Getting Out of School

“In your last workshop you kept pushing the idea of boundaries, particularly self-created boundaries of ignorance and prejudice, and how to get beyond them. Your literal and figurative example of the Great Green Wall was enlightening, not only as imaginative representation but as a significant objective event in the world we live in but had all somehow missed. In your recent blog post about it you return to this theme: ‘beyond our own little spheres of anxieties and preferences, which requires enough curiosity and expansive inquiry to notice something else of significance…this is a lot like getting out of school and into real life.’

There seems to be an undercurrent in what you’re expressing of the limitations of personal development itself, that ‘real life’ is beyond our self-betterment focus. Is this what you’re getting at by ‘getting out of school’? And if so, what place does intentional self-improvement have in our lives?”

That’s a nicely designed expansive inquiry, thank you.

Of course we need to keep up with our general wellness, constant learning, and improvement, and that should include attentiveness to all four bodies we have to work with — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. If I can quote from an article I wrote years ago on well-being

The human body, like the human mind, is best at versatility and adaptability. This is our greatest skill and our greatest chance to unlock natural potential. What that means in terms of physical movement is that a fairly equal amount of time and effort should be allocated to the widest possible range of activity. That includes strength, flexibility, precision and endurance, but it certainly doesn’t stop there. For example, virtually every elite training program lacks real range in dealing with speed (or timing, really) and transition. And every program lacks true development of spontaneity.

If we were to transpose these ideas and form them into a training program for all four bodies (which is basically what we were doing in the workshop you mention), I think we’d find significant release from our little spheres of habitual anxieties and preferences. Just mental and emotional flexibility themselves require stretching out our presumptions and opinions beyond what we’re familiar with, into conversations, observations, activities, experiences, and interactions with people we don’t already know. Through these we become more versatile and adaptable, competent and capable.

But yes, as you suggest, there are real limits to self-study of any kind. One sharpens a knife, like consciously honing talents and skills, so as to eventually use it for something, such as the preparation of a meal for loved ones. There is no point in just continuing to sharpen the knife. There’s also the danger of no real discovery or accomplishment beyond, or relief from, the desert of self-gratification and obsessive indulgence in self-study that is so often disguised as the pursuit of personal development or self-betterment.

Concerning getting out of school and to the Great Green Wall — or noticing, creating and engaging our own versions thereof in life — here are some worthy observations from a versatile and adaptable, competent and capable expert (from 8:30, if you wish):

“Originally, primarily, basically, any human being is concerned with something out there in the world, is concerned with someone out there in the world, a work to do, a job to complete, a task, a meaning, a mission in life waiting for him, for him exclusively; to be materialized, to be actualized by him and by no other person…he’s doing it for the sake of a cause to serve, or another person to love…”

— Viktor Frankl

Painting by Andre Zadorine

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