What is understanding? What is the meaning of understanding? To understand is actually a form of learning. Understanding comes before knowing, once we have understood then we will know. Perhaps one could call knowledge the end result of an understanding process. Learning to understand is therefore the same as to understand learning. Why or when do we need to understand? When we are faced with a problem. When we are faced with something we do not (completely) know. The confrontation with a problem creates this need to understand because without a problem there would be nothing left to understand and we would simply know. To understand a problem is therefore to deal with a question, it is to deal with the fact that one does not know. When we try to understand, we are trying to get to the root of the question. We are trying to discover it’s meaning, to learn it’s meaning. Learning is in fact the only way to understand. Learning always starts with the discovery of that one does not know, where else could it start? Who has the ability to understand? We have! We, the subject! But somehow in our daily life when we try to understand a problem we literally try to understand the problem and we fully focus on the problem itself. We choose to understand the object (the problem is object). But what is there to understand in the object really? We only need a little bit of logic to see that there is nothing to understand in the object itself for the object cannot learn for our understanding. We, the subject, can only learn for our own understanding. Remember that to understand here means to learn; understanding is a learning process that takes place within the subject. Normally we act as if understanding means a changing process of the object. Once faced with a problem (the object) we wish to change the problem and this is how we initially start our process of understanding. This is our dominant way of approaching a question. We do not so much try to give an answer to the question as we are trying to change the question instead. We believe that we need to understand something outside of ourselves. This is quite easy to observe in oneself. In reality it is of course always a matter of trying to understand ourselves, to learn about ourselves and it always starts with the recognition that we do not know. Once observed it takes little effort to see the logic and yet it remains far away from our daily practice and experience.
In our relationship with others we follow the same pattern. Example, when we tell someone “I am trying to understand you”, what is it that we are actually telling? Of course first of all we are saying we do not understand the other. So far so good! We hardly ever understand each other, so this kind of thinking is still realistic. But the second thing we generally silently also say is that we wish to change the other. We wish to change the other for our own understanding. This is totally impossible. There is no way to understand the other if we do not understand ourselves. To understand ourselves however is to understand the other. Are we not all the same? Do we not all have the same emotions? Whatever gives rise to an emotion may differ from person to person but the emotion itself is the same for all of us. Is it not all about being aware of having the same emotions instead of believing we are having different emotions. To have understanding for oneself or for another is ultimately the acceptance of this notion of being the same. The moment we fully understand ourselves there is nothing to understand outside because we are all ultimately the same. With understanding comes space. With understanding there is space for direct interaction and relationship. Until we do not understand ourselves we will be running around in circles and we will face continuous complications in our relationships. This is so logical and yet all of us are running in circles all the time. For this we must learn to take subjective responsibility.
The first step to do this successfully is the recognition of the fact that we do not know. Step two is our response, that means we decide to learn. To learn is to change oneself and not to change the other but to have understanding for the other instead. SRA is always about changing oneself and instantaneously creating space for the other.