When was the last time you were a true learner

A few months ago I picked up the practice of Tai Chi after a gap of nearly 20 years. I enrolled in a local class on a Saturday morning and showed up for my first session. It was a great experience and felt brilliant to be getting back into something that I had enjoyed and derived great benefit from in the past.

Having practised Tai Chi before, I have some vague remembered knowledge of what it’s about, the forms that it involves and the philosophy behind it. That helped me as I was driving to my first class. I thought ‘I won’t be a complete novice, I’ve done this before and I might even know what I’m doing’. There were, however, some things that had a big impact on me during my first session.

As the lesson progressed my assumed knowledge started to get in the way of my listening and my learning and I quickly noticed how I might want to change my approach if I wanted to learn anything. Everyone else in the class had been attending for at least a year and I was clearly the novice in the room by quite a distance. I had by this time reconciled myself to listening and learning from the teacher, a difficult thing as she kept talking to me as if it was my first time and consistently pointing out where I was going wrong! She was actually doing this in a really committed and engaging way but I think I must be out of practice at being a learner so I was feeling a bit out of my depth. Imagine my internal reaction when she suggested that other members of the class work with me and teach me too. There I was with people I had never met before telling me how to do things and pointing out where I was making mistakes. Internally my resistance started to build and I suddenly noticed how uncoachable I had become. I took a deep breath and opened myself up to learning all that I could from those around me and the change in my energy and their ability to teach me transformed.

The second lesson a week later was completely different , what we did was almost exactly the same as the week before but the possibilities for me had just got much bigger.

I’ve learnt a lot in my first few lessons and not all of it has been about Tai Chi!