Certainly, we’ve all heard the expression “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks”. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to this adage, I do say, “An old dog can look at past experiences and recuperate the lessons that weren’t purposely being taught by the teachers of the moment.” Of course, this implies using a talent that isn’t normally taught by ordinary instructors, especially those who teach children and teenagers. This is just one of the valuable lessons I’ve learned as a result of developing a one-day workshop, called “Aging Wisely,” that I’ll soon be giving in Spanish here in Mexico.
The research for this project prompted me to look at the commonalities among people of different religions as well as those who aren’t part of any specific faith. We’re normally taught moral principles to live by, what we need to do to earn a living, and to whom or where we go for help when all else fails. The ones teaching us begin with the parents and other relatives plus the teachers in schools and religious institutions; subsequently, they are exchanged for trainers, supervisors, coworkers, and community and organizational leaders. The general methods used to guide us are lecturing, modeling, discussing, testing and experiencing for ourselves. Learning begins at birth and continues until death—usually.
All too often, we learn to parrot instead of realize the deeper meaning behind a particular belief or principle, even when it’s not understood by the one giving the lesson. For example, although basic moral standards are commonly found between Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism and generally make practical sense, many teenagers rebel to how they are reinforced. And, of course, such an uprising generally leads to mistakes on the part of those who are revolting as well as the ones attempting to teach and enforce, through no fault of their own, what they perceive as correct. Finally, the consequences of how we are taught are seen in acts of reactive non thinking which culminate in problems at the highest levels of world societies, not to mention the widespread violence within and between the cultures they lead.
But when the people who raise and guide others take the time to help them internally realize the ideas and principles they’re being taught, the result is unmistakably peaceful, practical and infinitely valuable. According to a world renowned teacher, don’t believe anything, try it for yourself and if it’s true for you, accept it; otherwise, let it go and only return to it if it becomes true for you later on. As I was researching the material for the workshop, I realized how much I’d missed learning as a child and teenager. If only, I reflected, I’d been taught to speak a principle to myself in which I was being instructed, pause, pay attention to the thoughts, images, and feelings arising from inside my being in response to the tenet, and then repeat this pattern a few more times, culminating in reflecting upon what I’d learned from my natural resources. Subsequently, if I’d been given the opportunity to inform the teacher of what I’d learned from my inner self and received his or her constructive criticism, that would have improved my learning without suffering any harm, and it’s possible I wouldn’t have become the rebellious youth I was, prone to making mistakes, and parroting things with or without any real truth in them.
However, this old dog that has seen through the eyes of aging wisely, can now return to those teachings of the past and, perhaps, learn the truth and/or non truths behind them.