I have often referred to myself as a student of life, and perhaps it may be useful for us to look at this term a little more closely.
We generally associate the role of student as one who gathers information, attempts to retain it and perhaps apply it in later life. To study is to accumulate, and as the process which I describe as 'student of life' has no active residual (gaining knowledge)intention, a clear distinction between knowledge-enhancing study and the student of life could be made.
To be student of life is to have no agenda, but rather to allow life itself, as it presents itself from moment to moment to us, to be our teacher and guide. In such an open-ended relationship between the challenge and our response, an extra-ordinary subtle interaction begins to reveal itself. Rather than struggling with the challenge as something separate to overcome and conquer, we begin to experience ourselves completely integral to it. Our very present circumstance becomes the field of revelation where the bodymind begins to transform into a vehicle for its own intelligence and wholeness.
We also begin to see how we re-act to challenges, rather than to respond with openness and clarity. We may notice how we bring our own interpretations, projections and conditioned impulses to bear on the living reality of such a moment. Being open to ourselves in the moment allows us to see our resistances, the ego at work, our inability to stay with the challenge – always trying to mold or translate it into some aspect of the known. The challenge is always new, yet we bring to it our conditioned responses, our ego-based past experiences (both mental and emotional), our self-imposed limitations in the form of psychological projectionsand complexities. Generally our entire stance is ego-bound, deflecting the simple truth of the challenge in a way which gives the ego time and space to translate or qualify the challenge to suit its own self-centered demands.
The true student of life becomes aware of these reactivities in the moment. They are sensitive to their own apparent reality of 'I'-consciousness, and how this reality is nothing but a severe case of mistaken identity. The 'I' presents itself as the center of our being, while in fact it nothing but a delusion created and sustained by thought. The student of life becomes aware of what is happening, both without and within, simultaneously. And such observation does not take place through the distorted vision of the past. Rather, there is always the recognition that the life which is being 'studied', is always in the present and this present moment of reality cannot, by definition, be responded to adequately by the past-centered ego.
Even when knowledge is an appropriate form of response, such knowledge is not ego-bound but merely technical and practical. The student of life recognises the importance of knowledge, but such a person also instantly recognises when the subjective element of ego-defence, ego-striving, ego-dominance and ego-fulfillment become the basis of response – in the process obscuring the intelligence necessary for appropriate response.
The student of life is vigilant, because he or she is functionally aware -active as a present process of direct awareness – rather than being overshadowed by the dullness of ego-demands. In this way the student of life allows the bodymind to self-correct, because he/she is not fearful of what is presented to us in the moment of challenge, both outwardly and inwardly.
When fear of clarity no longer motivates and informs our responses to life, we can afford to stand progressively more free in the moment of challenge. And because we are no longer scared of looking, we begin to see more clearly into the entire process of challenge and response. Over time these two become integral to the wholeness of the living moment as we no longer offer ego-resistance to what life brings to our attention. The system's loop gets completed and this allows for self-correction and self-healing.
The student of life now becomes part of the process of natural (contentless, but functional)learning because the bodymind has now adapted itself to the fact that life is not to be feared,resisted or evaded, but rather a challenge to be met fully and enthusiastically with as much openness of heart and mind as possible.
J. Krishnamurti once said something to this effect: '… then life is no longer the mere background to your self-centered view, but you become the background on which life paints its picture – a picture which includes both life and yourself'.