Whether we are aware of it or not, we are continually learning. We learn specific tasks over time that allow us to move in our daily lives. We learn to anticipate certain events or reactions from our environment and the people in it. We have learned how to ‘be’ who we are through our experiences in life thus far. For example, your opinions of what the role of women or men are in the world may have come from your observation of how it played out for your parents. Your view of what being “polite”, “bold”, “rude” or “demure” look like probably came from your experiences as a youth. The culture in which you were raised surely shapes your assessment of “the way things are”. These are things you ‘learned’. Of course you can’t help having these perspectives at the moment.
And all you need to do is read the newspaper to realize that we each have our own unique interpretations of our experiences. We see examples all the time of ways in which we each grant meaning to our experiences in different ways. There are varied opinions around all sorts of social and political situations. I think if you ask 10 economists to weigh in on the same set of data, you would get 10 different interpretations. We are all molded by our historical discourse.
We cause ourselves suffering though when we don’t distinguish between the experience and our interpretation. When we can begin to see that the way we are ‘seeing things’ is just that, and not the ‘way things are’, we make room for shifts that need to occur to diminish that suffering. Being open to having a more expansive view of something is an important, required first step. Making a commitment to the practice necessary to do this more consistently in our day to day lives is where the hard work lives.
Have you ever tried to correct your golf swing? If you have golfed for a long time by holding the club a certain way, changing your grip (or stance, or one of a thousand things that is appears one can do to improve a golf swing!) is uncomfortable and often frustrating. Your old habits will continually rise up to get you to return to the familiar, unless you commit to practicing your swing in a new way. Over time, your improved way of swinging the club will become your new normal and hopefully will result in an better score.
It is in this same way that we can approach changing our interpretation of events, others and ourselves. You learned to be a certain way. If that way is no longer working for you, you can choose to learn something new. Believing that this is possible and that you can embody excellence through practice is empowering and hopeful.