On three occasions yesterday, I was reminded of the importance of maintaining a studied relationship with one’s greatest student, the self. A favorite mantra of mine, adopted from Michelangelo, is “Ancora Imparo.” Translated into English, “I am still learning,” or “Yet I am learning” is a phrase that often serves to remind me of the importance of holding an attitude of the insatiably curious, open-minded student.
Chatting away with my sister as I prepared to leave for my morning yoga class, she relayed how much she had increasingly come to cherish her relationships with mentors in her field. I smiled as I listened to her, for it was only the day before that I had spent several hours with a deeply valued mentor who had taken time from his own busy day to consult with me on several cases. It was through his eyes that my perspective was broadened and, thus, my ability to aid my clients was increased. Were it not for such kind, wise souls, I might limp along with myopic vision. By taking a look through the eyes of another, my objectivity increases, and my field of vision becomes more broad and deep. Long after I left my afternoon meeting, my mentor’s words spiraled about me and within me. His gentle, yet intensely intelligent spirit, is a force that I carry with me often.
It wasn’t much later, as my fellow yoga students filed out into the arms of the warm, sparkling day, that I struck up a conversation with a professor at our local junior college. Serendipitously, she, too, began talking of the necessity–and the pleasure–of remaining in an attitude of constant learning. A slight, wiry woman with a youthful and enthusiastic attitude, I’ve often admired her passion for her chosen field. She thrives on teaching history as though it is her very food. With the fall semester drawing to a close, I sensed a bit of sadness that her flock of beloved students would be off to different grounds. Pausing for mere seconds, she smiled quickly as she quipped, “But I learn so much from all of my students. That’s one thing about being a professor: I am learning, always learning. I strive to learn so that I have more to offer my students, yet I find that I learn so much from my students–from what they teach me!” I, too, would enjoy taking one of her courses; there is much richness to discover from spirited, impassioned educators who delight in the fluidity of the student-teacher role.
Later that afternoon, reluctantly leaving the embrace of the warm early winter sun, I returned indoors to tend to office tasks and an avalanche of mail. The sun’s rays warmed me through the window, and I smiled as I lingered upon a message from a former client. Her kinds words of thanks brought mentoring into my thoughts once again. With simple poignancy, she expressed her gratitude for the lessons she had learned from working with me. She was grateful that the foundation she had built was becoming increasingly “cemented” into her new way of life. I paused to reflect on this client who, with her thirst for self-awareness and her desire to heal from old wounds, had been a splendid instructor to me. At first downtrodden and weary, she initially clung to me for temporary strength. Resilient and courageous, she faced her path with increasing humor, tenacity, and determination. It had been my privilege to witness and buoy her journey. Even as I write now, I smile deeply as I think upon her, for she is a tremendous woman who now shines her light upon others.
As Saturdays tend to do, the ephemeral moments disappeared and dusk was upon me. Having made dinner for a neighbor, I walked the short distance home under a dark indigo sky set to twinkling by its treasure trove of stars. In for the night, I reflected upon my day. Thoughts adrift, I moved to the window to study the stars and the brilliant half moon. My gaze softened as I laughed softly into the still, now-chilly air. There was a time when, with the naive eyes and mind of a youngster, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Now, I realize that I can never know enough; the world and all upon it will forever be my greatest teachers. The strains of some of my favorite Louis Armstrong’s lyrics swirled through my mind, “I hear babies crying, I watch them grow. They’ll learn much more, than I’ll never know. And I think to myself… It’s a wonderful world.” With music in my heart and the stillness of night about me, it became ever clearer that the day’s lesson of learning through teaching, of being mentored in myriad ways, was exquisitely precious. Minutes later, I drifted off to sleep with the quiet assurance that, under the soft rays of new daylight, I would wake to learn and grow anew.