Learning or experiencing?

Makeplace 505 Beginners Tambour Over the last four years I’ve been learning and then training as a Thinking Environment® facilitator. The cornerstone of the Thinking Environment is the principle that people can think well for themselves, given the right conditions. They involve being in the presence of a listener whose attention and encouragement is wholly yours, and who trusts completely that you are creative, altruistic, intelligent and can think for yourself.

That work, and delivering Thinking Environment and training for the NHS, researchers, undergraduates and local people at a regular community event I run with a colleague, has been slowly informing my teaching of embroidery, something else I fnd very rewarding. I’ve been pondering how could I make my classes more about the student discovering and exploring for themselves, and less about me leading from the front.

I started to introduce rounds, and ask people to share what’s going well, what’s their favourite sort of embroidery, what’s a project they’re proud of. Then, after a student volunteered some very useful feedback about what had been most helpful for her in learning the technique, I started to ask, what have you learned this morning that was most useful? what went well about today? what else would you like to see in the course?

Now I’ve started to ask myself, ‘how can I give them the experience of exploring and learning for themselves? How little information do I need to give, and what questions will stimulate their learning?’

On Sunday I was teaching tambour embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. We had a really fun, collaborative day with a relaxed atmosphere and everyone sharing their learning, questions, and tips from their own considerable textile experience. It felt easy as the teacher; I wasn’t tired or drained, but energised by the day. The participants reflected that they’d enjoyed the warm, friendly environment, and left with smiles and thanks.

So now I’d like to ask you. What are your best experiences of learning? what works for you? Please leave your comments below.

 

Travelling with potential

I was reminded yesterday of declaring some time ago that I really wanted to reach my potential, desperate for it. Recently I’ve been thinking more about this phrase. It suggests that potential is a thing out there to be reached, like a mountain peak, requiring struggle and effort fixed on a goal. I was asked, what will you do when you reach it? will you be happy?

Envisioning the future has long been hard for me; recurring bouts of depression have  eroded my ability to see forward. At times, the future I could concentrate on was the next few minutes. Yet I knew I still wanted to ‘reach my potential’. I don’t know what it is I’m trying to reach though. When asked what I want, usually all that’s there is a sort of desperation, and something of a void, like hunting in a large cave with a small torch.

Now though, I’m becoming aware of a burning desire to explore what I can do. Feeling a drive to put stuff out there – thoughts, music, art, listening, enabling – assess the result, then choose the next thing, like navigating through a new landscape, bit by bit, and it opening out before me. This isn’t a clear view to the mountain, where all that has to be decided is how to get there. It’s a continual checking of a map which is being made, asking questions, feeling my way along, looking outwards, seeing what could be done, doing, noting it, and then checking inwards to find out how that feels, does it sit well with me, does it flow?

Potential feels more like Dylan Thomas’s ‘green fuse that drives the flower’. There is a fuel, (a need? drive? desire?) and a process (observing, acting, assessing, recalculating, observing…). It isn’t anything I’m going to reach. It isn’t only about work. It’s a restless, searching force, it’s a process, it feels energising, it’s life.

 

Don’t be scared of your own needs

St Anne and the VirginI sat down with a good friend recently and we had a deep think about the difficulties of asking for help, whether it’s ok to lean on people or not, but how hard it is to engage with the world without the right structure or framework. We asked the question: What is support?  Here’s our list, please feel free to add or discuss.

  • Validation. someone saying: your experience is what it is, and worth something.
  • A sense of being understood
  • Empathy; that recognition of your experience leading to a feeling of shared understanding and acceptance of its difficulties.
  • been given the sense that it’s going to be okay, but when it feels like it isn’t, receiving empathy and comfort, feeling held.
  • Being witnessed. Being seen, you are here and your experience counts.
  • Receiving insights
  • Sharing skills, strategies. resources -a planning system, a book, a TED talk, a piece of poetry, some art or music, some listening.
  • Being listened to with trust and confidence I will get time to think through myself, my listener will not jump in with solutions unless I request it.
  • Receiving compassion. ‘to suffer with’ that sense of someone standing with you in your difficulty, not offering you sympathy from their position of greater ease
  • Trust that I can find my way
  • Willingness to openly discuss boundaries, to consider and negotiate them
  • Care to know what my areas of sensitivity and pain are, acknowledging them but letting me own them and manage them.
  • Being reminded by example to practise self-care and develop awareness of what is needed
  • Reciprocity. I want to be able to give these things, as well as receive them.

it isn’t good to feel you only receive these things, it creates a sense of inequality and feeling less than. it may be possible to offer and receive these things mutually, or maybe one will receive and give to different people. Acheiving a sense of balance about it, and knowing also that what can be given and what one needs  to receive will ebb and flow; sometimes one will be greater than the other. For me, a spell of depressions means I might need more but be less able to ask; I want to be able to start giving again as I recover.

Trust that all will be well…

I have been amazed at the difference trust has made to my life, and what itIMG_20170331_145415351 can effect in others around me. For most of my life I have lived – without realising it – from the assumption that the world is an unfriendly place; help, empathy and confidence can’t be relied on.

I didn’t realise that this also meant something about how I viewed myself and my capacity to cope. No confidence – or faith – in the outer world reflected my lack of faith in my inner resources. I hadn’t realised that one could make a choice to believe in the basic goodness of people, their intelligence, resourcefulness, creativity, ability to think things through and come to their own solutions.

When I came across this Positive Philophical Choice of the Thinking Enviroment™, I felt such a relief: someone believed in me, I didn’t have to prove I was worthy of thinking things through for myself. Continue reading