The university of life
True wisdom can be imparted through love and at the earliest of ages, though it can take time to manifest. By Michael Hammond
One of the wisest people I’ve ever had the honour to have met is my own father. It wasn’t until well after his passing that I realised just how wise he was and how much wisdom he had passed on to me.
My father fought in World War Two and was captured and held as a prisoner of war, but I never once heard him speak badly of the people who had held him captive. On return from the war, he married my mother and they had their first son. Eleven years later I arrived on the scene, and three months after that, my mother tragically passed away with a heart attack.
So here was my father, a man of little education, left to bring up two sons in his late 50s. There was no welfare state so he also had to juggle a full-time job. It was a struggle for him and he had very little time or educational knowledge to help me with my school work. Even though I passed what was then my 11+ exam and entered a grammar school, I soon fell behind in my learning.
What my father did foster in me was a love for nature and animals. Every weekend, or so it seemed, we would venture onto the Durham moors and I would dabble in the streams and hide among the ferns.
I remember vividly telling one of my teachers that I wanted to become a safari park ranger in Africa when I left school and getting laughed at. (You really needed to be a child growing up in the northeast of England to truly understand what ‘levelling up’ is all about). So, off I went into the shipyards and a life of trawling through one dead end job after another.
I eventually ended up with a career in the Prison Service and started to facilitate some training as part of my duties. The government at the time then brought out legislation that anyone teaching adults would have to attain a level four teaching qualification. So full of self-doubt, and with my old teachers mocking laughter ringing in my ears, I re-entered the field of education.
At first it was like the tutors were talking a different language, but slowly I started to get to grips with things. Then I began to actually enjoy it and eventually I yearned for it. I soaked up knowledge like a sponge and when the course work didn’t fulfil my hunger, I searched for it elsewhere.
This eventually brought me to reading Buddhist texts, and eventually to yoga, and years later becoming a yoga teacher.
Armed with this newly-found knowledge I had the wisdom to leave the Prison Service and become a full-time yoga teacher. My colleagues laughed at the thought of making a living out of teaching yoga, and once again my thoughts went flooding back to my old careers officer, but this only made my resolve stronger.
Now, eight years later, I have my own yoga studio which employs 12 other teachers, I run teacher training courses and have just filled my first retreat within four days. Not bad for an uneducated kid from the north-east of England!
“Knowledge can be gained at any time, but wisdom, that is imparted into your core beliefs at an early age. It is passed on through love… love in words and actions from people who love you, no matter whether they are educated or not.”
You see, knowledge can be gained at any time, but wisdom, that is imparted into your core beliefs at an early age. It is passed on through love…love in words and actions from people who love you, no matter whether they are educated or not.
Knowledge is learning to fire a gun. Wisdom is knowing not to fire it.
Michael Hammond is the founder of Tall Trees Yoga (talltreesyoga.co.uk)
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.