The Great Unlearning

by johnandterri

In 2014, I had two important life events occur, that I now see created a fundamental shift in my life.

  • In March of 2014, I retired from Boeing after 39 years and then in September, Terri and I walked the Camino De Santiago, a 500 mile walk across Spain.
  • In April of 2014, our first Granddaughter, Katherine was born. We began being caregivers 2 days a week a few months later.

These events shifted my life focus. For the majority of my life up to this point, I was focused on producing and building. I looked with the eyes of utility, I looked with an engineers mind. How can this be something that will help to build our wealth, help me get promoted, help support our family. How can I use this to make something from or use it in some way? How does this thing work? What is it made of? Can I use it for something? Do it have a practical use?

Then came retirement and the Camino and grandchildren and my focus began to change. First came the long 5 weeks of walking across Spain. I was retired for about 5 months, my mind was still thinking a lot about my Boeing job and the people I worked with so many years. I wanted to make the transition to retired life without returning back to work at Boeing. I figured this long walk might just help me do this.

In early September of 2014, Terri and I began our Camino walk and our lives were stripped down to the basics. Get up early, get ready quickly and head out walking at dawn, then walk all day, find your place to stay the night, wash up, eat dinner and get to sleep to begin it all again. It was in this “simple Camino rhythm” that I began to change. I started to slow down my thinking, as it was no longer about producing and accumulating and building. It was a slow immersion into nature and the rhythm of the day. I began the process of unlearning the way my mind had been trained all these years to see the world. I began to see things “as they are, in themselves, by themselves, for themselves, not for what they could do for me”. I yielded to the Camino and what came our way, open to seeing what each day would bring.

When we returned from the Camino and we began our care giving for our granddaughter, Katherine, the great “unlearning” continued. Children are a gift for us as they help us to see the world through a new lens. They truly love things just as they are. They are not thinking of how this thing is going to be of use to them or how it will help them to produce more or be of some utility. They are simply seeing with open eyes and a sense of wonder. They yield to it and just love it for what it is. As a grandparent, I found myself yielding to their view. Unlearning that “utilitarian mind” that was so important for the first phase of my life.

Now, here I am almost 6 years removed from when we started the Camino walk and our twice a week care giving, and I have to say, I am still working at “unlearning” and yielding more and more to the “childlike” version of myself.

I practice this on the many hikes and walks in nature that I love to take as well as during our imaginative playtime with our two grandchildren (Katherine and Freya). I have discovered that it continues to be the perfect training ground for my “Great Unlearning”. What a freeing experience this has been!

To simply yield to the beauty of the little violet flower. To yield to its naked existence not for what it can do for me. The most simple person can do this and the most educated person can do this but actually the educated person does it with great difficulty. It takes a lot of “unlearning” I am finding!

I hope you also find this truth too!

Blessings and all grace,

John

Photograph of the Month

Take a Long, Loving Look

I had a wonderful mystical experience a few weeks ago hiking the meadows of Mt Rainier with the wildflowers in full bloom. I spent a lot of time taking “long, loving looks” at the flowers and the mountain landscapes.

This little dainty is the seed head of the Western Anemone. I love some of the names of this flower, “tow-head baby”, “dishmop”, “Mouse on a Stick”.