I was born learning.

We were all born learning.

A friend who is the deputy head of a large primary and junior school told me sadly that when the children arrive in the education system, they are like sponges; open, curious, questioning, learning is as air.  By the time they leave, they are bored, anxious about failing and being wrong and having learning done to them.

Sigh.

I have been right through the academic system, failing, succeeding, teaching, learning and researching. I love books, papers, pens and knowing stuff about stuff, I really do.  I get obsessed and learn everything I can get my hands on about my latest passion, and then move on, pollinating and cross fertilising, creating connections.

When I first started my Transactional Analysis training one of the course leaders saw I caught on fast, could use my head, my brain.  ‘We’re going to teach you how to integrate that with your feelings’ he said.  I was insulted.  I knew how to feel.

But I didn’t know how to find tune my awareness of my feelings and those of other people and to trust this information and intuition.  I learned the vocabulary of emotions, I learned how to contain mine and other people’s, but I wasn’t joining it up with thought.

So I got into situations I could have avoided because I ignored my gut, the discomfort in my body, because  it didn’t seem ‘rational’, I couldn’t explain why I felt as I did, so I ignored it.

So I had a heart and a head but the two weren’t joined.

Then I got pregnant and gave birth and breast fed, twice and there is nothing like blood and milk to introduce you to a body you thought was just a vehicle for heart and head. So there began a journey from belly to gut, from shoulders to toes and I began to feel into my body, watching it respond as a tuning fork for what was in the world.

So last  night, teaching yoga, with storm Duncan shaking the doors to join the class, lying in shivasana, I could not only feel the wind cross my hands from under the door, but also the wave of energy tingling inside me with every large gust.  I asked if anyone else could. They said no. I would have said the same 20 years ago.  But the horses in my friend’s fields know, their ears prick, their necks arch and as the cat and I were sitting outside before I wrote this, in a moment of calm, he meowed and demanded to be let in. Curious, I thought, and sure enough, as I went back to collect my book, the rain came hard and fast.

Satish Kumar, Jain monk, peace activist, environmentalist founded Schumacher college to educate in a new way, with heart, head,  hands.  I wish that everyone could continue to learn that way, the way we were born to learn, as we picked up bugs from the mud and fell in love with them if only for a moment, full of curiosity.

Although I had moved integrated head with heart and then to body, I am only just finding my hands.  Yes I use them to write and clean and balance on, but there is something new happening for me as I put my hands into the soil.  So as storm Duncan woke up in Wales, I was digging in mud, unearthing stones so that I had a flat space for a new compost heap. Dirty, nails black, jeans damp and smeared, face gritty from where I had pushed my hair back into my hat, I began to understand that bare hands and feet connect us to the earth.  I swim, I miss swimming in warm seas and even cold Welsh rivers which are too high and fast at this time of year.  I have always known that I love the feeling of being held in water, of being immersed in the natural world and I felt it yesterday as I was rooting out stones on muddy knees in the damp and cold.

There is a fourth part to learning and that is ‘earth’.  Head, hearts, hands, earth.  The wind blows, the horses stamp, the cat wails, my gut tingles, we are all plugged into the earth.