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Tuesday, 15 July 2008 11:56



Section III - Transformative Learning
Chapter 6 - Personal Learning


"Look up when you walk."

A hiking friend in Seattle


How is one's own learning affected by the learning in which they're surrounded?

Like many of you I've been blessed with almost never ending learning opportunities. My family encouraged formal education and used life situations as learning experiences. My religion, Judaism, encouraged inquiry and dealing with ethical dilemmas. My learning path has been both life altering and exhilarating. Learning has become transformative in two distinct, but not isolated ways -- that which is primarily mental and leads to a paradigm shift in understanding and actions; and that which is deeply internalized and affects me emotionally, spiritually and physiologically.

I first became aware of the deeply internalized learning when a healer from my synagogue, Ms. Betty Esthelle, sensed tightness or heaviness in a place in my back that she related to my childhood. She asked me what, if any, early childhood thoughts were being triggered in me. Her belief is that the tightness and heaviness is often rooted in something non-physical -- an emotional burden that is being carried. As she was working, I found myself thinking about my childhood, and a loss that very seldom entered my consciousness. I told her about my 3 year-old sister, Helen, who had passed-away when I was 4. I don't remember Helen except through pictures, but have been told that we were inseparable. As children my older sister, Carol, and I were buffered from death - to the best of my memory we never spoke of Helen until we were much older, didn't attend the funeral, never said goodbye, or processed our own grief. I processed some of my grief with Betty that day, and I physically felt a relaxation of emotional tensions that I've apparently carried since I was a young child. I continued to think and grieve for Helen, and found in a follow-on session with Betty that the chattering in my mind had slowed noticeably. My sense was that there was an ongoing mental tension that was driven by a deep-rooted emotional tension I held at a cellular level.


Betty is one of several healers who are prominent in my life - most are associated either with my synagogue, or the New West Seminary where I've taken classes and been on their Board. I began to participate in ‘Healing Circles' for friends with severe illnesses, and immediately began to appreciate the often latent capacity each of us have for healing ourselves, and the very special talent healers have for awakening that latent capacity. The healing power of music, percussion, connection with faith traditions, and blessings from friends is extraordinary. One day two years ago I went to the healing circle for my friend Lynn Taylor who was going to have brain surgery the next day, and who herself is a healer. The love and healing energy in the room were palpable, and what struck me was Lynn's capacity for accepting the energy so that she could enter the surgery with a serene healing power. Lynn came through her surgery beautifully. The circles have also been held for those with terminal illnesses, and the outcomes have once again been remarkable. I have seen people emerge with new strengths - both the person for whom the healing circle was held, and many of us who attended.

One of my newly preferred ways of learning is imitation - to observe others who are skilled, and see if I can hone my skills by essentially ‘walking in their shoes'. The quote at the top of this chapter, " Look up when you walk ", was spoken by a friend. I had asked her to share what she was seeing in Nature as we hiked. She shared little, but observed that I looked down, and essentially went into my head as I walked. She, on the other hand, opened not only her eyes, but her heart and spirit, and seemed to internalize the energy of the living systems of which she was a part.

Shortly after starting the Organizational Learning Center -NW, I realized that my colleague Bob Stensland had an extraordinary capacity for listening. The more I observed Bob, reflected, and asked Bob what he was listening for, the better I became at hearing the essence of what people were saying, and paying attention to the dissonance I was feeling when I heard contradictions, or when my own buttons were being pushed.

In that same time period, we hosted monthly dialogue groups and I learned from another colleague, Dick Gilkeson, to follow the energy of responses rather than the topical threads and agenda items that are the cues for keeping most conversations ‘on track'.

As you may discern from what you've read, I generally consider learning to be fun, mistakes to be learning opportunities, and the most difficult learning to be the most rewarding. As I kept going back to school to learn about sustainability, there was something missing at the very core of what was being taught. I discovered that the dominant paradigm in our culture and in our schools is a mechanical perception of life, and in order to understand sustainability I needed an organic perspective. It was at this point that I enrolled in the ‘Whole Systems Design' Masters Program (then at Antioch University and now at Seattle University in Seattle), and the primary reason was my adviser, Dr. Elaine Jessen, is an authority on ‘Living Systems' who helped me shape my 'Learning Contract' for the Program.



Reflect a moment on a unique, non-traditional learning experience of your own.

What was the experience and what made it unique?
Did you learn from someone else? If so, how? If not, from where?
How would you characterize the learning, and how did it profoundly change you?
Would you like to explore this more deeply or experience it again?


Rev. 2009-02-16 MOM

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