Updated: Sep 6, 2022
September 5th, 2022
Our minds are learning machines. We are born curious.
Learning requires attention. When we learn as adults, focusing our attention is crucial, and for many of us it's a problem.
Children seem to learn just by being. You don't see them making an effort to focus. They seem to absorb new information effortlessly. But don't let that fool you: toddlers are highly attentive. When something draws their attention, they'll stick with it; they'll observe; they'll explore; they'll extract that information that is interesting for them at the moment.
What is it, then, that makes them focus their attention?
It may sound obvious, but it's true: Their attention follows their curiosity. When something makes you interested, you focus on it: it draws your attention. If it keeps you interested, you stay focused. When your curiosity is satisfied, you'll drop it and shift your attention somewhere else.
Your curiosity may follow an external cue, something you perceive around you, or an internal cue, a feeling, a thought or a sensation that demands to be explored.
Curiosity is innate. Babies explore from day one, they follow their sensations and their perceptions with unending interest, and direct their attention to whatever makes them curious.
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We are born with no voluntary movement. The ability to learn is the greatest asset we bring to this world. Our process of maturing is ridiculously long, compared to any other species. We need years to develop basic survival skills. This is not an economic way to assure survival. But it makes us the most versatile, varied and ingenious species. The long years it takes us to become independent adults make us what we are: human. And what fuels this endless learning process is the curiosity we're born with.
There are no lazy babies. Babies search and find elements of interest everywhere and in everything. They observe, absorb, integrate and create mental patterns constantly. They devour the world around them and inside of them. They are fascinated by pretty much everything. And they are in constant movement. They contemplate their own sensations and they interact with their environment, with the people and things that surround them. They are constant and tireless learners, and they develop skills and agency all the time.
And then they go to school.
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The traditional schooling system has been doing its best to kill children’s curiosity. It puts them on chairs and makes them keep quiet and listen. Presumably, in order to learn you have to stop moving (Following this assumption, your best chance at learning is when you’re dead).
That school system's first and foremost mandate is: don’t follow your curiosity. In order to learn, you need to shut up and concentrate on what the teacher says. Your teacher knows what you must learn now. Avoid following anything that calls your attention. Your curiosity is a distraction.
Recess is an unavoidable waste of time. We keep them short. And then it's time to go back to your seat, stop moving, stop interacting, keep quiet, and learn.
Really? Oh yes, there is learning taking place alright. The type of covert learning that is not declared in the curriculum. It is this: Your curiosity doesn't count and should be repressed. By no means shall you follow your own interests. Typical children in a typical school learn submission, resignation and obedience.
It is very difficult to force attention. And almost impossible to kill curiosity. And yet, our traditional schools still do their best to achieve these goals. A typical school kid is bored and fidgety a large part of the school day.
We learn in movement, in interaction, and following our curiosity. A traditional classroom situation eliminates all three elements: don't move; don't talk; focus on what the teacher says.
Now, as adults, we must find our way back into this innate drive to observe, be fascinated, explore, play and learn. Those things that make life worth living, and that we have almost forgotten.
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Reawaken your curiosity about the way you move. Take a closer look and you'll discover new things. Guaranteed!
Join me for a free 60-minute Awareness through Movement® class on Friday, September 9th, 2022
Theme: Sit up with Dignity (a chair class)