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Learning – being a strong learner

 November 8, 2016

What is learning? Much of our culture commonly defines learning as what I call “information flinging”. The teacher flings information at the students. If they can fling it back learning is declared to have happened.

Somatics offers a different take. From a Somatic perspective, learning hasn’t happened until a new action is possible. Learning must be EMBODIED through PRACTICE (more on these terms in a pair of blog posts to follow).

This is, of course, common sense in discourses that involve our bodies, such as music, dance, art, sports, martial arts and, I would say both leadership and Kirtan Leadership. Yet, this fact can be overlooked as much of what we do in our modern lives are things that fall outside these categories.

Students who come to the Kirtan Leader Institute learn that learning is embodied and happens through practice. Understanding is useful for sure. We build a shared conceptual understanding as we move through the curriculum of each level. Understanding aids our ability to practice well and build embodiment, but doesn’t replace it. So, we lead an emphasize practice, experience and transmission for the sake of building embodiment. Conceptual understanding is a way, after these experiences, to describe and talk about what happened.

Here are a few more thoughts about learning.

Learning happens:

  • Alone (through practice),
  • In partnership (via one-on-one coaching)
  • In groups (in group training programs)

As one learns (through practice, over time) they begin to:

  • Understand more deeply
  • Observe more effectively
  • Practice more efficiently
  • Build embodiment in key actions
  • Generate new results as a Kirtan Leader.

One of the most important skills we can have is the ability to be a strong learner. When we step into something new we can show up as in many ways –  strong learner, collapsed bull in a china shop, etc. How do you show up?

A collapsed learner is quite certain “I can’t do it.” So certain, they might not want to even try. Or, try and give up after their first attempt.

The remedy here is continuing to step into action, into practice. Acknowledging they might not be skilled in this domain, but like other domains in their life, with practice they can and will build skill.

A bull in a china shop assumes they know what to do, even though they are a novice. They bump into things and break them. They ask irrelevant questions. They make unhelpful suggestions.

The remedy here is surrender. It is useful for them to acknowledge that though they may be highly skilled in other domains (i.e., accounting, engineering, yoga asanas, cooking, etc.), they are a beginner in this particular domain.

A strong learner manages their inner critic, steps into practice, stays open to coaching from experts, does lots of repetitions, notices what gets in the way and observes how they show up as a learner.

For the sake of building the ability to be a strong learner, here are some useful questions. 

  1. What am I practicing now?
  2. Where am I in this particular skill: beginner, competent, expert, virtuoso, master?
  3. What worked? Didn’t work? Was missing? Emerged? Became irrelevant? What’s next? What will you do differently next time?
  4. Who understands my deepest cares and commitments and can offer relevant and useful feedback?
  5. What are my standards for this practice? Where did these come from? Are they useful?
  6. When I practiced, what did I observe happening within and outside of myself? What did others observe? What was recorded (video and/or audio)?
  7. What am I learning?
  8. What breakdown do I now see?
  9. What is being revealed?
  10. What new question am I in?
  11. How can I become a better learner? What is getting in my way?