We’ve heard this expression many times… the school of life. We assume it means that the experiences in one’s life bestow wisdom and that as a result, we are better able to handle various challenging situations. Perhaps we know better how to navigate through circumstances and avoid past mistakes. Yes of course this is all valid, but the school of life has much subtler dimensions.
Imagine being an audience member in a theater or watching a film, intensely focused on an enigmatic character. You know that character to be fictional, and that allows you limitless objectivity. You watch them play out the drama in the scenes of their scripted life, but you don’t take it too seriously. Afterall, you’re going to walk out of the theater at the end of the performance. Still, as an observer, you can ask all sorts of questions about what that person is going through and form various value judgements.
What if this lifetime we find ourselves in is just such a play? What did Shakespeare mean when he said that all the world is a stage? The mystical traditions have always told us that we are divine awareness showing up as a physical manifestation. This is Earth School. Every experience is a learning opportunity, but we get so wrapped up in the emotional reactions and entanglements that we totally miss the whole point of the experience. These incidents totally sweep us away because we are not grounded in pure awareness. The trick is to find a bit of distance between the awareness and the circumstance. We need to recognize ourselves as the impartial observer, with humility and love, and not take life so seriously all the time. A healthy dose of humor at life’s unrelenting unpredictability certainly helps!
The reason we love the movies is because we identify with those characters on the screen. Now, if it’s so easy to identify and emote with these purely fictional characters, then latching on to the inner character that is inhabiting this body is beyond easy. It is constant, instantaneous and absolutely unquestioned. That’s why the practice of self-inquiry has come along to pose the question, who am I?
We can begin this exploration of learning by catching ourselves before we fall into the trap of the mind/body response if we can and holding a bit of objective distance. We can practice viewing ourselves with loving eyes and asking, “what can this situation teach me?” We won’t always succeed; it takes practice to be fluid and not smack into circumstance face first.
Life is a dance, and we are the dancers. The music changes, we sometimes stumble, but the ones who enjoy it the most are those who surrender to it utterly, living life spontaneously in the moment, and beyond identifications. They view life as an inexpressibly beautiful unfoldment of every potential; it is perfection transcending any verdicts.
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