Two things I spend a lot of time thinking about are two things that I'll never completely understand: Chinese medicine, and Ju Jutsu. Really, these two things are variations on one endless theme, the human body.
Understanding is a big word. I have realized that I can only understand anything to a certain point, "my understanding" of it. Whenever I think I understand something completely, the universe finds a way for me to be confronted with how much there actually still is to learn. We can never really know.
This, for me, is encouraging. Through my studies of Chinese Medicine, and especially, of Ju Jutsu, I have had to learn how to accept criticism for what it is, help. I have had, and still have many teachers. They take so many shapes. Of course, they all have differing teaching styles with varying degrees of stringency, but what all the good ones have in common is a desire to help me (the student) improve. I am grateful to them for this.
There are hierarchies everywhere, and it's been a long road for me to realize and accept that I have a place in at least one, despite my preference for thriving just outside the system, mentally operating on the outskirts of the village, in the shaman's hut.
I have become a better student (and we are all students!) by realizing that accepting criticism, and suggestions, does not automatically imply that I was doing something wrong. It's easy to be offended or embarrassed when someone shows me a new way to do something, a way that could be considered "better" than the way I was doing it. Feeling defensive and upset about this situation has only served to close me off. How could I ever improve at anything if I remain stubborn?
This is not to say that anytime someone has shown me something, I have accepted it at face value and immediately changed who I was. This is no way to progress either, no way to improve understanding, no way to develop character. The difference between dogma and advice is the question WHY. If someone shows me a new way to do something, and they can tell me WHY it's actually more effective/safe/quick/whatever, I know it is something to consider, a potential to grow. If this person cannot tell me WHY the differences matter, then it seems to be merely a matter of preference or style, and no reason to change what I do.
None of this learning can take place if I am not receptive enough to receive the new information and then evaluate it. It can be difficult to corral the ego into admitting that another person might actually have more experience at something I identify myself with. If I refuse to even let new things in (due to whatever reason: impatience, my own dogma, fear, or simply embarrassment) I miss out. If I keep shutting things out, eventually people will stop knocking. This is a difficult lesson to learn, to get out of my own way. The world is full of people that want to help me, despite what the evening news might say. Most of the time, they are inspired by selfless generosity, and interest in my success. It's amazing when you think about it, the ways we share what we've learned, the ways we automatically try to help others.