There are no shortcuts to the knowledge and insight gained by experience. A rather immature spiritual seeker once pushed back fairly brusquely when I said that going to graduate school or seminary isn’t enough, that there are skills and insights that only Mistake-are-the-usual-bridge-between-inexperience-and-wisdomcome with experience. Despite a demonstrated lack of understanding of power dynamics and how to interact in a newly joined group, this person suggested that because they had lived thirty some years they had all of the experience they needed. They were right if what they meant was having the needed experience to be thirty some years old, but if they were talking about the experience needed to do the spiritual work of serving people then never having served outside of their grad school experience did, in fact, leave them wanting.

Spiritual Teacher Tara Brach tells the story of the executive who was asked what was needed to avoid making mistakes. He answered, “experience.” When asked how one gets experience, the executive replied, “by making mistakes.” So many young – and older – people are terrified of making mistakes, terrified of being wrong, and terrified of not knowing everything. This is their greatest weakness.

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