My way of learning to live and living to learn
Strolling down the memory lane, realization donned upon me that, all through my life, the way I have learnt has been pretty Aikalavyic – the way Ekalavya, an autodidact, learnt archery.
My approach has been naturally choosing what I want to learn, subjecting myself to endless experiment (some of which were not easy), deeply reflecting upon my experiences from the experiment and ploughing back the insights into further iterative experimenting. All self-initiated, self-guided and self-managed.
That’s how, at the age of 12, I learned music. That’s how, around the same age, learnt oratory. And that’s how, in my late teens learnt how to be connected to my higher self, through absolutely personalized meditative practices.
All this was happening, despite my formal education. Interestingly enough, barring a few subjects like literature, chemistry and marketing, everything else seemed to be necessary evils to be lived with. I would study and learn subjects that interested me beyond what was prescribed in the curriculum. Mastered the art of writing and oratory (by reading aloud) through voracious consumption of works by classical and modern authors and poets, even as I was in school. I went beyond the rudiments in chemistry to learn pharmacology by reading pharmacopoeias which I had access to, as my father was in the pharmaceutical industry. My interest in the occult and mysticism was not fed by any curriculum. So, here again, I took the auto didactic path to learn numerology and astronomy. Through iterative experimenting and integrating my discoveries with established knowledge.
I continued learning in this manner as I entered the professional world. That’s how I learned technology, that how I learned sales and business development and that’s how I also learnt how to stay afloat in highly authority-driven systems like the corporate.
My journey with formal education in applied behavioral science, which started almost simultaneously with my professional journey, thankfully endorsed my approach, as it was meant to be completely explorational and allowed immense freedom to form hypotheses and validate the same. However like any other autodidact learner, who continuously strives for mastery, I soon went beyond the principles in applied behavioral science and uncovered the vast unexplored world of the unknown self and the associated complex dynamics of the same. This has always fascinated me because
- It transcended the realm of the metrics to take me to the depths of mystics and
- It got me in touch, empirically with the ultimate truth, that which cannot be spoken of but can be experienced and made to experience, by others.
Knowing and making known, then became the mantra of my journey and almost as a natural course of destiny I saw myself emerging as a guide and enabler.
My intuition had and still plays a pivotal role in my learning. That which, developed through early meditative practices, and has been since serving as an inner compass, a sort of a master within.
No wonder, never in my life did I look for or even felt the need for a guru. Some came my way but failed to impress. Whereas, some who resonated with my world view, unknown to them, became my guides. Some of these guides were books / lectures by the likes of Wayne Dyer, Sheldon Kopp, Eckhart Tolle, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Guru Nanak and Rajneesh. Yes, they were guides in being sign posts to what I needed to see and discover inside me. Thus, I never swallowed what they had to offer, but would read and re-read to make wondrous discoveries, inside me, which became the immutable truth.
By and large, I have had little respect for third-party wisdom and knowledge. To me, the only truth worth respecting and accepting was my own truth, derived painstakingly from my own experiments, incessantly carried out in the crucible of life. This has led to two things:
- Innovation / invention of new theories, frameworks and approaches and
- Non-conformance to the tried and tested, often flawed and sub-optimal paths
Certification, to me, therefore has remained a process of legitimizing practices that were sub optimal and limited in application.
Like other habits, learning, the explorational and existential way, has now become a die-hard habit of mine. Every touch point of life now has become my teacher. Every moment, now, is a moment of truth.
My endeavor as an enabler has been to help others imbibe this unique process of learning and growth. For then, they can do away with their dependency on subject-matter experts or for that matter any figure of authority.
Yes, I am convinced that this is a path to ultimate freedom and autonomy; the path of human alchemy to its apotheosis – ascending to realize the infinite potential of being human. This autodidactic approach to learning is most appropriate and amenable to this digitally enabled environment of ubiquitous portals of learning. However, if one chooses to opt for this personally empowered path of self-initiated, self-managed learning, one needs to get out of the shadows of classical authority-driven pedagogy and begin learning to learn, afresh.
Some recommendation for those who may want to choose to learn the existential way, culled out from my experience of this autodidact approach to learning, are:
- Figure out what is / are your areas of passionate interest – innate, not learnt. You will learn naturally and organically in these areas.
- Get out of your obsession with third-party content. It is not your truth but the authors’ who created it. You may, however choose to use poignant writings of some authors as signposts to destinations, within you, that are waiting to be explored.
- Meander in your exploration with arriving to the truth. Life is not linear and truth lies in territories most uncharted.
- Be careful about not getting carried away with the adventure of learning. It’s important to return to the base camp once in a while to take stock and apply what you have learnt.
- You will amaze yourself, over a period of time, to note that even a piece of stone that you stumble upon or a cup of coffee that went cold being kept in the open, could be a potent source of learning, should you choose to consider all touch points of life as sources of learning and wisdom.
- Never compare the knowledge and wisdom that you thus gather with any other body of knowledge of wisdom. It’s highly personalized, unique and possibly far more enduring and futuristic than anything that exists.
- Do not settle for ‘enough’. One area of life where contentment does not work is learning. Carry an unquenchable thirst to go as far as you can to derive meaning and wisdom in the area you have chosen to learn about.
- Like most other things in this world, learning also has a shelf life. Do not, therefore hesitate to question your own theories and principles, time and again, and revamp them completely with learning new applications, experiences and insights.
- Do not fall into the trap of masters / gurus who are looking to enroll followers and grow their tribe. Remember, you have an alive and awakened master within, which may not agree to the self-appointed master, without.
- Remember, if you have taken this path, you are a learner for life. Even when you enable others to learn, you do so, because you have treaded this path before and you can make their journeys more joyful. Not because you know and they don’t.
My best wishes to those who have the courage of conviction to take this road to wisdom, less traveled.