In the Spirit of Learning

Learning is about relatedness.

As a teacher, I am thrilled to see that “Aha!” look of curiosity & wonder when a student makes new connections between concepts.


As a therapist, I am honored to witness people finding hidden parts of themselves – both beautiful & horrific — & integrating them into a larger concept of Self.

As a human, I am delighted when people start new friendships, make good jokes, learn new skills, or find ways to increase relationship with our own & other cultures, our world, our universe, & the Holy One.

At Holden, we get some students who seem uninterested in learning, who may feel defeated about learning, or whose curiosity has been squelched, or has gone into hiding under the weight of life’s pains & trials. Sometimes even trying to learn can seem too big a risk.  We work to help them feel valued in relationship, to feel better about who they are, to recognize the incredible learning they’ve already done & the skills they have already honed. We know that when people feel good about themselves, they will love learning, because, well, we’re humans. We take in all kinds of information & make connections all the time!

And all learning happens in relationship.

Several years ago, a student asked me a question in class, to which I replied, “I don’t know.” The student, new to Holden, looked at me, perplexed, & exclaimed, with a bit of agitation, “I’ve never heard a teacher say ‘I don’t know’ before!” That was a risk for her. That was also a further connection in our relationship, & in her relationship with herself, with teachers, & with the process of learning.

Now, saying,  “I don’t know,” comes pretty easily to me, having had lots of practice with it, & I sometimes find that not knowing can be rather delightful, because it means there’s a new mystery to explore.

We humans love mysteries & puzzles, & that seems to me a metaphor for our relationship with the Holy Mystery. Not knowing allows us to formulate questions, which opens us to possibilities we never would have considered, if we already knew. Not knowing can be scary, but it is inspiring. Not knowing allows us to learn, & to grow.

And when we learn, we become more aware of our relationship with the Divine One. When we learn, we open ourselves more to Spirit. And learning involves risk.

On a skateboard, when we risk attempting a new trick, we open ourselves to Spirit.

In a relationship, when we risk reaching out, we open ourselves to Spirit.

In society, when we know something is wrong, & we risk creating change, we open ourselves to Spirit.

With new ideas that challenge our beliefs, & we risk our assumptions, we open ourselves to Spirit.

When we stand at a blank canvas, & risk that first brush-stroke, we open ourselves to Spirit.

When we pray, & risk not being answered in the way that we hope, we open ourselves more to Spirit.

And every time, we learn. Every time that we become more aware of who we are, of how we are connected to information, to people, to nature, to beauty or ugliness, we learn, we become more intimately involved with the Mystery of Spirit.

And you life-long learners of the Orinda Community Church keep taking risks & making connections. 44 years ago, you took a risk by taking a bunch of teenagers & a few hippie teachers into your basement. For over 40 years, you have helped the students & staff of Holden High to deepen their relationships with themselves, with each other, with knowledge & skills, with community, & with the larger One. We thank you from the depths of our hearts, for learning is a priceless gift.

Learning is about relatedness.


Reflection by Renee Beck, Learner, Holden High School Clinical Co-Director

Presented at Holden High-Orinda Community Church Sunday10 November 2013                   

Holden High School started out as Contra Costa Alternative School, as part of the Free School Movement in 1969, with 1 teacher & a handful of students in a parent’s backyard pool house a few exits up highway 24. In 1970, when we started getting bigger, the OCC was the only place willing to rent to us.

Some organizations & people in our culture have a hard time relating to teenagers, & some have a hard time relating to non-traditional schools, but the OCC has always been committed to service, and without their dedication & love, Holden would not have been able to help so many students recognize just how wonderful they are & how much they have to offer to the world.

If you are interested in assistance exploring your own spiritual growth, contact Renee for a free initial interview about Transpersonal Therapy: 510-387-0341.