Life-Long Learning

An article that caught my attention this week (called “Lessons of Discovery” by Madisyn Taylor) talks about how “none of us are born with an instruction manual and that learning lessons is a lifelong journey”.  With the recent arrival of two new grandchildren in our yoga/Pilates community, it reminds us also that there is no instruction manual for parenting either.  We all seem to be muddling through our lives yet somehow we have impossibly high expections of ourselves.  The article also points out that whatever stage of life we find ourselves in “we feel like we ought to know more about who we are or how to live”.  In fact,

We may even berate ourselves for making the same mistakes, or for just not ‘getting it’, whatever ‘it’ may be. We wonder how our lives would be now, if only we had ‘known better’.

But the article goes on to remind us that “inherent in our being born is that we are here to observe, learn and grow. . . [which means] there will be mistakes and misadventures along the way.”

As we get older we can sometimes feel like we are more set in our ways.  Change, though constant and always around us, is often greeted with difficulty.  A dear friend of my mother’s used to say “People don’t change as they get older, they only get moreso.”  The ruts we’ve created in our lives run deep.  They can seem impossible to surmount.

Recent brain research, however, shows that the neural pathways we create never stop.  For many years it was thought that the brain would stop finding new ways to work as we age.  But it is now known that this is not true.  We are always capable of learning and it is never to late to learn something new.

As the article cited above points out “it is only natural that we may sometimes become overwhelmed, especially when the lessons keep coming”.  I know in my own life I have experienced many “lessons” that I would have preferred not to know if I had a choice.  Life has a way of handing (sometimes hurtling) experiences at us when we least expect or want them.  We are usually clueless about how to deal with these experiences, but circumstances force us to find a way.  So we begin to create our own instruction manual. Some of you may recall the Joni Mitchell song about Woodstock.  There is a line in it that I’ve never forgotten:  “I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.”

So next time you think that you are too old to try yoga or Pilates it might help to remember one more quote from Madisyn Taylor:  “It may be overwhelming not knowing the way, but there is no proper [right] way, it is what you do along the way that matters.”  In other words, it is the journey that counts, not the destination.  A recurring concept in this blog.  Sure there are descriptions of various moves in both disciplines (yoga and Pilates), but these “instructions” also describe the benefits of each move.  You can find your own way to derive those benefits.  A way that works for your body as it is right now.  It might not look the same as someone else’s way, but it will be part of your own personal “instruction manual”.  Just give it a try and see if you can create some new neural pathways that work for you.  Learning something like yoga or Pilates may seem like a minor detail compared to some of the lessons life is currently throwing your way, but learning to deal with the small stuff can give you the confidence you need to believe that you can handle the big stuff, too.