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Being a learner

With the recent arrival of our special guest, I have become aware of a serious deficit which is that I am not, at all, fluid fluent in Spanish. I say this with some of embarrassment, for it does not take much looking at numbers in our state and population trends to realize that this is a decision that I have made out of a place of privilege, ignorance and some kind of belief that communicating with my neighbors is not important. I can easily avoid any effort by saying it is too late now to learn, especially because I have never been particularly good with languages. For example, I have had a never-ending desire to learn Japanese, the other language of my heritage, and have never truly stuck with it. I can have a million excuses for why learning is awkward and unpleasant and uncomfortable for me and yet the fact remains, I now need Spanish on a daily basis and I do not have it.

What to do? I guess I have realized that learning can take place at any point. In our tradition, we believe in life long learning and I have seen it myself how those committed to this premise continue to take in new ideas, joys, information and ways of seeing the world right up to their dying moments. Who am I to say that it is too late for me to learn?

So…. I have downloaded an app, pledged to take even a few minutes every day and have begun the arduous journey of learning. And here’s the thing, I can find it joyful and enlivening rather than painful and embarrassing. In fact, it is a great break from the other pressures of my day to just take those few moments common knowing I am expanding my knowledge in order to connect with others better. Kinda fun to be a beginner, really, which reminds me of why the Buddhists praise that “beginner’s mind.” What a privilege to be part of a tradition, that allows us to be beginners at any age, that forgives us the awkwardness of learning and encourages us to grow.

Yours in learning,


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