Blog: Learning Curve

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

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


1. AWARENESS

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.


2. INTEGRITY

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.


3. INTENTION

The practice of bringing conscious thought to the present moment. 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).


4. AUTHENTICITY

 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.


5. CONTEMPLATION

 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.


6. COMPLETION

 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.


7. DEEP LISTENING

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.


8. COMMITMENT

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.


9. IMAGINATION

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.


10. DISCERNMENT

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.


11. INQUIRY

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.


12. COMMUNITY AS CONTEXT

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 cultivating 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-headshot

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-headshot

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.

 


2020 Marks 20 Years of Learning and Change

It happened 20 years ago this month. I was teaching graduate students full-time in organizational leadership, and one of my students made me an offer. He wanted to use some of our course work to expand leadership in his vast public healthcare network.

Leaping from academics to consulting revealed a steep learning curve. First off, I had no company. The following journey offers an overall report of our discoveries and some emerging and enduring questions.

Phase One: Leap and Learn

On January 15, 2000, I created Leadership Innovations, Inc. In doing so, my goal was to create innovative leadership programs.

Most of our clients included executives and managers looking to expand their leadership profiles. I focused my efforts on developing a model or methodology that I could call my own.

Between 2000 and 2006, leadership was finally becoming distinct from management. Leaders coped with change between paradigms, and managers coped with complexity to optimize the current paradigm.

  • Fundamental concern. The company’s focus involved three macro-conditions of change regarding 1) access to information, 2) compression of time, and 3) globalization (beyond economics). Most clients and thinkers were concerned with adapting to this new world of change.

Phase Two: Cocooning

By the end of 2006, I decided that some cocooning was in order and changed the name to Zampella Group. This change denoted enough space to explore the emerging field of leadership development without committing to a direction.

The period from 2006 to 2018 incubated a direction that established leadership as a possibility for everyone in organizational life. We also shifted our client base to include learning professionals and eventually began working with experienced coaches.

I discovered the importance of vertical development and cultivating mindsets beyond skillsets. Leadership development also emerged as a field of study, practice, and coaching beyond executive and performance coaching.

  • Fundamental concerns. During this period, VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) emerged, evolved and constituted a universal acronym as both a description and impact of non-linear change, and as the context for learning and development.

Phase Three: Emerging

By 2018, now as a team, we had spent three years developing our commitment. Last year, we rebranded as Bhavana Learning Group. The name signified our commitment to integrating Western learning models with Eastern wisdom practices to support the human side of change.

After conducting extensive research in coaching, leadership, and learning, it was clear that learning involves much more than acquiring knowledge. Our focus on learning to unlearn expands into the unknown. This involves the practice of letting go of outmoded beliefs.

Some of these beliefs, such as speed and multitasking, have been disproven by science. Others, such as balancing (or replacing) material needs with psychological needs, have been revealed by our hyper-connected reality.

We clarified our client base by adding educators to our community of experienced coaches and learning professionals.

  • Fundamental concerns. We enter this period cultivating an emerging interdependent mindset—mutually dependent awareness—that focuses on individual contemplation, which encourages unlearning with deeper connections to each other, to society, and our planet.

An Organic Process

I confess that this three-phased journey was not as neat or strategic as it seems. Nonetheless, it was organic. Not haphazardly informed (as organic often implies), but actually organic—as in intentionally present to what’s growing: being with mistakes and gaps, new questions and research, dancing with emerging client needs, and discovering new services and practices.

Questions emerged. Some were resolved, but most led to deeper inquiries and insights. This dynamic deepened our interest and fortified an emerging direction.

Our focus on research—to open enduring inquiries—was important early on. Our commitment to research and questioning the nature of change and related learning methods offered the necessary grounding to challenge our assumptions and evolve our efforts.

Surprisingly, we discovered the limitations of Western learning models to serve this level of human change. We ventured East to consume, study and synthesize wisdom, and develop practices and techniques.

The Nature of Change

The nature of change fluctuates between two vectors: the byproducts of change in a commercialized framework and the context of being human in the face of disruptive change. The latter can be unsettling, isolating, and anxiety-ridden. It led us to explore our capacity for learning and unlearning and to cope with what it means to unlearn.

The nature of change also discloses the decay of our current rationalistic, paradigm based on data, “independent” analysis, and “individualistic” approaches. This view of being human insists on learning methods that meet some arbitrary measurement standards. Such methods bias learning toward objective knowledge and material needs, as superior to experiences and psychological needs.

Lamentably, greater technological “advancements” have perpetuated increased separateness and isolation.

  • We are linked (isolated) but not connected (lack belonging).
  • Our need for instant gratification shapes our expectations and notions of progress, success, and (un)happiness.
  • We’ve substituted care for speed and quality for productivity.
  • Those “moving fast and breaking things” produce instant results and gain immediate rewards regardless of the impact or consequence on society, the planet, our democracy, or the human condition.

This nature of change requires embracing an interdependent mindset that

  • Reframes our current notions of progress, success, and growth to include greater introspection and appreciation of pluralistic views and experiences.
  • Develops a new moral imagination to reframe commercial interests with social good and economic justice.
  • Cultivates shared commitments and communities of practice where isolation is replaced with belonging and mutual growth.

The tension between the independent-individual mindset and the interdependent-collaborative mindset will likely define the 2020s as Millennials, and Generation Z enters the workforce, where multiple perspectives and cultures, shared experiences, social ethics, and belonging are highly valued.

Discoveries and Commitments

A few guiding principles emerge as we focus on sustainability. Today:

  • context and direction (who/why) are more valuable than content and process (what/how to);
  • learning (and unlearning) is more useful than knowing;
  • principles are more worthwhile than goals;
  • awareness must inform action;
  • intentional presence accomplishes more than multitasking;
  • commitment sustains more than incentives;
  • culture is more vital than strategy;
  • discerning context reveals a deeper understanding than knowing content; and,
  • practice transforms culture more than knowledge or study;

And, to be clear, scaling and technologies are goals or strategy, not principles or values.

When viewed through the lens of the human experience, these guiding principles reframe our notion of business and commercial enterprise. Moreover, as professionals who will deliver human services and interventions, we will be tasked with questioning our role in the current system.

As our firm moves into its third phase and decade, the following fundamental questions will guide us:

1 – How can we better understand and begin to dissolve the forces, conditions, and causes that isolate us and socialize us as reactive, competitive, and fragmented?

2 – How can we better prepare adults for a cycle of development to include both learning and unlearning?

3 – How can we organize culture around equity and dignity as guiding principles that inform conventions such as strategy, profit, and scaling?

4 – How can we create a culture of practice that integrates both knowledge and wisdom?

20 Years of Leaps

In a word, these last two decades have been unpredictable.

This period may mark the most disruptive 20 years for technological change in human history. One study revealed that we absorb 34 Gb of info a day, and a 2011 piece stated that we each digest more than 174 newspapers per day.

Twenty years ago, my landline and slow AOL served as my primary connections. Today, my cell phone serves as a source of computing. I deliver services to clients internationally via a video platform, and we just delivered an immersive, deep listening certificate program, all delivered online.

Where this will lead us is hard to say, but our focus is clear: integrating Eastern wisdom practices with Western learning methods to support the human side of change. We owe any clarity and direction to our focus on research, our evolving practices, and our growing community of learners.

View Our 12 Practices to support this blog.

Reading Time: 9 min. Digest Time: 14 min


tony-zampella-headshot

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.

 


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