Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur
Most people think that learning comes from teaching. But a teacher, guide, video or peer can only tell or show us. We learn only when we do. Let us rephrase that: We learn only when we do, make mistakes, do again. Mistakes then are an absolutely essential ingredient for learning. Yet for some reason, mistakes are maligned and defamed. Given the nutritional value mistakes carry, one would have expected otherwise.
So here are some recipes to add to your repertoire, for dear reader, mistakes are the only way you have been learning since you cried for the first time in life.
Usually, freshly plucked mistakes taste the most tangy and are the most nutritious as well. Cooking them as soon as you make them, makes most sense. Unfortunately many of us tend to throw away our mistakes as soon as we make them (either embarrassed, frustrated or scared). But the good news is that mistakes don’t really rot over time. So go ahead and pick an old and seasoned one. Let’s start cooking them one by one.
You will need an empty vessel – a mind that does not want anything (no expectations, results, outcomes or judgements) other than to relish the mistake. A little fire or warmth is helpful sometimes, but not always a necessity (you may use a microwave if available).
Method 1 – Instant mix
Perhaps most liked by our subconscious mind – the moment we make a mistake, we pause, look at it, place it in our vessel and churn it around for a few moments. The focus is on what the mistake is trying to tell us to DO the next time. Recommended way to eat this is to look at the DOING’s colour and form, inhale its aroma, wrap our tongues around it, before ingesting its essence.
You might have seen how cricketers or tennis players, when they play a bad shot, feel the nudge of the mistake and do a (dry) practice of playing it the right way. The immediacy of the doing is perhaps the wisdom to absorb.
Method 2 – Marination
To us marination means using the internal energy of the ingredient to cook itself. Put the mistake in your vessel, soak in some water of acceptance and sprinkle some salt of expectation. Expectation that the mistake will transform itself into delectable learning. Preferably let it marinate overnight – as they say ‘sleep over it’ – and by morning its piquant effect is bound to charge your neurons.
Painters and writers, when not happy with their work, are often seen to distance themselves from it, letting it marinate and evolve into a more desirable form.
Method 3 – Microwave them
Put under the waves of right frequency, the turntable makes us look and cook the mistake from all angles, using its moisture to stimulate and make it tender enough to morph its form and nature. Guides, mentors, coaches make excellent microwaves and when available we can solicit their warming insights. Perhaps some of us have too harsh an image or expectation of being a good, best or perfect cook and in this process we’re hesitant to use the microwave’s penetrating waves.
One word of advice here, ask.
Method 4 – Brothing
A slightly more elaborate process, it invites you to simmer your mistake in the broth of context. Look around the mistake, collect all the external stimuli and parameters (who, what, when, how), your internal patterns (what, when, how). Add all of these in the vessel and bring them to boil, as they simmer, keep tasting and changing, ever so slightly, one or two patterns (of mind and body) in the broth till the consistency of the broth exudes the aroma of understanding. This active change in the broth, a little herb here or a spice there, is what makes our soups sizzling and scrumptious.
Musicians, sportsmen, craftsmen often make a slight change in technique, tool, posture or bodily movement and their songs play out as if drizzling from up above.
Mistakes are not superstars, but they are the stars that make us super. Each star beckoning us to new universes beyond. For lack of recipes, let’s not pluck their status and chuck their value. Rather let’s tuck them inside like a stuffing of goodness and smoke them with our imagination and zest in order to learn and grow. Bon Appetit!
The authors run Aarohi, an Open Learning Community for learners of all ages, open to all kinds of interests, abilities, styles and content areas. Learning by doing what one wants, how one wants, and self-reflection. It is a community to co-live, learn and support each other. Aarohi’s campus is in a village near Hosur in Tamil Nadu (55 km from Bangalore). To know more about Aarohi, visit https://aarohilife.org.