 58 and will soon be 59. I’ve lived more of my life than I have left to live.
I had a leather purse I loved that I threw away after our car accident. Because of the accident it was covered in oil and I couldn’t get it clean. I threw it away because it reminded me of the terror of the accident. I wish I had it now because it would remind me of how we not only survived we are thriving, but that’s for another blog. The purse was old and soft. The leather was so flexible and worn in ways that made it perfect.
I read years ago about how leather becomes softer and more flexible as it ages, kind of like jeans. Our favorite jeans are often the old ones that are so soft, fit just right, are completely comfortable and become like a second skin. That’s how I want to age. I want my skin to become softer and more pliable as the years pass. I want my wrinkles to be open spaces that allow love and gentleness to seep in and the sagging of my muscles to make it easier to house a heart that is open to what may be new.
I never want to graduate from this school. I’ll go to night-school and enroll on the weekends and get tutored by the experts. I’ll go on weekend retreats and take self-study courses and choose from a catalogue all that compels and calls me to grow. I’ll continually be reminded that I am a very small part of a much bigger picture that unfolds in ways I can not predict. I will stay awake and surprised by what there is to learn through living so that I am open to love and learn and be a source of light for all to see.
Will you join me?