Learning Opportunities

Mark J. Janssen
4 min readSep 1, 2022


If life is one learning opportunity after the next, why do I want to sleep right through them all?

My Plan A is sleeping in every morning. Followed by Plan B. Sleeping in even longer. Both being superseded by Plan HP — Higher Power — which is to get up long before dawn. I can’t sleep. Rolling over only wakes me up more. I’m so wide awake that even sheep refuse to count me.

Plan HP looks at all of my plans, shrugs and chuckles. HP’s plan is to forget about my sheet therapy. All four or five hours of it. To shake a leg, exercise, pray and meditate. Get myself in position for another learning opportunity involving other human beings.

In all of my dealings with humans there are learning opportunities. From what God tells me, this is supposed to be a good thing. Let’s just simplify this whole thing. If I did nothing more than know that most people exist, it would be enough.

I find it incredibly exciting to see how much people enjoy being around each other. Observing humans is a fascinating, if confusing, learning opportunity. Human behavior is, as it has always been, a step or two beyond what can be fathomed. Human behavior is strange beyond my mere ken.

Why do humans feel the need to continually put themselves out in public? What is the need to think others ought to approve of one? That our lives will be incomplete without the approval of others? Why do some people pretend to be social while, in fact, subversively exhibiting bullying behavior?

So many questions about these learning opportunities. About human beings, their natures, why they act the quizzical ways they do.

So few answers from HP.

I am a lucky duck. You might even say blessed. There are actually a few people in this world who are willing to assist me in picking my way through this minefield called life.

Plainly put, because I am so easily baffled by the many breaks in front of me to develop spiritually. Like pretty much one hundred percent of the rest of the world, I sometimes try to camouflage my spiritual and emotional state of being. Far too often I am blinkered by the times life opens up in front of me. Too caught up in my own ideas of what is or ought to be, I am blind to reality.

What if reality is that a cracker is as good as a cannoli? What if I don’t need a fancy piece of crust stuffed with cheese and sugar? What if a simple piece of water and flour is enough?

In a society where enough is never enough, it’s a radical notion. The very concept of accepting less than too much surprises us. This is not exactly our first consideration. In a “me first” world, how could it be?

Merely tolerating the idea that life might not be about me involves learning. It means letting go of my unnecessary wants for honest emotional and spiritual growth. It means giving up my childishness to be a real live adult human being. There may be things I don’t want to give up. Maybe I want some strawberry preserves on that cracker. So long as I keep open the doors for other women and men in this world, fine. Life works.

Taking opportunities to expand my heart and soul require allowing the spirits and the spiritual world to connect me, protect me and direct me.

So long as we are willing, we are connected with the unseen Spirit. Space is created in our souls for Creation. The Creator Spirit protects us from self-inflicted harm to our souls only so long as we are willing to be protected.

Are you willing to become more yourself?

Or do you cut into your own soul with knives from the darkest parts of your mind?

We each have to choose which way to lean. What we wish to learn.

Growing up there was a boy my age who had a reputation for being tough. The word was that he drank and smoked and behaved badly. I knew him by reputation and by sight. The one time we came into contact was when another boy our age was egging on the tough boy to beat me up. The tough boy told the second boy to leave me alone. He said that I was alright.

The tough boy made a choice. He decided he hadn’t seen anything in me to warrant beating me up. He taught me that having a tough reputation doesn’t make somebody a bad person.

From the behavior of the second boy I learned that I didn’t want him in my life. I had no use for another boy in my life who would cause me harm.

Much less complex situations in our lives present themselves daily. How are we going to decide to get through our days?

Which opportunities do we take?



Mark J. Janssen

Mark Janssen is a spiritual warrior, mystic and author. His writes a weekly blog. His memoir “Reach for the Stars” is available online and in bookstores.