Chapter 14: Learning from an Inner Resistance to Learning: an excerpt from Enlightened Living by Martin Faulks.
I would like to share some interesting observations, which I hope once contemplated will lead to some meaningful insights. These are behaviours I have seen in myself and others, which I think are fascinating and reveal more about the inner workings of the mind and about goal confusion, among many other things.
Picture this, a martial arts class where people have travelled from all over the world to attend. They have invested a lot of time, money and effort to train with an instructor who they know can teach them what they wish to learn. They know he has great experience with guiding people and he has superior knowledge on how to achieve the goals they are seeking from him, yet I have observed a strange phenomenon.
People were told to practice a technique in a certain way for so many repetitions. Yet, when the instructor stopped looking, they stopped practicing. Between pairs engaging in this strange behaviour I could see there was a sense of achievement, as if there was a one upmanship
over the instructor by not doing what he had asked them to do. To me this was absolutely fascinating, as the truth of the situation was that they were paying for a lesson they were deliberately avoiding. Surely they could have sent the money and stayed at home? Thus avoiding the lesson entirely, since that seemed to be their wish. It left me with some questions:
Why would someone make such an effort to go to a class if not to embrace the actual tuition? And why does it feel like an achievement if they cheat the system and get less from the class?
So it was that I contemplated what I had observed and realised that, to a greater or lesser degree, this resistance to learning happens in many different ways.
I have seen people who want to learn from a particular spiritual tradition and have gone to great efforts to find the right path and teacher. Again, spending a great amount of time and effort searching out for a person they are confident knows how to guide them to achieve their path.
They have gone through various trials set by their teacher to prove they are serious, paid to be a student and studied the source material. Yet, when it comes to the syllabus and the teacher asks them to follow a training regime, the student gets upset and complains, saying, ‘Why are you trying to control me?’ So they have gone to all this effort to gain an expert guide through the mountains and then they do not want to be told which route to walk.
Sometimes you see this manifest in a slightly different way. Someone goes to a teacher, but the student puts up a barrier to learning by trying to control the situation. This is normally to do with their self esteem, especially if they are new to a group and trying to establish dominance. I have seen a whole class disrupted by a student showing different martial arts they used to do. Rather than learn, their agenda is to show how much they know.
This resistance can also appear when the real goal has nothing to do with learning. So the person attending a class may really be wanting a community or friends. It is easy to spot a person like this in the group, since they want to be a part of it but will seem disinterested in learning. They like to be there and around the people, but they pay little attention to any teaching, or the purpose of the group. Instead they are easily distracted and their engagement with the group centres around social interaction. For most people this aspect is present, but the importance differs.
Once we have contemplated this on the lower levels, we can look at this same resistance to learning on the larger scale. Here nature is the teacher, and life is the syllabus. As we grow, both on the mundane and awareness levels, we learn more about how the world works. However, we can see the same patterns if we observe ourselves and others around us. An attempt to control the world rather than be controlled, when we know the rules are not subjective. Or instead of engaging with the difficulties of life and learning to overcome them, attempting to avoid and prove competence in other areas. Or misidentifying the goal, so instead of learning to survive together, we attempt to dominate.
To find our more about Martin Faulks and his work please visit his author page.
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