Some infinitely wise beings have given us glimpses into the power of learning without words. It is written, that Jesus spent forty days alone in the desert and received messages from God. Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment while meditating alone under a tree. Mohammed lived in a cave, where it is written that he received messages from the Angel Gabriel. And the spiritual teacher Sadhguru said, “If you have the opportunity to sit with a spiritual person, this is not the time for questions. Just be with them, and an exchange will occur.”
There is a type of learning that occurs much like osmosis. Scientifically, osmosis is the diffusion that takes place between two liquids or gases capable of mixing through a semi-permeable membrane. Put another way, osmosis is the reciprocal influence between two elements that are in contact physically and/or energetically. Osmosis learning is learning based on the reciprocal influence between two individuals, and it occurs unconsciously—meaning, it happens without consciously “trying” to learn. We can learn by osmosis from any form of life—animals, trees, Earth, the elements, and people, including spiritual leaders. Here’s an example of what Swami Kriyananda wrote about his experience of learning from his spiritual teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, an Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru who introduced millions to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) and who lived his last 32 years in America. “The closer we drew to him spiritually, the less he sought to teach us by words. ‘I prefer to speak with the eyes,’ he once told me. He never wanted to impose his instructions on us from without. His method of teaching was, rather, to help us dig wells of intuitive insight within ourselves. The closer we felt to him, the closer we came to knowing our own true Self: the God within us.”
And the website for national educators concurs, “learning through osmosis is a form of learning that is inevitable, occurs in every situation and context, and in every experiential moment for people. It is a daily and constant learning, and that, if it occurs in positive and stimulating environments and with extraordinary people, it can be transformative.”
So here’s a short story of how I began learning from nature about life, through osmosis and observation, and without words.
Growing up, my immediate family lived in a small town of about sixty thousand people, and my father’s parents lived on a farm a couple of hours away, in a town that was so small that it wasn’t even incorporated. On weekends, I worked on that farm. I side raked hay, mended fences, helped fix broken equipment, fed and counted cattle, mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, and hammered old, rusty nails until they were straight again, so they could be reused. While I worked, as far as my eyes could see, there were no people. With the exception of fixing equipment and straightening nails, the rest of the work was outside in nature, so I spent most of my time NOT talking. It made me a good observer. I watched how the plant life moved with the winds, and learned the difference between a breeze for movement and a breeze that carried a storm behind it, warning me to head for cover. I watched how the plants grew, and learned the difference between a plant that thrived in full sun, and a plant that needed shade and lots of water in order to survive. I watched how the animals communicated to me and their animal clan about their health and needs, and I learned the difference between an animal that approached me out of curiosity, and an animal that approached to threaten my physical well-being. I watched and listened as animals used their voices to warn each other when predators were nearby. By taking time to sit with the animals, I began to be able to “think” like them, much like the well-known movie, The Horse Whisperer. This ability also applied to equipment. I listened to the sound of my equipment, and learned that the consistent sound of a working engine shows its health, and inconsistent sounds, a quick change in the volume of sounds, or odd movements can indicate problems. Sometimes, I could even pre-emptively predict when a piece of equipment would break down, before it actually happened. Nearly all of my learning at the farm was, without words. That’s the beginning of my story, and, the lessons I received are exceedingly valuable and useful to me today.
So, what say ye?
Might you learn from life by osmosis and observation, without words? Share your experience in the comments section, so we may learn from each other!
Always with Love,