When we are young we don’t realize it, but we are learning drastically in every minute. The younger we are the more time and NEED we have to absorb all that is around us to learn. A baby doesn’t learn language in a few months or how to play an instrument in the first few years of grade school. They take many years going at their own pace to acquire such knowledge. In a way, children are models of patience. They don’t know it and sometimes it is very obvious as they throw tantrums and clearly are not patient but by default they HAVE to be patient or else they would stay babies.
As we age and become older, many different things happen. Many of which actually reverse age us back into babies! We take for granted who we are and how we got there. We see learning not as something that happens by default anymore but always in this comparison to the idea of space, time, resources, results. Suddenly learning has become “work” or constantly compared to something of value. Some of that is inevitable, as children have more energy than most, or mountains of threatening life responsibilities come upon many adults, but even still, most at the source is choice.
What builds up in our minds over our lifetimes is traumas, stories, addictions, wants, defenses, fears, anxieties, etc. about all that we have experienced. We spend more time in our adult, practical, rationalization heads and question why we are doing anything. We can become almost proud of our shortcomings and dive deeper into them (often not even realizing it!) vs having any desire to change as the thought of learning, changing, taking on something new seems too long of a path, or unnecessary to motivate us to start. Whatever way we are by default, we often just keep thinking we are “correct” and just keep digging into whatever we’ve already experienced for ourselves in our lives whether it be positive or negative. We naturally keep doing whatever it is we’ve already been doing in our lives because it seems natural and easy as we are already doing it and have developed a comfortable intimacy with it.
As adults, we take things personally more. We make expectations and assumptions about everything. Our minds never stop. We notice that we are getting older and then put limitations on ourselves for experience. The whole idea of patience only means something if whatever we’re doing leads to results in such things as money, love, or anything else we have attachment to. We grasp for meaning outside of ourselves. We have to know why we are doing anything vs feeling why we are doing something, like children do. Our attention spans easily become shorter because our minds can conjure up infinite reasons for disputing everything or why not to do something. What we walk towards to and desire to learn becomes more limited. Pretty soon our brains, our bodies, our days look very much the same and the creativity and flow and patience we had by default in childhood comes to an absolute halt. Learning and changing for the positive should be something that never stops. What happens to us when we become unaware or unmotivated at how we can change and learn in our lives? In the adult world, constant intention needs to be paid attention to this or else by default we turn into the opposite of children and forget how to change and learn.
Recently, I’ve made a commitment to learn, change, and take on new things. It has been extraordinarily hard at times but the desire to be different has been overwhelming motivational for me because of the same old patterns I saw myself doing over and over as the years went by. I wanted to put a halt to that and see if I could create something new. I didn’t like these old patterns, so I decided to make changes, be different, and take on learning different ways of being and processing information. I’ll start with the easier of the three things I’ve had the joy of taking on which is the instrument of the ukulele. For many years I have wanted instrumental music influence in my life and was always telling people close to me that I was on the verge of buying an instrument but never did. Finally, about a year ago I bought a keyboard as my sister could teach me. It sat in my house for many months before I started to play and at first it seemed like a whole lot of work. How do my fingers move in that way? How do I read music? Ah, it’s all so stressful. I could feel my brain sweating and resisting constantly. After a while, it became very meditative for me and I was motivated to do it almost every day. Right when I was starting to really absorb it I sold everything in my life and put it in storage and didn’t have a home to play anymore. I needed an instrument that was convenient to carry with me and the harmonica and ukulele appeared in my life and I gravitated towards the uke.
The reason why the ukulele has been the easiest (still very hard!) thing for me to learn at this moment is largely because of my professional sports and body movement background. If there is one thing I can claim I am a total learning master at, it is anything to do with body movement and kinesthetic learning. I have an innate intelligence with body movement. Something like dancing is an incredibly relaxing and spiritual practice for me. I can watch people do things and then do them. I can get into wonderful meditative practice with doing the same movement over and over again until I perfect it. Learning to play tennis and hitting a good serve and backhand are things that come to mind in my adult life. Movement in general, is very fun and natural for me and learning to play different chords and strumming patterns on the ukulele has tapped into some of those old learning patters. Repetitive motion is calming for me. Much like sports, exercise, and dancing, playing an instrument gets me out of my head and allows me to focus on one thing which can often be very hard for me to do. I can also do this activity on my own and it doesn’t require a screen! I’ve realized in recent years how much I value and enjoy my alone time, really embracing the introverted side of me that I’ve always pushed down. I feel empowered doing something on my own and it’s made me rethink how much time and energy is healthy for me to dedicate to myself vs others and how out of balance I’ve sometimes been over the years. I really want to spend more time in the future dedicated to my inner introvert and the ukulele taps into that mindset.
Taking on Spanish and meditation have both been very hard, however, meditation has been less hard. The things that make it easy are similar to what make the ukulele easy. I can do it on my own and embrace my inner solo energy and I NEEDED the balance of such introverted activities in my life. It is outrageously relaxing and stimulating to sit in meditation and to do breathwork exercises that cater to shifting energy. It has been enlightening to sit in calm, still places for long periods of time. It has quickly turned into something I look forward to every day. I can’t imagine my life before meditation now. How did I function with all of this pent-up, anxious energy that I didn’t have an outlet for? Meditation has allowed me to get out of my head or to simply not believe my thoughts, rather, just letting them come and go. It is brought about enormous health benefits and opened up other pathways for me in regard to learning and not judging my life and trying to live more in the state of that of a child, that of feeling more, with allowing the passiveness of patience and joy to lead to creativity in my life. I ultimately want to do things because I feel into them vs thinking into them. Being more in my body and not my mind and just “doing things” without the expectation of accomplishment has had immeasurable positive impacts on every avenue of my life. I have a lot of work to do to totally continue to embody this in my life.
The hard part about learning meditation is what makes me so good at movement based, kinesthetic learning. It is hard to sit still! I can have a lot of fire energy in me raging throughout and this relates to my mind as well as thoughts zig zagging drastically in every direction during my day. A lot of my meditation practice has been in just trying to witness these thoughts and not attaching any meaning to them which is VERY hard for me to do. I want to run in so many different directions with my thoughts. When I feel something, my mind instantly wants to make sense of it and offer 10,000 things for what it possibly means. This wastes so much time and energy on myself that it repulses me as I think or act out everything going on and it leads me to getting nowhere fast. Rather, I’ve tried to take the opposite approach more and not believe any or most of my thoughts in regard to everything. Whatever I’m thinking just is a thought and that’s it and whatever I’m feeling needs to just be itself and allowed to go through its ups and downs and not have me attach any weird stories of meaning to them. It has been hard to trust the process as taking on the power of thoughts having no meaning, and meditation being an act of “doing nothing” is new for me and counter to most of how the culture I’ve grown up in operates and decides meaning. This process has been easy for me to read about but hard for me to practice and really get and feel. Eventually, during an era of my life when things started to get really dark for me, I started to trust it more and actually have felt instantly the enormously positive effects it had on my depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. I have always yearned for such an activity vs always gritting my teeth through scenarios with stubbornness and push, and in this way, it has allowed me to focus on rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, and better uses of my energy.
Spanish and language acquisition has been a herculean, hard task in every way possible! I don’t think there is one easy thing about it, and I have never done anything so obvious to see how my brain works, learns, changes when we really have another way of operating. Language is all encompassing and deciding one day you want to change the way you communicate affects EVERTYHING around you. All of this goes to show that when people want to make change in their life it usually comes at the expense of an insane amount of effort and patience applied. Change just doesn’t happen and that’s why most people don’t change. It has to be a whole lifestyle approach change that needs to be catered to. It’s not like learning a song on the ukulele or sitting down to meditate. It is an obvious display of your reactionary mind and how it learns. You aren’t even aware of what you’ve learned often as it’s all based on muscle memory that ever so slowly changes your reaction to things.
In Spanish, thinking about what I’m reading, going to say, or hearing seems to make me easily more confused because I’m constantly comparing it to my old way of doing things which my brain is avidly wondering why I’m changing after so many years. Somehow, I have to just trust my new reaction to things. Many times I spit out a word that is correct and I have no idea how I knew it. If I had stopped to think about it, I wouldn’t have said it (which I often do). It’s an incredibly hard line to be balancing on; when to think and when to just react and often you just make up words or things you think you hear. Just about every moment of language acquisition makes you look stupid and one has to be very comfortable with making constant mistakes, frustrating people, not being able to connect, or just not knowing anything about everything that’s going on! It is an outrageously humbling experience and it tests me every day and I often feel exhausted from the pursuit. One unintended learning of this pursuit is that it is really teaches me how to balance my time and energy. If I don’t balance this enormously, energetically, exhaustive pursuit out with other things in my life, or just simply rest, the process will make me crack and I’ll start to resent Spanish, or whatever I am doing. This process has helped me notice how I’ve done this with loads of other things in my past that weren’t as obvious as Spanish. I will conduct myself different in the future regarding stress in general. All of this has been so much more than just learning language. I’m learning how to function more efficiently with my energy and how to not burn myself out and this relates to EVERYTHING I take on in my life as I am very sensitive to balance and flow. I believe more and more each day with the turtle approach to life:)
There are a few things that make learning Spanish incredibly hard for me. One is that I believe I have something along the lines of zero spatial awareness/envisioning skills. For example, in aptitude tests I would take when I was younger, when I was given a block of bricks that all had different sizes and shapes and was asked to take them apart and put them back together again I scored in like the lowest zero percentile of success with that. I just can’t imagine something in my minds eye for how something should work or fit together. I seem to have the opposite of a photographic memory and my learning in my life has largely been through trial and error active engagement instead of visualization. Also when people talk to me, it is easy to not hear anything they are saying as receiving oratory information can often be very difficult for me to really get. My multi-tasking with my hearing and speaking senses are horrible when there is other noise and stimulation around, hence why I’ve always struggled in bars. I need things written down or I normally need things said repeatedly or more slowly. I thrive around patient people but clearly do not around non-patient ones. This has made me into a very forgiving and patient person as I know the pain of how stupid I feel when I get confronted by these types.
I am also a connector type of person. I yearn for connection and felt senses with people and not knowing how to communicate or talk with people throws that all through chaotic loops. I can easily try too hard to impress others and have an unhealthy yearning caring about being liked and loved that makes me act unauthentic. When I don’t get what I want, in regards to connection, this can manifest into trying harder to connect, as my “push” mentality takes over making my energy ultimately decrease to resentful, burned out places. In Spanish when I don’t connect, which is VERY often because I am comparing it to the flow of English, I feel like I am constantly “failing” people. This also speaks to perfectionist issues and overall issues related to control and my idea of putting pressure on myself for being perfect for people, often making me act not like myself and further diving into letting myself and others around me down by doing such. Letting go of all of this is hard for me and since Spanish is impossible to be self-expressed in, at this moment, my mind constantly is swirling chaotically all over the place, in a more or less panicked state. I wish I knew how to better sit in situations where I could feel relaxed within the presence of whatever energy exchange is happening around me. When such panic states arise, is hard for me not to go into a reactionary freeze trauma response where the self-judgement and guilt provokes a sort of flight or flight response but in this case it is a freeze. Thinking ceases and I draw blanks and this happens even in English. This is a very inconvenient thing to work through while learning language, especially as I encounter these traumas states VERY often but again the lessons I’m learning from learning Spanish are appearing to have a lot more in mind than just language acquisition.
Spanish also came up at an interesting time for me. In a time period where I’m trying to talk less and be more introverted with my energy I took on trying to learn a skill that required a lot of extroversion. I would love to talk less in English overall, but then again, I suppose I am glad I’m learning Spanish in this new way that I would like to communicate. Learning Spanish has changed my English and how I communicate in the sense that I want to instill more confidence in myself with talking less, being more efficient with my words, and being more calm and still and centered in the face of not catering to energy that doesn’t make me act authentic. I have also realized that I am no different than a baby in how I will learn something like language. It will take years for me of making it a smoothly energetic, fluid, lifestyle approach. I can’t force anything and judging myself on my acquisition of learning things in my life just makes things way worse. What makes meditation hard is also what makes Spanish insane to sort through. My mind races at a million miles an hour and when you don’t know what to say or how to say it, it just races faster trying to search desperately for the right answer, which in the end just leads to more chaotic thoughts and taking longer to find the right answer. I try to remain calm and posed in my thoughts in Spanish and what I want to say and what I’m hearing but it slows down the pace of the conversation with someone to be dramatically slower, which is hard to expect someone to do with me. Not a lot of people are patient in such a way. However, again, I just need to let go of all of this and have a sense of “being” in the moment and calm and happy with my attempt and not focused on results at doing something very hard.
The patience of learning is realizing that for most of us it takes exposing yourself or trying at something 50 to 100 times before you can even start to possibly feel comfortable with something. That’s a big commitment and one can spend their whole life in a beginner stage of always being a learner if they take on many things. It is very humbling to know you’re going to look stupid learning but there is immense POWER in that, and extremely powerful people realize this and aren’t afraid of it. And on the other hand, times in my life when I’ve been a professional or really good at having learned something, those skills really haven’t been all too glamorous. We get used to whatever it is we do in our lives and things can easily get boring and unstimulating, and in the end, we think, what’s the difference if I know how to do this thing I’m good at or not? It’s weird that similar frustrating feelings can result from being a beginner or a professional at something. Because of this, I have found that being mediocrely good at things, perhaps picking up things here and there, maybe even forgetting a little bit of what you learned so you can go back later, or perhaps never going back because you learned all you wanted with something, seems to be where a certain consistent happiness lay. If we are true to ourselves, we will ultimately gravitate to and give consistent time and energy to the things we like and learn them in ways we want. Such pursuits are not so much rewarded in our society, as being a professional at something tends to make the most money, but it really does seem to be where people experience more forms of happiness. There’s a reason why there is a whole form of meditation and thought referred to as “Beginners Zen Mind.” A beginner’s mind keeps us humble and fresh and always yearning for more. It creates the appropriate balance of growth, effort, results that lead to keeping life in flow and not focused too heavily on any one thing, which would be harder to change from. This creates for us to be more capable of change because we know we are capable of learning new things, and to be more capable of change is to be good at and better prepared for the one thing that is most prevalent and consistent in life.