[JOURNAL] Embracing New Beginnings & Becoming ‘Teachable’

ImageWe all carry preconceived notions with us.  It is easy to enter into a new experience and view it through the lens of yesterday’s circumstances, and in the context of what we have previously learned.  In some of these moments, we sell ourselves short.  We can create a situation where we aren’t fully available to gain new experience, to see information with new eyes and to hold space for epiphanies.  In doing so, we can stand in the way of our own learning and growth.

It is a gift to come to the new with fresh eyes, with a sense of wonder and fascination.  Here, I believe, we meet the extraordinary.

Like other events, orientation to nursing school only happens once.  You are only a first-timer filled with all of the excitement, nervousness, fears, and newness the first time.  It is a shining moment.  Take it in.

Our preceptors and instructors are bursting with knowledge, experience, and passion for imparting the aforementioned on us.  Their varied, caring personalities so evident that they cannot be dulled by the mountain of  paperwork, policies and housekeeping  to be addressed at the beginning of the semester.  There is an electricity that is almost palpable in the room.  An audible hum fills in the gaps in conversations between people who have just barely met, but with whom we will become intimately connected during this adventure.  When class begins, the room becomes dead silent.  The hiccup of a single mosquito would echo as we lean in to each word uttered by our new instructor.  This is where the magic lies and where our journey together begins.

In this moment it is important to become teachable.

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”  [http://www.myrkothum.com/the-10-very-best-zen-stories/]

This is one of my favorite Zen parables and so fitting for this day because it is such a powerful reminder to my often overflowing western mind.  We work to gain as much knowledge as we can so we can ‘make something happen,’ so we can get credentials,  so people will think we are smart, etc.  This is in stark contrast to this parable which reminds me that perhaps the highest moment of creative thought is the empty mind (which in zen-buddhism is called the beginners mind).  Emptying our cup allows us to be fully present and attentive with what we are learning without bringing outside clutter and mind-chatter along for the ride.

Becoming teachable creates a space for genius to happen.  When we enter into a classroom, or clinical setting filled to overflowing with our previous knowledge, learning and perceptions there is no space for the skills, protocols and information shared there.  We are already full.  When we empty our cup, we begin to listen more deeply.  All of the skills that we have learned up until this point are still there and yet, in the moment, we make ourselves available to create a space for learning, cultivating and practicing.

Empty your cups, my friends… there is much to learn.

This entry was posted in Reflections, Student Notes and tagged , , , , , by Heather Swift. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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