We are all Padawans: Cultivating the Attitude of a Learner
Jedi Knight. Jedi Master. These are great aspirations, but no one starts out as these things. It is an easy thing to call yourself a knight or a master, but if you want to earn these ranks, it is years of hard work and dedication to get there. There is a saying among martial artists: “the color of your belt is not an indicator of your rank, your technique is.” In the same way being a Jedi of quality will be evident in the way we walk our path, no matter what titles are given us or we style for ourselves.
To be a Jedi of quality, we must train, and for our training to be of benefit, we must have the right attitude, the attitude of a learner. It is an attitude of openness, of exploration, of inquisitiveness, and reflection. It is the realization that we do not have all the answers, and that we may be mistaken about a great many things. It is a striving to better ourselves and to attempt to live up to the ideals that define a Jedi Knight.
The life of a Jedi is one of constant self-improvement, and lifelong learning. There is always something that can be improved upon, and there are always new things to discover. Learning is not some passive activity, where knowledge comes to us with ease, like water from the sky. It must be sought out, like being dug out of the ground and when found, studied. It is not enough to simply know a thing, as a Jedi of Quality, we must seek understanding. Not so much knowledge of a thing, but rather a knowing of it. An intimate experience where what we are, and what we know are integrated into a cohesive whole.
Passions can tend to lead us away, if we let it, but a passion honed with serenity can give us a drive to sustain study in our chosen topic that with time and hard work will lead us to understanding. It is this drive to learn and to be a learner that will serve us well in our career as Jedi.
A learner is also discerning. Simply put, there are a lot of things purported that do not stand up to scrutiny. We must be able to sense when something rings false – even when it is appealing. There are hard facts in this world and we do ourselves a service if we familiarize ourselves with them. Magical thinking and wishing things were a certain way despite the evidence to the contrary does more damage to the learning process than simply given bad information. Mistakes can be corrected. Bad mental hygiene taints our entire worldview. We must cultivate discernment or find ourselves deceived.
Being someone's student is not about a relationship, it is being open to the lessons that are being taught. It takes mindfulness to realize that everyone we encounter has something to teach us. Even the people that annoy us to no end like a certain amphibian introduced in the Phantom Menace. We can learn that all beings deserve compassion, even the ones that annoy us, and that our friends that test our patience are actually teaching us patience. No one is a teacher because they are better than you, smarter than you, or more skilled. Everyone is a teacher because everyone has a lesson we can learn.
The attitude of a learner is the desire to learn. To seek out lessons where others would not think to look. To dedicate oneself to meeting ignorance with knowledge. A learner does not create answers, they find them in the world around them as well as the world within themselves. A learner will meditate as much as they study, and through reflection and examination what they study will illuminate their path.