Learning to Fly: Emptying the Self
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Learning is Unlearning
A scholar came to meet a wise master in quest for knowledge. “Master I have traveled a great distance to meet you with the desire to drink from your ocean of knowledge. Please enlighten me.”
The master bade him to sit. He took a kettle from the table and poured the tea into an already full cup. Startled at the master’s behavior, the seeker hurriedly reminded, “but the cup is already full!”
“So are you”, said the master unruffled.
Most often we listen to others while full of our own ideas and concepts. So essentially we are listening to ourselves amidst the conversation. This inhibits our learning. To learn, one must first empty oneself of old concepts and ideas.
When we are stuck in our views what happens is mere ‘hearing’. Once you have labeled your colleague, friend, family, lover as with a judgement such as, “They’re too liberal” “They’re so conservative” “They’re too old” “They’re immature”, etc, any suggestions coming from them thereafter will sound irrational. You see their idea through the spectacle of your assumption about them. So it is with all relationships. A husband turns a deaf ear to his wife, as she is labeled ’emotional’. The suggestion of a child is most often ignored as being ‘immature’.
Lack of listening stems from one’s ego which incessantly plays the game “I know better”. Taking security on your knowledge or view, you refuse to accept anything that lies outside your domain of knowledge, or else your ego might break. Not wanting to lose the battle you prolong the argument even if the truth were to stare you in the face. How many of us know people like this? How many of us can acknowledge this within ourselves?
Without an open mind, progress on the spiritual path is fleeting. Remembering there is one, long, unified path and we’re all at various points along it. Practicing humility leads to great openings and advancements. With humility comes listening and ultimately learning.
One of my old spiritual teachers says, “The first step towards listening is to become conscious that one is not listening.”
As we cease our assumptions, we stop polluting our emotional landscapes and conversations. We begin to listen rather than struggling to prove ourselves. And as the struggle for anything releases, we soften and ‘lighten up’, liberating from the constraints of our ego.