a couple weeks ago, I was walking through Manhattan when I passed a chunk of sidewalk that was being re-constructed. outside of the construction zone was a panel blocking people from walking into the construction zone (it's necessary in a city where pedestrians are often hard-pressed to look up from their phones), and on the panel was this message:
'We have so much to unlearn here.' De La Vega
as I arrived home that same evening, I opened my book of daily yoga devotionals, and on the page I opened to was a Gloria Steinem quote that read "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn." twice in the same day, the universe was pointing out to me that there's something to be learned in the act of unlearning. but what does that even mean? what is the definition of unlearning? I'm not saying that I've come up with any correct answer, or really any answer at all, but what did strike me was the idea of how much time we spend in our self-prescribed patterns and routines.
there's a sanskrit word - samskara - a conjugation of sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). in Indian philosophy, it's reflective of the imprints and impressions left on the mind by experience. I kept coming back to this concept and what it meant in as far as what I've learned in my life, and how these learnings have shaped and affected how I move through the world. I started to really question whether or not these patterns were providing me a service or a disservice. like all things yogic, there's two sides to the idea. patterns and routines can be very good things - they provide us stability, comfort, a safety net in how we move through the world. we all learn at a very young age not to put our hand on an active stove because we get burned. but the flip side of this is that patterns and routines, when they provide us too much stability, comfort, and safety, leave us unwilling to step out of that realm of comfort. if we'd never put our hand on the active stove, we'd never have learned about heat and fire, and how to respect and utilize these forces.
it made me think on how we are far too caught up in the idea of what it means to be learned, to have all of this accrued knowledge under our belt to shape our perceptions of experience. when we come into experiences with expectation, with an idea of what we think the outcome should be, we leave ourselves no room to discover what the outcome will be. we cut out all ability to learn about an opportunity or experience because we've already told ourselves we know everything we need to, and in the end, any lessons of what we could learn have already been ruled out.
take some time to look at the routines and patterns in your life and simply ask yourself, are these things I do serving me? are they leaving me open to finding out more about myself and the world I move through? or have they led me down the same path, winding up in the same place? is there any growth as a result of my repeated experience? 12-Step programs are famous for coining the phrase Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. I would offer an addendum to that idea - expecting any results is insanity, because when you're only focused on what happens at the end, you miss the entirety of what's to be learned in the process.