What is a Spiritual Learner?

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What is a Spiritual Learning

The spiritual learner is someone who realizes there is something beyond ourselves that influences and accounts for life events—an intangible that cannot completely be explained. For many this is the work of God; for others it is the work of the “Universe;” and for others it is simply an undefined spiritual experience. A spiritual learner is a person who takes in information from diverse sources, and in terms of religion, he or she is a person who realizes and accepts that all the major religions have made worthwhile contributions. A spiritual learner is an open-minded person who expects to continue to gain wisdom about the human condition throughout life. He or she expects to revise theories and change perspective as new learning takes place. He or she is not wedded to one way of thinking, one psychology or one religious orientation. This is important to living a balanced, healthy, high-achieving life because we are constantly faced with new situations that require that we adapt and change.

The perspective of being a spiritual learner can be applied to most aspects of life; any fixed way of thinking and behaving that has rendered an unhealthy outcome should be reevaluated. Individuals of this persuasion are not threatened to reconsider behavioral patterns that have become entrenched but may need adjusting, or may need to be totally abandoned. In my family, for instance, the men were all heavy smokers. It seemed like the thing to do and it seemed perfectly healthy for the World War 11 generation. It was endorsed at the time by many doctors and scientists who were paid by the tobacco industry. As a young child I pleaded with my father to stop smoking, but it was to no avail. I could hear him cough every morning; it just didn’t seem like it was good for him but I had no data to support my argument. Ultimately the habit he had found to be his saving grace in World War II took his life at age 66.

My father was just beginning to turn the corner in his thinking. Of course his severe addiction altered his intention on most occasions, but the day he died he was down from four packs of Chesterfields a day to four cigarettes. He was beginning to employ a spiritual learner perspective to his addiction when time ran out. He was entertaining the possibility that his belief about the innocence of smoking was wrong and he was starting to consider an alternate perspective. He realized that his behavior was robbing his spirit of energy (he was sick more often, had shortness of breath as his body was failing him and his spirit for life was diminishing.

Learning Connects Us

In this regard I believe that part of the appeal of Tibetan Buddhism for Americans is the ongoing efforts of the Dali Lama to learn and integrate new findings. He has often stated that Buddhism is an ancient religion with many ancient texts. Yet he has indicated that the teaching of these texts needs to change according to new knowledge. He has displayed openness to scientific knowledge, particularly the neuroplasicity of the brain. This kind of orientation to life makes our days more interesting, increases energy and allows us to be part of a wider world. We are more connected to an array of individuals and experiences. Spiritual learners are invested in discovering and experiencing whatever enlivens the human spirit in a healthy way.

Being a spiritual learner naturally gives us the tools to rewrite our story; remember part of the definition is “to learn from all credible sources,” including ourselves. This means we now have an opportunity to take in accurate information about ourselves, our beliefs, our career paths and most importantly, our culture, country, and world. We cannot live free of the curse if we are not concerned with people throughout the world. Personal liberation requires an awareness of the fact that certain societies, cultures, and organizations create systems that enslave others If we are self-absorbed and just tend to those closest to us who are most like us, we create a small non-diverse world which limits our personal and spiritual growth. In essence, the well-being of others is our well-being. There is no separation for the spiritual learner. Our story can now be rewritten because we trust the opinions of others, and in a global sense, we trust that those around the world have important insights and wisdom to contribute.

A Life of Truth

Spiritual learners rewrite their unsupportive story in on-going fashion. They have developed hope and trust in others and have come to realize that self-learning and learning about the world is endless. It is exciting to have this philosophy in your heart as learning no longer becomes threatening, but rather becomes a constant way of enhancing your sense of self. You become liberated. Open to all those around you, and most importantly you are open to the world at large. You now are a contributor to a better society because you are free to be a genuine participant. No more cover ups; no more need to protect a false story. The greatest feeling is to know the old story is mostly made-up.

Rewriting our story is never just about our rearranging our internal view of ourselves. It is also about rearranging all we have learned that is inaccurate. For instance, baby boomers grew up believing German and Japanese people were evil and despicable. Turns out they thought the same of us and the propaganda of all three countries turns out to be false. Today, many young people are growing up thinking Muslims are violent, despicable, evil people. Some Americans pull Muslims out of their cars and beat them. What a horrible travesty; a misinformed manner of promoting violence and maintaining an unsupportive story of ourselves and many others. Cutting off the opportunity for empathic understanding and vital connections. Remember that any distortion of the truth, in us or with others, leads to self and societal destruction.

Spiritual learners are committed to the truth about themselves, their families, friends and all those who inhabit our world. We are committed to examining every bias in our minds and hearts so that we live in harmony with the truth. If we are in opposition to the truth for fear and other defensive reasons, we are much more prone to developing and maintaining the curse. Why? Because we are then constantly misdirected in terms of how to feel comfortable within ourselves and in the world; we are always hiding behind mythical beliefs about ourselves and others.

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Arthur Ciaramicoli PhD

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  1. [...] is with that purpose, as a spiritual learner, that I teach principles, practices and lifestyle strategies for living in balance, with vibrant [...]

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