Have you ever wondered where certain people’s wisdom originates? Maybe it’s the elder woman up the street who radiates joy or your auto mechanic whose advice is always spot on. If asked, these sources seldom quote the latest cliché touted in self-help circles.
Rather, they have learned the secret of being a student of life: presence. If you are looking for the ultimate guru, look no further than life itself. Here are ten quotes that invite us to be students of life, along with reflections to inspire your journey.
10 Quotes That Teach Us How to Be Students of Life
“From a good teacher you may learn the secret of listening. You will never learn the secret of life. You will have to listen for yourself.” ― Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen
Every conversation is an opportunity to listen. Conditioning and compulsions glamorize speech, but listening is the key to understanding. Whenever conversing—whether with yourself or others—seek the gem.
Rather than clamoring to be heard, listen. And then, listen some more. When the silence comes, don’t fill it. Keep on listening. What does life reveal?
“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau
Walking is a way of acquainting yourself with your environment. To bloom where we are planted, we must know where we are planted.
Dedicate yourself to learning the surroundings in which you live. What’s available to you? Let your feet appreciate new paths in what you once thought to be familiar territory. Notice who lives where, and the rhythms of the day. This is life, happening, right outside your door.
“I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
In the Information Age, knowing is sexy. But life is less about answers and more about the question. To ask questions, you must be humble enough to become curious.
What don’t you know? Why intrigues you? When will you live into the answer? As an ex-boyfriend once told me, “Life is only as good as your questions.” Ask, and let your life answer.
“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… till you yourself burst into bloom.” – Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Like revolutions, life is seldom televised. It is neither curated nor documented. Those are productions. To truly witness life, you must look up from your television, tablet, cell phone and laptop.
You must dare to come face to face with real time spontaneous living. What would happen if you dedicated one day as an “off screen” day? What would you do? What might you discover? What could you remember?
When you return to life, life returns to you.
Study Babies and Pets
“Children make you want to start life over.” – Muhammad Ali
Babies show us our vital potential before conditioning and indoctrination take root. Their simplicity bears testament to the simple requirements of life. Their ability to disarm and charm evoke questions about pretense.
Pets can be the same. While domesticated, they retain a portion of primal wisdom from which we can all learn. You need not read another book or listen to another podcast. Your next life lesson may be curled up on the foot of your bed.
Be Still (aka Bored)
“To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” – Buddha
Stillness is not simply the absence of movement, but an inner undisturbed nature that allows for true clarity. But you can start by stilling your body. Clear your agenda and see what arises.
Cultivating stillness will reveal how you escape discomfort. What does your mind do? What does your body crave? Pay attention. This is life speaking to you from within you. And it’s probably one of the most important lessons you’ll ever learn.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” – Helen Keller
Feelings were meant to be felt—not discussed, labeled or retained like trinkets on memory’s shelf. Rather than saying anything, simply create space in time to feel whatever feelings are present.
Take time to notice where they occur in your body. What’s the temperature? Shape? How do they move? When you breathe deeply, what happens? Feelings are a part of life. And when you let them flow through you, you will arrive on the shore of a new life understanding.
“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” ― Lao Tzu
Like stillness, silence is not simply being quiet (even though that’s a great place to start). Rather, silence is high quality quietness. It bears an almost timeless serenity. In the quiet, listen to what’s happening within.
How does it mirror what’s happening around you? Beyond your thoughts, what is there? Life is within you, not just outside of you. You are a life happening within the larger world of life. Thus, studying yourself is the perfect way to study life.
“The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you.” – Rumi
When you look for beauty, you will find it. First, it will appear in the obvious spaces you are trained to notice. If you are dedicated, however, you will begin to see beauty in spaces you never imagined.
This is when the transformation really begins. No one can tell you where it will take you. As Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “You’ve got to go there to know there.”
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – John A. Shedd
Leaving your comfort zone is like the graduate school version of life. You will come to understand mysteries most only read about. But more than that, you will be initiated into embodying those mysteries to progress along your path.
The truth is life was never meant to be about safety and comfort. Rather, it is an open invitation to trust and adapt, evolve and thrive. When you commit to being alive rather than simply being afraid, the world literally becomes your oyster, and life crowns you.
Read More: The Best Buddha Quotes About Self Love
Najwa Immanuel is a freelance writer and modern-day medicine woman based on the East Coast, USA. Her moments are spent studying the energetics of wellness, tending her Substack newsletter, Extraordinary Moments, Everyday Miracles and midwifing persons birthing everything from babies to businesses.