Blog: Learning Curve

Blog: Learning Curve2020-01-13T15:39:29-05:00

COVID-19 Reveals the Nature of Uncertainty

Uncertainty causes panic.

This seems to be the mantra right now. It makes sense and also reveals a hidden truth: that we expect certainty. That without it, panic arises.

A challenging truth to absorb is that the very certainty we expect or need may also be a source of our suffering. The issue here is not certainty itself, but the need for certainty.

Our attachment to needs—growing to expect them—can find us lost in their absence.

Rather than continuing to fill these needs, how might we dissolve them? What would evolving beyond them make possible?

Certainty, Uncertainty, and Information

In the 1950s, scientists at Bell Labs defined “information” as the “resolution of uncertainty.” This was a useful definition, as information was becoming more essential to communications and adaptive systems for predicting a stable world.

This definition inextricably links information and certainty in ways that socialize us to measure for the predictable. In the absence of certainty, we expect information.

Imagine a world in which such a definition was useful: a stable, industrial age of predictable change. As we’ve experienced with COVID-19, change today is disruptive, relentless, and complex.

“Consider this paradox: Life is naturally uncertain–

we only go about life as if it should be certain.

Most importantly, the context for change today involves an age when information is ubiquitous and fleeting, and knowledge is fungible. Certainty is no longer the norm and never actually reflected reality. Consider this paradox: life is naturally uncertain — we only go about life as if it should be certain.

The prospect for certainty as a source of comfort no longer serves us in a world where knowledge has a half-life of a news cycle and uncertainty is the new norm. A dearth of information causes our internal compass to go awry.

That was life last week.

So much has happened over the last seven days. Each day seems like a year of change, and each week a lifetime. I live in an unrecognizable and grieving New York City.

As soon as we receive each new norm, the goalposts are moved. There is no time to adjust, settle in, or predict any certainties.

The Need for Certainty

Yes, uncertainty can cause panic when we expect, cling to and construct a world that depends on a sense of certainty.

Certainty has come to mean control, comfort, and security. Our need for certainty is a result of our relationship with knowledge. Consider the following three conditions that cultivate this need:

  1. Knowledge of Processes: predicting how something will unfold or how effective measures will be. This offers an expectation of control. Regarding our current situation, we want experts to confidently predict how long this crisis will last and how bad it’s going to get.
  2. Knowledge of Content: predicting what we’re dealing with. This offers an expectation of comfort. If we do not know how the situation will unfold, at least we know what it is and can rule out worst-case scenarios.
  3. Knowledge of Outcomes: predicting what the end will look like. This offers an expectation of security. Even if we don’t know how this crisis will unfold, at least we know the worst-case scenario and can begin to plan around that.

Any loss of control, comfort, or security can increase anxiety.

Two items prevent us from accepting uncertainty: unpacking certainty from clarity and examining our socialized beliefs about individualism. Distinguishing both can support us in shifting from controlling certainty to cultivating clarity.

Certainty and Clarity

I explored the distinction between certainty and clarity in a previous blog, concluding that:

Certainty is an emotional state. It is informed by fear, which offers a sense of safety and security in a predictable outcome. We grow to expect a specific outcome in order to hold fear in abeyance.

  • Certainty is grinding on the last 10% of a decision to get all the information possible, at the expense of time, energy and, sometimes, resources and market advantage.
  • Certainty requires us to know the outcome and to figure out how any choice will impact that outcome before any action is taken.
  • A lack of certainty makes us feel fearful, insecure, and unsafe. We cannot make a choice until we know what will happen as a result of it.

Clarity is a state of mind. It is the result of practices that clear the mind. It allows us to know the next step without having to know every aspect of the outcome.

  • Clarity occurs when we have enough information to make an informed decision.
  • Clarity rests on a grounded sense of who we are, accepting that nothing’s certain.
  • Clarity taps into our self-discovery. We make choices based on our principles (who we are), our view of reality, now, and our grounded intentions.

The unexamined need for certainty can produce anxiety, which results in an obsessive pull to make the right choice rather than the next choice.

Letting go of this need for certainty in favor of clarity begins with tackling something most powerful and often unseen: the sense of control rooted in our individualism.

American Individualism

The practice of accepting uncertainty involves evolving our relationship to independence as rooted in individualism into a relationship to freedom as sourced in our interdependence.

Socialized to believe that knowledge is power, we believe that knowledge offers us a sense of control, invulnerability, and even invincibility. These beliefs, from an orderly, industrial era, are now being dismantled in favor of an interconnected world of unmediated ideas and information.

When such impermanence and disruption drives insecurity, we are left to examine our relationship to individualism.

Many of our values have rubbed up against our American identity during this pandemic. Our individualism, exceptionalism, mythic self-reliance and tendency to equate “independence” with doing whatever we want encouraged some people to flock to bars and beachespastors even sued for “religious liberty” exemptions – rather than stay indoors to save lives.

This independent view of “liberty” prizes individual competition, defiance, and resistance over an interdependent view sourced in cooperation, connection, and collaboration.

The coaching professional reinforces some of these views and myths, most of which rest on a self-image that empowers responsibility for the individual self instead of the collective whole.

Unlearning Individualism

Sociologist Geert Hofstede, who founded the cultural dimensions theorybegan surveying national views worldwide in 1965 on a spectrum of individualism-collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance (strength of social hierarchy) and masculinity-femininity; and, starting in 2010, indulgence versus self-restraint.

According to Hofstede, “Individualism is the extent to which people feel independent, as opposed to being interdependent as members of larger wholes.” A society’s relationship to individualism is reflected in whether our self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”

The nature of COVID-19 amplifies our fears as “I” in the face of the unknown. Demands to quarantine can isolate us and heighten our anxiety. Protecting our individual “I” can provoke an “us against them” mentality.

COVID-19 also reveals the limitations of our individualism. Approaching this situation has reminded us that “we” are all interconnected; doing our part reduces the risk to society, which supports each of us as individuals.

Letting Go of Our Story of Separation

Our expectations of certainty are shaped by our belief in the primacy of knowledge and control in supporting individualism. This begins with the story of separation we tell ourselves. That you and I are separate. That I am separate from my circumstances and my environment. That different functions are separate.

The walls we place in the physical world represent our mental walls—our thinking and our worldviews.

“Two items prevent us from embracing uncertainty: unpacking certainty from clarity and examining our socialized beliefs about individualism.

Separation is our most fundamental misperception. It shapes all our beliefs about humanity, life, and living. It seeks out knowledge to protect the self and control circumstances or others.

Even our form of knowledge reinforces separation; we break down wholes to classify and analyze the parts within them, giving us the power to control and exploit our environment. Our fragmented minds find certainty in controlling pieces that separate us from the larger fabric of life.

Consider these words from author and thinker, Peter Senge:

We take the contingent features of our current character and reify them into a substantive personality. Thus, we assign a primordial value to our ego (part) and see the community (whole) as secondary. We see the community as nothing but a network of contractual commitments for symbolic and economic exchanges. We think that encounters with others are transactions that can add or subtract to the array of possessions of the ego. But the constitution of the self happens only in a community.

Accepting uncertainty requires embracing the dual commitments of allowing for the unknown and accepting responsibility for complex wholes. By allowing for the unknown, we develop the ability to live in the question. By accepting responsibility for complex wholes, we evolve to appreciate our connection to the community, collective good, and larger systems.

Two Dimensions of Responsibility

In the practice of accepting uncertainty, we shift from responsibility for the self (part) to responsibility for the collective (whole). Consider these two sets of democratic nations:

  1. In the East: South Korea, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.
  2. In the West: Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Of note: China released the genetic coding for COVID-19 on January 11, 2020.

Set 1: first reported cases between January 20 and 29. These democratic countries bent the curve to reduce spread. They didn’t wait for government mandates. As continuous learners, they leveraged previous lessons and began lockdown measures before the government stepped in. When asked, they share their belief in a kind of cultural solidarity — that each of them had to act for the collective good.

  • Responsibility for collective society guided what was best for the individual.

Set 2: first reported cases between January 20 and 30. Cases continued to spike, increasing the rate of the spread. These countries viewed each event independently and each citizen as separate, reacting in a fragmented way. America has a patchwork, 50-state strategy and thus failed to leverage previous lessons. When asked, we proudly declare our right and freedom to rebel against societal mandates.

  • Responsibility for the individual self, guided what was best for society.

Here, as they were not guided by collective welfare, individuals or states had different ideas on testing and social distancing.

On the index of the Hofstede dimension of individualism, Eastern nations average 20, while Western nations average 76.5. The United States leads at 91 out of 100. This article outlined the steps Taiwan took to keep its cases low, currently below 400.

This chart displays several nations over time. The US and South Korea both had the first known case of COVID-19 on January 20. 

What if we expanded our responsibility from protecting our individual independence to connecting to the larger fabric of life of interdependence?

Such a leap requires clarity—to act on what’s next without having to know or control the outcome. Clarity begins with a willingness to accept the truth of uncertainty.

Learning Clarity (as Practice)

If you’ve made it this far, you are ready to get to work on unlearning and relearning.

Much of this involves moving from your reliance on knowledge to your clarity of experience. Testing and trusting what you experience, as a practice, is the first step toward reaching clarity.

  1. Consumption. Bring awareness to your consumption by observing how you numb your mind and emotions with news, social media, distractions, junk food, alcohol, and other impulses or cravings. Avoid racing thoughts and restlessness by avoiding stimulants and caffeine.
  2. Silence. Observe the level of noise in your life. This blog post reveals how we’ve normalized noise. Experience more silence by creating pauses in conversations and between events and appointments. Mute the TV during commercials to reflect on your viewing experience.
  3. Space. Notice the effect that space has on you. In these times of self-quarantining, there is space in your calendar and in your life. What emotions or sensations arise? Do you feel you should be more productive? Do you feel guilt, grief (from loss), or vulnerability?
  4. Expectations. What expectations do you have of yourself, others, and the current situation? Should you know more, control more, or do more? Observe how you react, what impulses guide you, and when you are swept up or pulled away from this moment.
  5. Fear. Notice when you feel helpless, fearful, or a loss of control. Perhaps you are experiencing the unknown. Feel the fear, name it if you can, allow it to be and pass, and then note the next feeling. Notice if any individualism creeps in. This could show up as us versus them thoughts or a tribal impulse to protect yourself from others.

The result of these practices develops our ability to live in the question. We learn to explore situations with humility, curiosity, and interest in the face of the unknown and unpredictable; instead of reflexively seeking out quick-fixes to make our discomfort go away.

Accepting Uncertainty

Accepting uncertainty is a practice. It involves acknowledging your views, noting and naming your fears, slowly dissolving your underlying beliefs, and daring to be vulnerable.

Once you’ve accounted for yourself, acknowledged your situation, and acquired accurate information, ask yourself: How can I just do this moment?

Pause, breathe, feel the ground beneath your feet, and contemplate:

I am here.
I am now.
All I need is within me.
All I need comes to me.

To act from clarity requires letting go of (un)predictable outcomes later or the (un)known consequences of that outcome. It’s focusing on the here and now.

This reminds me of the Zen parable of the Chinese farmer, shared here by Alan Watts. Wisely, Watts claims that because of the “interdependent and complex nature of reality, we shall never know what happens is good or bad; because we never know what the consequences of the misfortune, or the consequences of good fortune.”

All we can ever possibly know comes from a sense of who we are, from the presence of the current moment, and from our ability to envision what’s next. That’s clarity.

Then, ask yourself: How am I part of common humanity? Where can I request support? We are not alone. That’s interdependence.

In time, uncertainty will be viewed not as negative, but as normal, or more accurately, as reality.


Uncertainty still triggers me. It evokes irritation at the loss of control. It triggers annoyance at unfulfilled expectations. It provokes sadness at perceived helplessness.

But these emotions, thoughts, and sensations are neither concealed from me nor do they mysteriously guide me. They are part of me—part of us. They are part of our common humanity.

Moreover, accepting uncertainty cultivates more peace in our vulnerability. We appreciate self-discovery by accessing our imagination, acknowledge the mystery of being human, and learn to create possibility by living in the question.

Yes, uncertainty may cause panic. Paradoxically, though, the very possibility we desire also exists in uncertainty.

Reading Time: 10.5 min. Digest Time: 19 min


Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.


The Experience of Being in 12 Practices, part 2

What is the experience of being? I explored this inquiry in a two-part blog. In part one, I explored an interdependent understanding of being. In this blog, part two, I will introduce the 12 practices that support this new understanding of being.

This new dimension of being views humans as co-creators of our world. However, most psychological models relating to the self and human functioning imply that the self exists as a discrete, separate, and independent entity. Therefore, learning professionals, seldom appreciate this interdependent nature of being nor the generative capacity it reveals. They both impact learning and require unlearning.

To live between learning and unlearning entails a primary focus on intention, inquiry, imagination, and contemplation. We must clear our minds to sort out identities, penetrate distractions, prioritize concerns, disclose concealed impediments, and tune in to an intersubjective experience to co-create our existence.

If we can become open to this possibility, the question then becomes how to clear ourselves to reveal and tune into the vessel that we are?

Getting Closer to the Experience of Being

This journey requires much more than mere knowledge of theories and concepts.

We are not proposing practice in what we know or how we do things. We are proposing practice for differentiating being to clarify who we are.

This kind of practice requires becoming present to our humanness as a fluid, interdependent, interconnected being – to become aware of the felt experience of being. The practice of being opens up a dimension of our humanity that can increase performance without increasing the compulsion and wants that also increase anxiety.

Practice precedes performance. We become intentional to test our understanding of knowledge, to question our assumptions and to reveal the causes and conditions that intersect to create experiences.

These practices discovered through research and contemplative learning will expand our presence to reveal our interdependent being: our temporal nature, internal state, and our possibility as co-creators (as distinguished in part one).

Our 12 Practices

As we have grown to become Bhavana Learning Group, we have also codified our multi-year inquiry into the practices for developing an interdependent awareness.

Part of our shift involved exploring and examining rigorous practices that access our being to expand our presence: To weave together our past and future, reveal impediments, integrate lessons and realize possibility.

I have organized these 12 Practices in three vessels, each preparing learners to integrate wisdom into an interdependent awareness.

  • Grounding Vessel– Practices 1 through 4 – develops a foundation for our view, speech, and actions.
  • Fruition Vessel– Practices 5 through 8 – expands grounding to cultivate commitment and possibility.
  • Fertile Vessel– Practices 9 through 12 – extends and deepens the previous learning to co-create.

The key for each practice below denotes how we exist with or without each practice. I have also linked some resources after each practice to support an inquiry.

= With PRACTICE              = Without PRACTICE


This practice cultivates my attention so that I observe my experience – the perceptions, emotions, thoughts and other causes, conditions, and contexts that influence me.

 I react to events and circumstances, and I allow deadlines and tasks to determine my actions.

NOTES: View this link and this article to begin a practice of increasing awareness.


This practice honors my word as whole and complete, and it affects my speaking, action, livelihood and agreements to cultivate trust.

 My fragmented attention and casual speaking create incongruences between my words and deeds, causing confusion, uncertainty and distrust.

NOTES: View this link to begin a practice for shifting our understanding of integrity and to build trust.


The practice of bringing conscious thought to the present centers on being deliberate and responsible in my motivation, attitude and direction, manifesting as mindful choosing, speaking and action.

 My reactions rest on sentimental wishes, wishful thinking, and my casual aims and heartfelt desires.

NOTES: View this link and to begin a practice for deepening intention and here as intention in speaking (speech-acts).


 With this practice, I take custody of my unified being – who I’ve been, who I am and who I will become. My interactions reveal the possibility of being fully human.

 My preoccupation with fitting in, adapting to norms and my self-image guides my priorities, concerns and actions.

NOTES: View this link and this article and this one to develop an awareness of authenticity.


 This practice focuses my awareness of deepening concentration below the surface to gain insight.

 I automatically react to events and tasks, skimming and scanning communications. I am unable to delve below surface thoughts or emotions for a sustained period.

NOTES: View this link and tree of contemplation practice for deepening contemplation.


 I practice reflecting on things as they are. I recreate others, acknowledge situations and receive concerns from a foundation of wholeness and background of possibilities.

 My split attention leads to stepping over items, ignoring details and taking shortcuts. I learn to tolerate unnecessary missteps, which requires more time and energy.

NOTES: View this link and here to begin a practice for increasing an awareness of completion.


My practice of bare attention and receptive awareness allows things to be revealed — for me to be with others as they are and to receive their concerns fully.

 I listen only for the information I need to manage my tasks and solve my problems.

NOTES: View this link and here and this article and this one to expand deep listening.


 With my practice of devotional resolve – cognitively, emotionally and volitionally – I find serene direction in surrendering to something larger than myself.

 My life consists of obligations and perpetual, monotonous tasks that find me aimlessly drifting without direction.

NOTES: View this link and here and here to begin a practice for developing commitment.


 My practice of envisioning possibilities opens untapped potential beyond daily activities, problems and what seems conceivable. This practice taps into a nonlinear view and poetic mind, which seeds my empathy to be with others’ experiences.

 I am a practical and analytical problem solver and effortlessly discover solutions to resolve problems. Within a linear view, I am seduced by quick fixes and immediate results.

NOTES: View this link and here and this article to better understand how to develop imagination.


 With the practice of rigorous focus and attention, I can cut through noise and distractions to choose wisely among different needs, concerns and priorities to gain clarity.

 My indecisiveness has made me unable to scrutinize, evaluate, or penetrate the morass of choices and distractions, becoming inattentive to the quality of my output.

NOTES: View this link and here to begin a practice for developing discernment.


 This practice challenges me to live in the question and explore situations with humility, curiosity and interest in the face of the unknown.

 I reflexively seek out answers and solutions and stop questioning once I discover them.

NOTES: View this link and here and this video by Alan Watts to shift an awareness of inquiry.


 This practice ultimately determines what it is to be a person, because becoming a “self” happens in community. This practice expands my view of “self” and community as mutually dependent on causes and conditions – a point of view that unifies and views coherence in the flow of experiences.

 I believe I am a discrete, fixed and solid entity. I am an independent and individual identity to protect and defend.

NOTES: View this link and this link by Peter Senge to increase awareness on this practice of community as context.

Practice Cultivates Wisdom

The experience of practice is quite different from behaviors, knowledge or “tools.”

  1. Each of these 12 Practices expands our view to cultivate the experience of being as interdependent.
  2. Each is connected through a progressive sequence: the first vessel (Practices 1 – 4) is fundamental, and the subsequent vessels (Practices 5 – 8, and Practices 9 – 12) expand on previous vessels.
  3. Each lives beyond conceptual understanding to include experience (not simply knowledge) for deeper understanding.
  4. Each also opens a new perspective and framework with techniques and trainings that establish routines and rituals to cultivate wisdom.
  5. And finally, each includes resources to begin an ongoing practice.

The practice of practice leads to greater clarity and wisdom by 1) applying new understanding 2) internalizing our learning, and 3) embodying our experience of learning on the way to 4) expanding to an integrated being.

Many programs promise these same results, but such promises stem from a mistaken conclusion about learning, unlearning and wisdom: to know the content (about the thing) is not living the context (felt experience of being).

“We are not proposing practice in what we know or how we do things. We are proposing practice for differentiating being to clarify who we are.”

I’ll leave the larger implications for another blog. Suffice it to say that only greater clarity of causes and conditions reveals the beliefs that lead to our consumption and desires that impede the experience of greater satisfaction that already exists.

Our (dis)satisfaction is rooted more in unexamined assumptions rather than one more “missing” thing to consume, acquire or leverage. As the Buddha taught, Those who act with few desires are calm, without worry or fear.” 

With this deeper awareness of being, we view concerns about performance as mutually dependent on the wisdom found at the source of our freedom.

And that begins with practice.

Reading Time: 8 min. Digest Time: 15 min


Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.


The Experience of Being in 12 Practices – Part 1

Have you ever attended a seminar that offered prescriptive behaviors to adopt, processes to implement and content to remember? I recently had this experience.

What’s missing from this scenario depends somewhat on our expectations of learning and, more importantly, our view of being human. Do we react to, manage, or adopt change? Or are we co-creators of change?

To accept the former view implies an understanding of being human as fixed, separate selves, independent of our circumstances that respond to change.

If we accept the latter view, as co-creators, we shift:

  • From doling out prescriptive behaviors, adopting “norms” to conform
  • To discovering descriptive practices, accessing “being” to co-create

To make this shift from behaviors to practices  a distinction unappreciated by many learning designs – first requires a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of being.

I will explore these questions in a two-part blog. In this blog, part one, I will first flesh out a new interdependent understanding of being. In part two, I will introduce the 12 practices that support this new understanding of being.

What Is Being?

Most psychological models relating to the self and human functioning imply that the self exists as a discrete, separate, and independent entity. However, ontological models relate to the self (being) or all phenomena not as a discrete stand-alone entity but as mutually dependent on numerous causes and conditions.

Consider the human body (part of our being), for example, as mutually dependent on the wind, sun, oceans, plants, and animals. Each offers us the vitamins and energy to breathe in and out of our cycle of life.

Being is not merely an internal state of thoughts, emotions, and sensations, nor is it some set of identities or discrete or separate self, independent of its world and experiences. Indeed, our thoughts and experience – an arising-together phenomenon – result from causes and conditions that interact with our world to give meaning to our existence.

This is a departure from our rational mindset and normative view, which seeks to find discrete causes to explain our experiences rather than appreciate the interdependent nature of our role in reality.

An Interdependent Awareness

The implications of being with our world are profound!

 We are related to the world in ways that are inextricably linked to our thoughts, experiences, multiple identities, and history, which is continually revealed in our mind, body, and language as we interact.

Our presence in the world discloses our potential, which is not yet realized or confined in the present and is always projected toward the future, and emerging in the present. The future we look forward to reveals a unique context: a possibility that brings aliveness as we co-create our moment-to-moment existence.

  Our consciousness precedes being in two unique ways. First, we are aware of the notion of past and future in the present. Second, we are aware of the inevitable certainty of our own death. This awareness gives life meaning. Our experiences reveal this unified temporal nature, as three dimensions of future, past, and present.

Key to accessing this expansive view of being centers on adopting an awareness as co-creators of our world – a mindset of continual inquiry that discovers and discloses ourselves with each interaction.

A Different Experience of Learning

As co-creators of our world, our experience can both reveal dimensions of our being and realize our potential with each interaction.

The fact that phenomena are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent (even without discrete boundaries) means that they are “empty” of a fixed essence or solid self. This nature of “non-self” is both “empty” of an inherently existing self and yet “full” of all things.

Zen Master and author Thich Nhat Hanh describes such an experience as “Interbeing,” dispelling any notion of “solitary beings.” He views us and the planet as one giant, “living, breathing cell, with all its working parts linked in symbiosis.”

“Ultimately, the purpose of learning, here, evolves from knowing and doing more to being more.”

Learning professionals, however, seldom appreciate this interdependent nature of being nor the generative capacity it reveals. They both impact learning and require unlearning.

  • Learning occurs between a fear and a need. The growth imperative is met by fear of the unknown, which reveals many causes and conditions that defy rational-only analysis; too many variables to codify in “behaviors” or to reduce to empirical measures.
  • Unlearning occurs between certainty and possibility. The willingness to let go of outmoded assumptions and beliefs often challenges our self-perception with latent doubt, guilt, and old insecurities. The remedy here requires greater wisdom and imagination rather than more knowledge and concepts.

To live between learning and unlearning entails a primary focus on intention, inquiry, imagination, and contemplation.

We must clear our minds to sort out identities, penetrate distractions, prioritize concerns, disclose concealed impediments, and tune in to experience for co-creating our existence. Indeed, the experience of our presence matters. To listen, relate, witness, and to be seen – all support connecting deeply with phenomena internally and externally.

Ultimately, the purpose of learning, here, evolves from knowing and doing more to being more. Tapping into our interdependent nature, we access new dimensions of humanity to expand intentional meaning-making as co-creators.

If we can become open to this possibility, the question then becomes how to clear ourselves to reveal and tune into the vessel that we are?

Why Practice?

Such profound questions and claims about our existence require a view of “self” beyond a rational, epistemological knowing self to also include an ontological felt sense of being.

Most pedagogical designs dismiss the tensions between concepts of knowledge and experience of being. We still view content and process as distinct, instead of inseparable phenomena. We separate language, time, energy, and action, managing each independently. And we’ve now begun to view intention and impact as distinct dynamics, preferencing the latter.

As we interact with our world – not via knowledge of concepts or singular events but as the connective tissue of our existence – we do not merely understand content, achieve goals, or experience impact. We also clarify our views and discern our intentions to discover the obstacles and choices that reveal the deep interconnectivity between thought and experience.

Ours is a journey not of increased performance or understanding concepts but of gaining new levels of clarity by examining the content of our consciousness.

  • Our aim is to experience being: to witness, experience, and co-create our existence.
  • Our ultimate goal is to calm our mind: to clear away the obstacles for tuning into the unfolding of wisdom.

In part two of this blog, I will introduce 12 practices that cultivate a new understanding of being and the kind of learning and unlearning to support an interdependent awareness.

Reading Time: 7 min. Digest Time: 11 min


Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.


Recent Posts

 “In times of change, those who are prepared to learn will inherit the land, while those who think they already know will find themselves wonderfully equipped to face a world that no longer exists.”


Coaching Services | Leadership Development | Contemplative Practices | First-Person Learning & Design | Resourcing Services | Assessments