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THE POWER OF UNLEARNING

Updated: Jan 22, 2021



Life is a weird teacher; it gives you the test first and the lesson later.


When the whole planet was facing the wrath of a pandemic, many of us received the greatest lessons of our lives. If you asked me what my greatest learning from all of this was, then it would be the power of unlearning.

The thought process here is very much analogous to the story of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The protagonist Santiago, who gets a recurring dream of a treasure, leaves his home and ends up travelling to multiple countries in search of this treasure, only to realize later that the treasure had always been in the same ruined church where he got his dreams on the very first place.


Similarly, I believe that it was necessary for each one of us to learn whatever we learned till now, just so that we could reverse this process and slowly go back to our original home through the process of unlearning.


Yeah, you might be wondering, then what was the whole point of learning. Well, how would you know the worth (worthlessness in our case) of your possessions whether materialistic or intangible ones like knowledge until and unless you have it.


We have all heard of people of fame and wealth, giving up on their possessions and going back to living a simple life in the woods or an ashram under a guru. In my opinion, what the multi-millionaire did was just another example of unlearning.


Now here is what I realized from the bittersweet experiences of my life.

The real essence of life starts flowing to you in three tiny steps:

  1. Self awareness which slowly causes an inner Renaissance.

  2. An innate realization that all that we learned in life until now is of little significance, when our end goal is not just happiness, but a seemingly permanent state of bliss.

  3. This realization provokes us to unlearn little by little.




In the modern society, most of us are conditioned by the dogmas and belief systems of the society, so much that we are mostly running on survival mode. One goal after another, one project after another, bigger house, more assets etc.

Now, who has the time to sit in meditation for 15 minutes and self-reflect.

We have totally forgotten to take things slow and social media has made the situations worse.


Social media has created a mean alternate reality for most of us which unfortunately is solely based on external validation, approvals in the form of likes or comments, mockery, brutal condemnation of another and so on.


Whenever I reach my office early, I usually go to the cafeteria to have a cup of coffee. When I look around, I see my colleagues having breakfast in the companionship of their phones, either chatting or texting or browsing through social media.


We have started using phones and other means to escape the uncomfortable situations of life. Moreover we have started feeling uncomfortable being on our own. In fact, we give so much importance in doing, rather than being. I have slowly come to the realization that ‘inaction is the greatest action’.




The whole point of the above discussion was to remind ourselves as to how disconnected we have become from ourselves. If we are not ready to be our own best buddies, how can we expect another to be the same for us!!


Now, going back to the unlearning part: For the real essence of life to dawn on us, either we slowly start focusing inwards, take baby steps in developing self love and embracing ourselves, or we wait for a catastrophe(like a pandemic) to happen to open our eyes wide and force us to look at the reality.


Reality that we are viewing life with a lens of limited scope. These limitations are brought to us by our own dogmas and belief systems.



HOW DID THESE BELIEF SYSTEMS BECOME SUCH AN INTEGRAL PART OF US ON THE FIRST PLACE?


Obviously they were fed to us from a very young age by our caretakers, we absorbed the rest from the environment we lived in, things we saw and experienced etc. Most of these dogmas were probably needed for our survival in those environments as children and acted as foundational knowledge for us to build upon.


When we become adults, we are free to understand and explore other belief systems or ideas with a mind of discretion to build our knowledge repository, ultimately to realize that it's best to let go of all of these. That's when the process of unlearning begins.


On the flip side, if we start identifying with the beliefs that were ingrained in us as a child, and make it a part of our ego, we are forcing ourselves into a vortex of limitedness which takes us far away from reality. Now it's really tough to decipher some of these beliefs and they are already deeply ingrained in our subconscious and have already become part of our daily programming.


Now how do we unearth these li'l devils.

Like I said, self introspection is the key. Start slow, take baby steps. There are numerous ways to achieve this, but remember, whichever be the practice, consistency is the key.

Listing down the practices that catapulted me into my journey of unlearning:

  1. Meditation

  2. Journaling

  3. Witnessing one`s own thoughts

  4. Analyzing the triggers


MEDITATION

Meditation for beginners could be as simple as closing your eyes, right before bed time and revisiting the activities you did the whole day. Mentally take note of what you did right and where you need to improve.

As starters, you may use mantras, meditate on your heart or be mindful of your breath.

I had been doing spiritual practices and heart based meditation religiously since the last three years.



JOURNALING

Journal your whole day's activities, important events, thoughts and feelings

in general and even your dreams. Once you have journaled for a whole month, you may go back and re-read entries for earlier days. This helps you gain more insights about your general mood, behavioral patterns, thoughts etc.



WITNESSING OWN THOUGHTS

This is also a part of mindfulness practice where we just observe our own thoughts without judgement or being carried away by it. One can start with 10 minutes and once you get the hang of it, slowly extend the time frame.

With consistency, you realize that this has become your second nature and that you are conscious of your mind`s activities.

This helps us to respond to rather than react to situations in life.

Practicing this diligently helps one gain emotional mastery.



ANALYZING ONE`S TRIGGERS

Triggers are our best teachers. They can say a lot about our subconscious programming. Triggers are nothing but, the unique ways in which we react to certain situations in our life. The reactions towards the same stimuli would be different for different individuals.


Say for example, I see a beautiful couple walking by, and let`s say I intrinsically feel disgusted. Now, this reaction of mine, is a trigger.


  1. AWARENESS: Firstly, I must be self aware enough, to catch this reaction that is surfacing from my subconscious, rather than getting carried away by it.

  2. ACCEPTANCE: Once I realize that I got triggered, and that a thought of disgust has come up, my next step is to accept this trigger as a part of me, rather than feeling negative or self critical about this. I must be gentle with myself. I must accept that emotions are just part of being human. Acceptance takes us a long way in self introspection. You can never do inner work on the traits that you reject.

  3. DEEP INTROSPECTION: Once I accept, I dig deep down through meditation or journaling to find out the root cause of my reaction. Maybe I have gone through a painful breakup earlier, and the couple who walked by, reminded me of my past relationship. The suppressed emotions and pain might be surfacing as a feeling of disgust. My next question would be - Why does the breaking of a relationship in the past, sting me so much even today. Betrayal and breakups hurt, but had I loved myself enough, would I still be punishing myself for a past event, that was not even my fault. It all boils down to lack of self worth. I did not value myself enough(I am unworthy: is an ingrained belief in my system) because of which I am finding it difficult to let go, even after months or years of separation.

  4. LETTING GO: The next step is to let go of your past. I will be publishing a blog post solely on this topic soon


Analyzing triggers this way can help unearth behavioral patterns in us that we never knew existed. Next time we see a couple walking hand in hand down the highway, and we realize a feeling of fear or disgust arising within us, we can consciously change our thoughts to a more positive one. We could feel happy for the couple and bless them with a long and happy life of togetherness.


BEING SELF AWARE


Inculcating the above practices in our daily lives make us more and more self aware. Even though being self aware is just the beginning of unlearning, and a journey in itself which needs lot of practice and patience, it has incomparable advantages too:




NO MORE VICTIM MENTALITY


We see a lot of scenarios wherein something wrong happens and one ends up blaming others for one`s plight. Simple example can be: you reach the office late and you blame the traffic. A self aware person would ask herself/himself, was it really the traffic or I could have done something differently, like starting a bit early from home.

When we take responsibility of our actions, we are bound to find the solutions to it too and implement them at the earliest.



CREATES SELF LOVE


A self aware person through experience realizes that it's unhealthy to completely rely on external validation for his or her well being. As social beings, we humans need connection. However that doesn't mean that we need to give control of our happiness to others. A self loving person is able to self soothe himself or herself during the time of crisis, without relying a lot on others.



SELF EXPLORATION THROUGH QUESTIONING


You are able to decipher not just yours, but others' behavioral patterns through constant analysis. There's a caveat here: we do not want to overdo the analysis process, as analysis is an activity of mind, whereas awareness is mostly observing mind`s activities.


As you become more and more self aware, you tend to ask more and more questions thereby building a deeper understanding about yourself.



SHIFT IN CONSCIOUSNESS


Unlearning shifts our perspectives and allows our consciousness to expand. We slowly start functioning from a space of love rather than fear.



FUNCTIONING FROM A SPACE OF LOVE


This has been a true eye opener for me!!


Every decision in this world is either made from a space of love or from a space of fear.

For example: You may do something for your partner like buy gifts for his/her birthday.

You may do it wholeheartedly out of love, or you may do it out of innate fear that if I don`t do this, my partner might leave me. We may be unaware of such fear based thoughts deep down at first, but as we become more self-aware, we are clearly able to distinguish between the two.


My new mantra is never to make a decision that is based on fear. If you feel indecisive, it is okay to take more time.

Recently a close friend of mine, accepted a job offer that he did not appreciate much. The reason behind this decision was the fear as to how he would pay his bills if he remained jobless.

However after accepting his first job offer and joining his new company, the very next week, he got a call for a similar role from a company that he admired.

We must start thinking from a space of love and abundance and this literally shifts our end decisions too.



THE TRUE POWER OF UNLEARNING


As we progress in our journey of unlearning, we remove a lot of beliefs that was never meant to help us. Two things happen now:

  1. You are able to attract more positivity into your life, as you are vibrating at the frequency of positivity and abundance

  2. If an unexpected event happens, you are resilient enough to bounce back to normalcy and easily find a solution to the issue.


It would be truly amazing to see the whole world slowly waking up from the deep dark slumber and walking the path of light, love and abundance. After all, the true essence of life comes only as you go closer to your true, pure self and we all are a work in progress.


I'm sure there are other tried and tested ways to unlearn too. Please drop in your comments and let me know what has helped you and where you have reached so far in this wonderful journey.

Your comments would not only help me improve, but the reader community as well.


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