As I stood at the kitchen sink meditatively massaging the inside of a large pan with the soapy sponge, I was struck with a wave of nostalgia. I had a sudden and vivid memory of the first time I learned the difference between “pot” and “pan.” This must have been a memory from grade school, a grammar lesson, but it suddenly felt fresh in my cells. I couldn’t help but marvel at the sensation. We are students of the universe, constantly learning and ever-evolving. But the teaching of such simple knowledge? The acquisition of fundamental truths? Most of these happened early on in our sweet little lives, when we were just wee little kiddos.
I remember learning how to address an envelope in second grade, and mailing ourselves letters as practice. I recall practicing the alphabet, and later cursive, on dotted line worksheets at smooth desks poised on the edge tiny chairs. I can visualize the finger paints on my skin in preschool as I was familiarized with the color wheel, the new shades created when one puddle mixes with another.
I am stages away from finishing up my post-grad studies and will soon be a Certified Nutritionist. Just yesterday I spoke with my mom about the wonder of learning. The conversation was prompted by an experience with an acquaintance earlier that day. A man in his late forties or early fifties, I presume, someone who knows my general doings and the brushstrokes of my educational route. Yesterday he asked me my age. When I replied that I’m 26 he nodded. “I was 30 when I learned Swedish,” he said matter-of-factly, “and it was hard.” I nodded in appreciation, taking in his words.
It is harder now to make space for new, foreign information that it was at the start of college, I suppose. I couldn’t quite grasp whether there was truth to the concept for me, in this moment, at this point in my life. But upon reflection, and prompted by this sudden memory just now at the sink, I am rather amazed by the notion. When we’re children, we’re blank slates, fresh canvases. We have space and capacity for learning likely greater than our own knowing. But as we age, on both a physical and psychological level, it’s more challenging to retain new information. It’s not to say we can’t achieve phenomenal intellectual feats or become greatly educated later in life, not at all. Many of the greatest scholars, philosophers, authors and thinkers actually came into themselves later in their lives. We gain more wisdom and clarity the more life we have in our rearview mirrors. But it’s simply a a fact that we have less “empty space” the more life we have lived, the more we have experienced, the more we have filed away in our minds.
We don’t have less capacity for learning, we just have more information cluttering the sky-high shelves of our intellect. Grammar, mathematics, locker combinations, pin numbers, passwords, names, song lyrics, directions, memories…it goes on and on. Our brains, if we could open them up and uncoil them onto the table for inspection, would provide miles and miles of fascinating, brilliant, mundane, useless and priceless information. Facts and dreams and images and ideas. We are brilliant time capsules, walking encyclopedias, sponges ever soaking up the data we are drenched in with each waking day.
How beautiful is this? This life, this capacity to learn, to know, to forget and to learn again. How nice would it be to take a clean cloth to the parts of our brains that are crammed with useless information…wiping the slate and making space to be filled with new, fresh material. I’m fascinated by this concept. Who’s to say we can’t do that?
Sure, we can’t literally take a cloth to the inside of our brains (please don’t try this at home). But what we can do is access our pineal gland, the “seat to our soul,” our third eye. We can tap into our intuition, via mediation and self-reflection (journaling, pranayama, silent time spent immersed in nature, sitting down to the sensory feast provided by the world on a moment-to-moment basis – if only we could stop and have a listen…). We have the power to harness our dreams, our waking thoughts, and embody them to their utmost capacity. As beings of light we are not just here to know pin numbers and memorize formulas and learn languages. Yes, we need to do these things too, but what if we mindfully sectioned off a portion of the brain to contain this monotony, and opened the rest up to the Divine? What if we offered all that remaining space, with fiercely beautiful intention, to the realm of creativity, passion, artistry and imagination?
What if we dropped the “what if” and just did it? What then? I think we might amaze ourselves.
We were born to be creators, passion flaming, we were born as artists, imaginations wild and unbound. The human brain is a brilliant, brilliant phenomenon. The amount of potential we have is greatly more than we actually access, on average. The human mind is another phenomenon altogether; I see the brain as the physical manifestation of the mind. The mind is much more encompassing. The mind operates outside of the brain, all the way to the fingertips, it emanates from the body via thoughts and energetic intentions. I believe the brain is exercised by fundamental truths…pot versus pan, red versus blue, 7^2 is 49, slavery was abolished in 1865. I believe the mind is exercised by tapping into magic…meditation, imagination, singing, writing, taking photographs, music, dancing, drinking in the beauty of nature, making love, laughing, delighting in colors, moving the body with breath, pranayama, deep relaxation, studying, reading, embodying utter stillness and presence, mindful intention setting, journaling, dreaming.
We’re pretty set on the brain exercises. Most of us operate on a day-to-day basis working jobs, driving cars, going to the bank, paying bills. We are bombarded by numbers, decisions, equations, formulas and details almost incessantly. Our left brain is, I dare say, chronically overstimulated. Our right brain, however, often gets shut down in order to make more space for logic, reasoning, critical thinking. But that only gets us so far. Because, while I’m grateful to have the capacity for discernment, what does it really matter if I call the pan a pan or if I call it a pot? It doesn’t matter. It will cook my vegetables nonetheless. But if I marvel at the texture of the pot pan, if I get lost in a poem about the way the food sizzles upon its surface, the way the fragrance rises, curling seductively from the stovetop, warming the kitchen while the frosty winter air clings threateningly to the outsides of the windows…that matters. That is an experience worth making space for.
My point is that there is a serene oneness between these two seemingly separate entities. The right and left brain are one. The reason and the intuition lean on one another, support one another. The structure is not sound without one or the other. So let’s work on our right brain exercises. This means: permission to daydream. Permission to make up songs, barefoot in the kitchen, while scrambling eggs in a pot and boiling soup in a pan. While drinking tea from a bowl and broth from a mug. While standing on the ceiling, steam curling upwards toward the floor. Because what’s a name without an image to match it? What’s reason without recognition? We are the creators of our own universe. We are the pilots of our own orbit and we determine whether we fly through thick fog, trusting we are flying because we’re in a plane…or soaring above the clouds, drinking in the blues and pinks of the sky, toasting in the heat of the sun and cooling in the light of the moon, taking in valleys and mountains, ocean and treetops, letting rain wash clean our exterior and humidity cleanse us from the inside out. We can know we’re flying because we see it, we feel it, we taste it and we hear it. We can know we’re flying because we have given life to the world around us.
You’re flying, didn’t you know? We are in flight, and that is the most fundamental truth that has ever been.