UNLEARN TO LEARN

The Pursuit of Calm #14

Is our ability to garner a healthier, more fulfilling, resilient and calm life actually found in the process of unlearning?
Unlearning the very day to day repeated, and most often neglected and ignored habits & behaviours that keep us frustratingly ‘stuck’.

If, as adults, we are essentially a “by-product” of what we have repeatedly and habitually emoted, consumed, and actioned over the previous decades, then would it make sense that if we’re keen to see an upturn in our physiological and psychological wellbeing, we should begin the process to identify & ‘address’ the very things that are causing us distress and dis-ease?

You must unlearn what you have learned
-Yoda

I read a quote from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull author Richard Bach earlier this week that caught my attention, he said “you teach best what you most need to learn.” 

This resonated with me not because I would ever be as self-indulgent to think that I’m teaching anyone anything, I interpreted the quote as in, “I’m teaching myself, what I most need to learn”. 

When it comes to my own ‘day to day’, and specifically why I write this weekly word-salad, is me, clumsily attempting to do two things.
1.  Learn what I want to teach myself. I’m curiously drawn to the very subjects that I struggle with, I’m eager to puzzle-out my personal ‘why’s’. And to…
2. …identify, and unlearn entrenched thinking and doing behaviours and habits that impede my calm, which is, in short, my ability to nurture consistent discipline & calm focus, so that I can essentially remain, and continue to improve, being as steadfast I can.

What do I mean by steadfast?
What I have found essential to remaining not only joyfully dedicated, but continuously curious about the state of my own well-being – is my ability to remain as consistent as possible aka steadfast.

A totally obvious statement I know, but consistency is the key when pursuing, and maintaining continued momentum (if continued growth is to mature), to whatever our desired goals and plans are.

Whether it’s to improve our body composition, instilling mindfulness & calm, curbing our less desirable or contrary thinking and doing habits, or improving your golf-swing, backhand or your tiddlywinks skills  – all, and I mean all, require consistency.

Steadfastness is not only the process of applying & pursuing a goal, but it also relates to ‘accepting’ as well. Accepting that progress will always be interrupted. Obstacles will always present themselves & impede our way…and the two things to unpack here:

  1. It’s usually our own thinking and doing behaviours & habits that creates these impediments.
  2. Leaning to lean into, and embrace our obstacles is where we learn.

Expecting, accepting and preparing, as best we can, for the foreseen or unexpected obstacles is, I think, where we learn most, and where the foundations of steadfastness are truly established. Yet, it is exactly here, when we’re confronted, that we can tend to give-up and retreat to our comforts & distraction (alcohol, anger, frustration, smartphones, eating etc)

 

Steadfastness
“Self-confidence from examining if one is capable of achieving a goal and, being convinced one is, applying oneself steadily,
even though progress goes up and down.”
– Study Buddhism

 

Ultimately it’s up to us!
We can continue to live our lives cultivating our ill-health, our resentments, our anxieties, our cravings, and being absorbed in distraction, or we can begin to cultivate curiosity to explore and nurture open-mindedness and courage.

Unlearning could be viewed as re-teaching yourself what it is you need to learn ‘now’.

And if it’s what we’re filling our mind, belly and hearts with ‘now’ that is keeping us stuck, anxious, distracted and ‘unwell’, then the gift is, we need to look no further, as we now know exactly where to look to begin remedying our lifestyle by unlearning the very things that make us feel this way.

We can make ourselves miserable, or we can make ourselves strong…the amount of effort is the same.

“The source of wisdom is whatever is happening to us right at
this very instant.”

-Pema Chödrön

 

So, if consistency is an antidote for steadfastness, then we need to identify (learn) not only what strategies can harvest improved consistency, but also identify, embrace and prepare (unlearn) the lifestyle habits and obstacles that keeps us distracted…and this is a big job!

Over the coming posts, I will expand further on the topic of steadfastness, and attempt to provide some useful strategies that will not only assist in cultivating and improving your physical well-being, but will also establishing increased levels of calm in your day to day – both essential ingredients to propagate steadfastness.

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Ask yourself: What is your No.1 ‘contrary habit’ in your day to day that you would like ‘unlearn’?

(Think of something that has a compounding negative/destructive impact on other aspects of your mental and psychical well-being. E.g. for me, it was unlearning to drink alcohol – sobriety saw a profoundly positive upswing in every aspect of my well-being…and I mean every aspect)