The story goes that Einstein left his brain to science with one caveat: That scientists study his grey matter and meet in a year, at which time they were to open and read a letter he had left for them.
The letter indicated that his brain wasn’t different than anyone else’s. That what made him special was some math he did early on which revealed to him that no matter how much he learned he would always have endless capacity to learn more. He wasn’t in danger of overburdening his learning ability.
So he encouraged himself to learn his entire life without constraint.
If you could/would do that your life would overflow with curiosity, zest and vitality. You might occasionally be a little absent minded like Albert was, but you would be brilliant too, and that brilliance would contribute to the quality of all life on the planet.
Let’s trust Einstein’s math and get on with unlimited learning.
Secrets to unlimited learning
As a young child we touch something hot and quickly learn not to touch that again.
But later in life learning is not quite so easy. What we learn has to be compatible with what we already know, and what we already know is often distorted, self serving, archaic or downright wrong. What we know casts a long shadow on what we can learn.
As learning becomes more complex we learn less, while familiar behaviors and thinking tend to persist, like a record skipping. This repetition offers up the same old, same old in the absence of rewards. Soon we define repetition itself as rewarding. This mind boggling repetition won’t stand conscious scrutiny so it wiggles into our dark unconscious, sets up shop there and directs our lives from the shadows, pulling our puppet-like strings and directing our patterned dance steps.
The usual solution to these voracious patterns, and unconscious directions is to ignore them: to find oneself unique in the absence of originality or creativity. This has us pick the same faulty partner, return to the same unrewarding job and opens the door to multiple addictions. When we see our lovers or friends do this we can’t quite believe it. We think: “I would never do that.” But we already are.
This would be funny if so many of us didn’t miss the joke, and if it didn’t dim our lightness into a shuffling, mind numbing obliviousness.
The obvious but not easy solution to this dilemma is to learn independent of what we already know, and let things sort themselves out inside of us. That flies in the face of our fear of confrontation. When the kids are fighting we intervene, not daring to let them work things out on their own. We have to have a hand in all that goes on around us and our internal mediations as well. We don’t trust ourselves or others to play nicely, quietly or safely. Our commitment to order, procedure and mock peace overshadows our childlike, often messy drive to learn.
Reduction of confrontation within, and without, becomes the rule of the day. That slows learning to a snails pace and has us fall behind the natural evolution of things, becoming a foe of change. It has us dig in, expending energy and suspending inspired action, believing what we already know, rather than focusing attention on what we might learn. We would rather be right than flow with the universe.
The solution to the rapid drop in learning curve can’t require more confrontation because we simply can’t stand that. And it can’t include learning something new either, because that would be flying in the face of the learning limitation itself. So we will have to begin elsewhere.
Where we will look isn’t obvious, but it is evocative and eventful. It is at the breakdown in communication between what you know when you are in one mood and what you know when you are in another.
We are sometimes high and happy and at other times low and unhappy. What we know at these different times changes. When we are happy we may know that this is a good world, a wonderful place to be, and that we are basically good, even lucky. When we are unhappy we often consider ourselves to be much less than wonderful, small or even worthless. The variation in what we know at these different times is the key to new boundless learning.
Communication between what we know when we are happy, and what we know when we are unhappy offers us learning without prejudice for what is learned: impartial learning. And herein lies our solution to opening to all learning.
For the most part the high happy us does not communicate what it knows with the down unhappy us. Keeping part of us in the know and part of us out of the know. That sort of censorship has constricted learning so thoroughly that learning has become internally limiting—an upside down funnel, a constriction.
When learning becomes dependent on our mood, it is not open learning; it is way more limiting then learning ought to be. But when learning ceases to be compartmentalized we welcome all learning, because all learning is compatible with more learning, we then focus on the process of learning rather than on the content, or compatibility, of what is learned.
We just have to teach our highs and our lows to communicate. And it turns out that isn’t so difficult. In fact it generates a continuous rather than isolated perception of ourselves. It is the mechanics of becoming an open available human being.
The first step in this process is to get curious when you are low about what you knew when you were high, and get curious when you are high about what you knew for sure when you were low.
Make no mistake, we create our own world, and when we create it differently in one mood than another we end up enslaved to very different worlds, never feeling at home, and open to none.
Learning doesn’t have to be a slave to our emotions and moods. In fact, as the moody aspects of ourselves begin to communicate we discover that we are much bigger and more whole than we imagined. That discovery raises our tolerance for confrontation and opens us to a greater variety of learning.
Defensive learning, learning that seeks to keep aspects of you from other aspects of you, is limiting. Who you really are is a huge group of many different “I”s who are at their best when they are meeting each other and learning from each other. Bringing these small parts together, a parts party, reveals you to be an extremely big, flexible flowing internal world in which you don’t have to be so careful or cringe at the idea of confrontation.
If Einstein is right our aptitude for learning is far beyond any quantity of learning that might be offered to us. So we can safely learn and learn and learn without blowing a gasket or running out of learning ability.
Life long learning is about meeting so many interesting, curious and individual aspects of ourselves that we delight in them all rather than trying to throttle what we learn by what we know, attempting to please just a little bit of us, compromising our largesse.
Once your highs and lows begin communicating you are ready to start learning new things now—don’t worry, you won’t run out of grey matter, curiosity or intelligence. Not even if you live to 183.
Of special interest is what you can learn that is directly opposite or opposed to what you already know. That is your sweet spot, opening up internal tolerance for variability which gives rise to external and internal celebration of differences and similarities. When you discover how huge, radiant and creative you are there will be no need for protective patterns anymore. They will fall away like autumn leaves providing fertilizer for future learning.
What you know is never so great as all that you can learn.
This chapter is from my newly revised e-book The Mind Relief Manuscript.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Travis May