Continual learning is important. Learning might include reading books or doing activities such as climbing. It’s helpful to have a unifying thread to process us through the chaos of learning. The unifying thread for The Warrior’s Way is focusing attention on task and continually redirecting attention when it becomes distracted. This thread needs to permeate all we do, giving us a center to operate from.
First, we need to know that there are three phases for learning: preparation, transition, and action. Each phase requires us to use attention differently. We need to commit our attention to only one of these phases at a time. If our attention is split between two or more phases then we don’t do each phase effectively.
Second, we need to know what tasks make up each phase. When we’re in the preparation phase we focus our attention on thinking with the mind. When we’re in the transition phase we focus our attention on making a decision that supports learning. When we’re in the action phase we focus our attention on taking action with the body and remaining open to the learning process.
Third, we need to understand how the learning process fits into the three phases. Learning consists of converting stress to comfort. To think effectively, during the preparation phase, we need to be within the comfort zone. If there is too much stress then the quality of our thinking will diminish. We use the mind’s analytical intelligence to think about the risk and gather information.
Next, we break through the outer barrier that defines the comfort zone. We enter the transition phase and make an intuitive decision. If it’s appropriate then we set an intention to take action.
Finally, we take action by engaging the risk. We enter the stress zone. This is where we convert stress to comfort and learn. We engage the body and stay open to modifying our current knowledge. Most people validate what they already know. This indicates unconsciousness; they don’t learn and stay within their comfort zones. Stress can’t be converted into comfort through validation; we must approach learning with a modifying attitude.
So, we know the phases, the tasks for each phase, and how the learning process fits into the phases. Once we understand that structure we simply need to be intentional. We need to know which phase we’re in, which tasks we’re focusing our attention on, and maintain a modifying attitude. That’s our foundation. Then, we need awareness when our attention is distracted and redirect it to the task.
Let’s say we want to read a book. Before we begin we commit to the preparation phase, to think. The end result is learning, the consequence is not learning, and the plan involves reading with a modifying attitude so we can learn. Then we commit to the transition phase by making an intuitive decision based on what feels most appropriate for our learning process at this moment. Once we choose a book we set an intention to read with a modifying attitude. Finally, we commit to taking action to read the book. If we notice we’re focusing on validating what we already know then our attention has shifted away from our goal. We’re manifesting the consequence of not learning. We redirect and recommit our attention to modifying and staying open.
In climbing we commit to stopping at stances to prepare, to rest and think. We think about the next stance, the consequence, and develop our plan. We do this within the relative comfort of a rest stance. Then we shift into the transition phase and commit to the decision-making process. We make an intuitive decision and set an intention to take action, shifting from the comfort zone to the stress zone. We commit to the action phase and maintain a modifying attitude by trusting the body as we climb to the next stance. If we notice we’re frustrated or fearful then our attention has shifted from the stress zone to the comfort zone, which stops the learning process. We redirect and recommit our attention to modifying and staying open.
We may be reading a book or rock climbing, finding our way through the chaos of the learning process. Having a unifying thread of focusing our attention on task and continually redirecting it gives us a center to move through the chaos. We simply need awareness of which phase we’re in and then commit our attention to the tasks that make up that phase. When our attention shifts to validating our current knowledge then we simply redirect our attention to the task.
Practice Tip: Be Vigilant
One of the most challenging aspects of the learning process is remaining open. You will tend to look for information to validate what you already know instead of modifying it. This will occur when watching the news on TV, having conversations with others, or reading books.
Operate from a center of redirecting your attention toward modifying.
- In preparation you think about the goal, the consequence, and your plan. The goal is learning, the consequence, if you fall victim to the validating tendency, is not learning, and the plan is having a modifying attitude so you can learn.
- In transition you need to be in tune with your intuition. Notice resistance you feel toward new information. Set an intention to modify your current knowledge rather than validate it.
- In action your focus is to process stress. Remain vigilant! You may agree with information because you already believe it; you may disagree with it because it challenges your present beliefs. Redirect and recommit your attention to modifying your current knowledge so you can process stress and learn.