"One of the shining qualities that heroes possess is the willingness to be educated by all things. They learn from the most impressive variety of people and experiences: the wise and the foolish; the obvious and the inconceivable; the living and the dead; the things they love and the things they hate...' Everything nourished him,' Henry Miller once said of Goethe."
-- From "Callings" by Greg Levoy
What Greg Levoy refers to as a hero I would refer to as an awakened, evolving person, on a quest to grow and better understand life. This type of hero is rare because they have the willingness to stand toe-to-toe with "what is"...to explore it and, ultimately, become a better person because of the encounter. Have you ever considered that everyone and everything that stands before you in every given moment of your life is an invitation from the universe to learn something vitally important to your own continuing education, evolution and growth? Is it really possible that you could be "nourished" by every experience you have, be it positive or negative? It's easy to imagine good things coming from that which we consider pleasant, but the objectionable things require us to dig much deeper into the experience to find the value in them. Having a willingness to be educated by all things is a tall (perhaps heroic) order, but consider the benefits: if you can remain teachable, every person, circumstance and event in your life gives you the opportunity to grow stronger, if you are willing to receive the lesson.
I am an ardent believer in the universal imperative, "Grow or die." Essentially what this means is that living things that cease growing die; their life force slowly withdraws and they wither, ultimately returning to the ethers from which they came. This not only includes the flowers in our garden, it includes our physical being and, perhaps equally important, our emotional and intellectual being. By being open to the "continuing education" we receive every moment of everyday in the "school of life" we help support our own growth. Regardless of how young or old we are, when we cease growing we are literally sending a message to the universe that says, "I am finished here.. there is no point in me hanging around any longer so bring me home."
What does it require to be open to receiving the education that life is continually offering to us every moment? First, as Levoy infers, it requires the willingness to see everyone and everything as a source of our "ongoing education." Second, we must develop a grateful heart for the lesson they offer us. Khalil Gibran wrote, "I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers." The essence of his message is that too often we fail to be aware of the value of having such individuals and experiences in our lives because we are so busy reacting, judging or avoiding them that there is no space or time to receive their teaching. Gratitude softens and opens our heart to receive the gift.
Here is a challenge I offer: As a mindfulness practice, for the next 24 hours, would you be willing to consciously open yourself to the education that life is continually offering you in the moment? From the person you most love, to the person you find most objectionable.. from the good news to the not so good news, the point is, earth school is in session 24/7. This means every person, event, condition and circumstance is your teacher. Your job is to continue to silently ask yourself, "What lesson do you offer me about life in this moment?" If you can succeed in doing this exercise, at the end of 24 hours you may notice a more vital life force moving through you. Why? Because you will be more mindfully connected in the moment with the pulsation of the universal heart throb; the same Infinite Intelligence that grows and sustains all living things. (I would love to hear from you after trying this practice.) By staying teachable with a willingness to grow beyond your current field of knowledge (aka, the box) you send the universe a clear message that you are here on purpose and you know there is more for you to know and do.
The practice is to remember that living things that don't grow die and living things that continue to grow don't merely survive; they thrive. Whatever or whoever it is that stands before you today is offering you a world class education. Be curious, be inquisitive, be connected to life in the moment...be heroic!