On Learning…


Every day I receive Mary Holland’s Naturally Curious blog. Most days I read it and learn new tidbits about nature, like how a certain kind of dragon fly lays its eggs in cattails, or how father loons take turns with the mother in feeding their young. Each day I learn something new. I enjoy learning new things.

This was not always the case. As a child learning felt dangerous because it was something that did not always come easily. When I struggled with my lessons I felt as though I was a failure. It makes me sad to think back on how many years I spent paralyzed by my own fear, afraid to try to learn new things because I thought that I might not being able to fully absorb or understand them. Had I not gone to North Country School, where my brother, Richard got his fresh start before me, I hate to think where I would have ended up. But I am living proof that one can heal even the most frightened brain into learning again.

I’m convinced that much of the reason we don’t learn as much as we might is due to fear. Fear of failure, fear that we won’t understand, or aren’t capable of learning in the first place, fear that we won’t be as good as the next person, and so on… I’m sure I’m not alone.

What would happen if we could remove our fear? I imagine a door opening to a sky of mind; wings spread wide, mouth open in wonder, eyes like binoculars on a distant horizon. What magnificent surprises are in store behind every door? The mystery of life unlocks our imaginations, inviting us beyond our comfort zone to new landscapes of knowledge.

Having said this, I realize I still lack many fields of knowledge. You don’t hear much from me about the political landscape, and only occasionally on social causes. I have had to reconcile with my limitations even as I expand my enthusiasm for learning. Why? Because I move in the direction of my passion.

My passion is healing. I never trained as a doctor or nurse but I have been on the sidelines, peeking through doorways to mind/body healing, social & emotional literacy, and planetary & spiritual healing. Every time I connect with someone there’s the possibility of healing. That’s why I love writing my blog each week — and reading your responses. You are helping me to grow and learn, and I hope that in some way I am also being helpful to you.

It doesn’t matter if we talk about human rights or turtle eggs. The key to learning is being open to the possibilities. What a great privilege it is to make learning a daily practice.

How do you learn?
What do you like to learn about?

P.S. In case you think there’s something strangely wrong with the picture above, my husband just informed that the sexual organs of some female dragonflies are behind their head! Go figure!

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11 Responses to On Learning…

  1. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen, It is difficult to see you in the context of having fears. I accept your feelings and am perplexed by them. I do have fears and replace the word “fear” with worry. If I throw in a large
    dose of imagination into my fear basin, I really spin out a spider’s web. So, I have learned to temper my fears and call them “worries” and reasonable concerns. Learning does open up a new world! I laugh, now, having said that because I had wonderful years of learning in school, public school and private “institutions”– college and grad school. What really scares me is risk taking, wars and violence. Perhaps, the closing of the mind is a more female thing, than male???? In my case fear began, after I left the security my parents provided and entered the world which was to be matrimony. The fears never ended. Love and war. I read many museum blogs, book reviews, FB notes. One of my sisters likes online learning. Another of my sisters belongs to several book clubs. A third sister uses her French language, all of the time. My brother plays tennis, follows tennis with his kids. They learn. I love to learn– Living and Learning… You are sad from loss.You
    have perspective and should rely on that gift. Today, I bought a large burgandy mum plant for the front door step and my mind was delighted.

  2. joaneee says:

    First, to your Paul: I certainly can be mistaken, but for most of my children’s childhood years, I encouraged them to raise a variety of insects and reptiles that you would not believe (or put up with, I am sure) as well as increasingly rare cacti, making opening their bedroom doors always a fascination and delight. Sometimes I DID scream — when a cecropia moth had come out of its cocoon, having grown to what seemed bird size, and now looking for a screen to display himself on in all his glory. We had short term dragonflies — but unless I am mistaken, the female dragonfly did not sport additional sexual organs. But the male had to be a contortionist to mate – and it was hard not to stare. But tell Paul that I could be wrong.

    I am told that I have insatiable curiosity — and am at my peak when I can mix with interesting strangers. People like to talk about themselves usually (or can be coaxed easily) and, with the right questions depending on the person, they are FASCINATING. Eileen, as I have grown older, I have found that it best to not be an expert on everything as I once tried to be. My brain has minimum room – it is stuffed with Jeopardy winning answers and they are not begging me to be on the program. I listen, I ask questions whose answers may hold me in good stead later — and they border on health (my favorite) and the inner workings of others to make me understand humans far better — and perhaps, be more understanding and helpful. (Unfortunately, I am a sponge, and seem to pick up bits and pieces of just about anything said — though that is not my intention any more.)

    Every sunrise I look at as a new opportunity to explore new aspects of the world and its people — and when given the opportunity, I am at my happiest. Sending you both all the best,Joan

  3. Gladys Floyd says:

    Oh, how this spoke to me in such a healing way. The door has been opened. Thanks!

  4. Alice says:

    Like you, I love learning. I think it is incredibly important not only to expand my knowledge base, but also ensure I’m battling my own ignorance about the world. I worry that were I not to learn I would become stagnant and discriminatory.

    This is probably why I enjoy reading so much, literature (as well as non-fiction) can be a great teacher.

  5. Sue Dixon says:

    Imagine if each of us were encouraged to follow our passion: how healing that would be for the whole and the holy. Thanks always for sharing so generously.

  6. Phyll says:

    Learning, growing, meeting new people, expanding one’s horizons is balm to my soul. I love living in a college town and taking advantage of the myriad of opportunities here: plays, concerts, (just saw Itzak Perlman), lectures, discussions, classes and much more. The stimulation I feel is wonderful, akin to driving my pony, in fact. Happy, free, joyful, authentic, in the moment, hopeful, and life-affirming are some of the words and feelings that come to mind. Following our passions is key to living a happy, fulfilling life. Thanks for raising the subject. Lots to discuss and think about for sure.

  7. Louise Gilbert says:

    Dear Eileen, today’s blog really speaks to me, as I am working with a new cello teacher who has been a wonderful guide on the exploration of this magnificent instrument and my body and soul in relation to it. I am in the process of learning new techniques, which overcome habits that I fell into that caused tension. I am surrendering to new learning with openness and care….up bow–breathing in; down bow—breathing out; top of cello resting on my heart…….it is all very freeing and I feel like a child learning to walk, fall, giggle, get up and breathe. I am creating new “muscle memory”….Alex uses metaphor a great deal, which I grasp immediately and joyfully. What a teacher he is—
    and what a guide is my cello, which I named “Vivaldi!!”

  8. Hinda Miller says:

    Dear Eileen, Wishing all the time to think of the new and letting go of the old.
    Shana Tova – Happy and Healthy New Year

    This is Water, David Foster Wallace

    love to you and your family, Hinda and Joel

  9. Judith A. Meyncke says:

    Dear Eileen,

    Thank you for writing on very important subject..Fear. When reading your blogs, often I think, ” I thought i was the only one who felt this way” Your being so “real” and “honest” with the reader is invigorating and comforting.

    How I learn? Is through reading, travel and by the grace of my highly educated friends (who take the time, patience and energy to teach me) and my not so formally educated friends who do the same.

    What i like to learn about is Jesus Christ and His teachings, Health, Gardening, The Economy, Mental Health, Cooking, and Travel..Shall I keep going? ha ha

    Have a wonderful “Fall Day” in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Vermont!

    Love and Blessings,


  10. Phyll says:

    Wonderful video by Elizabeth Gilbert, author or EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Enjoy!


  11. cynthia mackay says:

    If everybody was brave enough to admit their fears
    as you have just done
    everybody would be filled with empathy
    and there would be peace.

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