The Authentic Learner

The Authentic Learner

The traveler on the landscapes for learning is…

Open-minded/Open-hearted: The open learner is receptive and accepts his vulnerability and capitalizes on both seeing all experiences and ideas as opportunities to learn. He is open to risk and gain, but also loss, pain, and suffering. His courage is built through continual trying and failing. With such openness, the authentic learner is tolerant, appreciative of experience, and grateful for growth. He approaches everything with an attitude of love and connection rather than fear and alienation.

Humble: The humble learner avoids arrogance and excessive pride that comes from the acquisition of facts and skills, and says, “I don’t know it all. There is always more for me to learn. I’d like to know what I don’t know.” The humble learner is enthusiastic about learning from his own direct experiences and the wisdom of others.

Flexible: The flexible learner welcomes change as a part of life and is willing to stretch his thinking and his tolerance for ambiguity and vulnerability. He welcomes failure in order to learn more about what he does not know or about which he is mistaken. He seeks out and welcomes others to disprove his own assumptions and conclusions to find the truth in a collaborative spirit rather than only wanting to be right, compete, or appear authoritative and powerful. He debates for the sake of learning, not to overpower and outdo his opponent, and is willing to change his opinions, thinking, and habits in service of the truth and to cooperate. He is the opposite of a reductionist, black and white thinker, and appreciates subtlety, nuance, and complexity.

Attentive/Aware: The attentive learner is a mindful, disciplined listener. His focus is to listen from a seat of neutrality in order to be fully present for others and the world of experience. The attentive learner is aware of his own thoughts, sensations and emotions, and refrains from only paying attention to the ideas he would like to assert. He is able regulate his sensations, emotions, and thoughts enough to pause; to create space for new possibilities to develop and emerge. He is comfortably uncomfortable in the space between stimulus and response, the place where he has practiced a tolerance for vulnerability and ambiguity. He is discerning and can withhold critical judgment when necessary and avoids excessive comparison and competition.


An authentic learner lives his life as an adventurous traveler, ever observing and appreciating the inner landscapes within him and the external beyond him in the world. He sees that within rigidity there is always a tiny bit of fluidity and vice versa–– the yin and the yang within all that exists. He understands that balance is the way and optimal for wellness.[1]

The authentic learner avoids polarity and extremes, while also tolerant, welcoming, and appreciative. The authentic learner is always changing, always learning, like waves in the ocean, not static; not stuck in a place of perceived permanent security but always becoming a person, more creative, expressive, and free. An authentic learner has the characteristics of a yogi, with his ultimate destination to practice, focused on process rather than perfection.

End Notes

[1] For more about balance, see Jack Kornfield’s “Finding the Middle Way” (an excerpt from The Wise Heart, 2009) at, and Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao (2007).



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