Monday, 16 January 2012


At Christchurch, Clarendon Park, for the first session in a new course, "Mindfulness & Wisdom", offered by Christians Aware as part of their Faith Awareness programme. The eight-week course has been devised by Ian Grayling and Kevin Commons (photo above) from the Leicester Serene Reflection Meditation Group (although a small group of us met one afternoon last summer to set the general aims and outline for the course - see blog entry for 12 July 2011).

There are 17 people attending this evening (including Kevin and Ian). We begin by agreeing on Ground Rules and a Code of Conduct:
  • I have the right to state my opinions, perspectives and beliefs;
  • Our dialogue regarding faith, and in general, should be mutually respectful;
  • It is okay to question and explore viewpoints, but within the bounds of mutual respect;
  • We encourage everyone to contribute without dominating and all contributions will be actively listened to.

The programme seeks to enable people to:
  • Be mindful of similarity and difference in views and attitudes;
  • Increase their awareness of breadth and depth of "wisdom" as personally experienced;
  • Consider the practice of "wisdom" as a basis for daily living.

In a break with the previous courses of this type (Mindfulness Through the Senses, 2010; Mindfulness and Morality, 2011) there's no attempt to have every major religion or belief presenting in this particular course. Christians Aware trying to include all these faiths over the course of the academic year, rather than cover each and every one in each and every term. The general shape of the course is described as a "faith sandwich": faith-neutral intro and outro, with the faith-centred part in the middle.

The chart above is a view of wisdom from the study of Knowledge Management, a relatively new academic discipline that focuses on how knowledge: develops within a social or organisational context; can be shared or liberated; can be managed as a tangible asset. It is interesting that wisdom is a recognised and accepted concept within this area of academic study.

We're set a small group exercise to improve our understanding of the process "from data to wisdom", we're broken into teams of three, each team given an envelope containing "word salad": data in the form of small strips of paper, bearing one or two words. We're tasked with sorting and compiling these into complete sentences ("information"), then discussing and deciding which (if any) go beyond "information" to be considered examples of "wisdom":
  • African Proverb: When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.
  • John Lennon: If everyone demanded  / peace instead  / of  / another television  / set, then  / there'd  / be peace.
  • Larry Eisenberg: For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the Universe.

I don't know how much wisdom is on display in our little group, as it seems to take an inordinate amount of time for us to realise that we could follow the three different colours to collate the data! The respective colours and the way the sentences were cut up are represented above.

The table below is a view of "wisdom" from current, nationally-endorsed, resources to support teacher training. This model poses a challenge to teachers to move beyond shallow learning (for example, rote learning or “teaching to the exam”) to encourage a deeper and more critical learning process.

  • Single-loop Learning = mastering a skill or body of knowledge in its original context.
  • Double-loop Learning = involves a reflection on, and questioning of, the processes of the learning (for example, seeking better ways of achieving the task or identifying processes that could be transferred to other learning contexts).
  • Triple-loop Learning = involves an intuitive grasp and evaluation of the fundamental principles underpinning the learning (for example, "purpose, implications, ethical considerations", etc.) – these may even be used as metaphors for "life".
We're invited to put forward everyday examples of how we have (or have not) developed life skills and relate them to elements of this table. Learning to drive, cooking and film appreciation are mentioned in this context. You can access Ian's Prezi presentation for sessions 1 and 2 online.

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