Sunday Inspiration: The World Is Our Teacher

The World Is Our Teacher

**With thanks to Michael, Emilie’s husband and UU minister, for today’s Sunday Inspiration.

I saw this quote a couple of weeks ago, and it stuck in my head. I can’t remember where I saw it or even who said it. But the words are so wise. Yes, the world is our teacher — IF we pay attention.

What an inspirational idea this is, that we can learn from everything we encounter, whether it’s the people we love or the people we don’t, whether it’s a grand vista from a mountaintop or a tree in our backyard. Whether it’s a beautiful concert or sitting quietly and listening to the waves on a beach.

As a minister I learned to pay attention to the world around me to find sermons. Emilie learned as an author to pay attention to the world around her because there are ideas for stories everywhere. But there are so many other lessons to be learned.

How do we pay attention?

First, we need to pause. Sometimes we need to stop the world, stop the merry-go-round for just a little while so that we can find space and time for solitude.

Then we need to be present, to open our eyes and other senses as well as our imagination and curiosity so that we can see what we usually don’t notice, and listen to what we usually don’t hear and feel what we usually push away. Remember when our teachers would take roll. When our names were called, we would say, “Present!” To be present means to live fully in the moment, aware of the miracle of existence.

Finally, we need to let ourselves grow through everything we’ve learned, to resist the fear of change.

As I write these words, I’m sitting on our lanai gazing out over our pond and the cypress and pines and oaks beyond, a Great Blue Heron swallowing a huge fish as our neighborhood alligator looks on, ibis feeding in the marsh, a hawk swooping through the trees, a brilliant blue sky. I’m fortunate to have so many beautiful teachers around me, but I’ve also been taught by the faces of hungry children, cries of despair, and my own grief.

There are so many teachers and so much to learn. What have you noticed today that taught you something new that will enrich your life?


  1. Marsha Markham on March 6, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Great post, Michael. I look forward to reading them each Sunday. You painted a good picture of what you were doing and made me almost wish I was there (except for the alligator part, that is). 🙂
    I often pray as I’m driving and noticing the beautiful things around me. Right now I’m enjoying the little signs of Spring…tiny leaves starting to swell and the knowledge that in a few weeks our lilacs will be popping out.
    What we dwell on colors our lives. I choose not to get caught up in the political possibilities and remind myself that however it all turns out none of it is a mystery to our Father in Heaven.
    Have a great day, everyone…we are so blessed.

  2. Nancy Lepri on March 6, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Yesterday we went to church and the priest gave a heartwarming homily about God’s love, and how we don’t need to earn it, that he loves us unconditionally no matter what we do. He talked about the prodigal son and the true meaning of it. I find going to church is truly inspirational and offers me a chance to take the time to relax and give thanks for all my many blessings.

  3. Terry Guerra on March 8, 2016 at 5:15 am

    How right you are, Michael! Those tiny flowers popping up outside my door? I stop to look at them. The little buds on my mom’s favorite plants? We’re so excited to see them! As I take Scarlet for her run, I look around and see the changes taking place, and the activity in the neighborhood, the families going about their daily lives. There are learning opportunities out there everywhere if you take a second and look. Thank you for the lovely post!

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