Lesson 12 - Principles Continued
Exploring Optimum Learning Relationships
A virtual class based on
Magical Parent - Magical Child
by Michael Mendizza and Joseph Chilton Pearce
Lesson 12 - Principles Continued
Invite the Unexpected
To discover anything new, one must set aside or suspend the old. Again, this is easily said and often very difficult to do. Why? Because comparing new sensory data with what is known or expected is a primary “associative” function of the brain. It happens automatically, like breathing. This comparison is taking place in the background of awareness all the time, moment by moment. The instant something unfamiliar is registered we go on full alert, a phenomenon called the “startle” effect. We wake up, literally, and give full attention to the alien experience. Who knows, it might be an alien. No time to “think.” Survival may be on the line.
Our normal state, however, is not so fully awake. Based on years of experience we “assume” that today will be pretty much like yesterday. We assume that the floor is solid, that our shoes are where we put them, that the school bus will be on time. Our relationship to the world, and just about everything in it, including our children, is based on thousands of assumptions. We are quite comfortable, complacent, and content when the outer world matches our inner assumptions. When it does not, we become anxious and uncomfortable. Things aren’t the way they “should” be.
Assumptions are great, especially when related to concrete objects. Rocks and trees are pretty predictable. Dynamic, rapidly changing relationships are less predictable—the wind or weather, for example.
The more abstract and dynamic the form, the more quickly our assumptions break down. Intelligence, however, is fluid, dynamic, at times messy, chaotic, unpredictable. Assumptions regarding what should and should not be are, at close examination, only rough guides when dealing with intelligent, dynamic living systems, children for example. Conflict between “what is” and what we assume “should be” is inevitable if our assumptions are absolutely true.
Most assumptions are tacit, however. They are implicit, unspoken. They operate beneath our level of awareness. Of the tens of thousands of assumptions we hold, some are true, but many are not. True or false, we unconsciously treat them all as true. Being reflexive by nature, knee-jerk mechanical responses—assumptions—are most often our first response. For most of human history, survival has depended on this instant response.
Relationships are defined, more or less, by these unconscious patterns. We inherited our personal assumptions from others, from the pool we call culture. Culture expresses as individuals and through their relationships the unique set of assumptions that defines the culture are passed on. Each participates in the process by mirroring the culture’s pool of assumptions in his or her relationships. To not do so would render the dissident an outcast, or worse still, a lunatic.
We do not choose to act on our assumptions, they happen automatically. Being predetermined patterns, assumptions involve little conscious attention and no true intelligence. This is an important point and worth repeating. Predetermined responses, responses that happen automatically, involve very little or no true intelligence. When we respond to others in this reflexive, prejudged manner, we are behaving mechanically.
Assumptions are not bad. They serve very important functions. Our challenge when dealing with intelligent, dynamic systems is not to be completely dominated and driven by our prejudgments. A space or interval needs to be created between the automatic judgment, “this is right” or “this is wrong,” and our response. If we act without this interval, assumptions will dominate our lives and define our relationships.
Assuming that we know the right way implies, does it not, that all other ways are wrong. Life is a battle. This is right and this is wrong. If they, meaning everyone else, and especially our own children, would simply do things our way (my way, really), the world would be a better place. Much of what we call parenting implies this battle. We, parents, “know” what we are talking about and “by God” you, the child, had better do as you’re told, or else! This is what my father called “lowering the boom.” Responding to dynamic, intelligent systems with fixed mechanical assumptions implies conflict, and conflict often involves violence. As life becomes more complex we gather and meet the world with more assumptions.
To Invite the Unexpected we must suspend the idea that our assumptions are “the only” or “the right” response. Rather than acting immediately on our expectation that life must conform to our prejudice—my way is the right way—we witness these first impressions and treat them not as absolutely true and necessary, but provisionally, as one of many possibilities. Creating an interval between automatically acting on our assumptions and how we actually respond invites something unexpected to intervene, some new pattern or undreamed-of possibilities. Inviting the Unexpected creates a new and flexible relationship. Life, and all its relationships, becomes more fluid, more flexible.
Take Your Cues from the Child
(The Art of Listening & Observing)
“Take your cues from the child” (or the environment) is the golden rule for Optimum Learning Relationships. To do so adults must develop deep observing and listening skills. They must become sensitive to the outward expressions a child makes and also to the ever-changing flow of inner states. The art of seeing, hearing and sensing deeply demands a quiet mind, a mind that is alert and sensitive, and a heart that can really love. If we are preoccupied with our agenda, that is what we will see. Rather than seeing, feeling, and understanding who the child is, this moment, we will be, quietly or not, comparing the child’s behavior with our preconceptions. We will not see what is. We will see only what should be.
Meeting children with our fixed assumptions is a betrayal of their and our own true nature. Every few days the child is born again, transformed. Emerging capacities shift his or her reality from the physical to the emotional to the increasingly abstract. In part one we outlined the different ages and stages of child development and what cues may be found for each. These general guides help adults adjust their expectations and expressions to match the developmental needs and capacities of the emerging child. The key is to not impose adult expectations on a child’s immature capacities. Two classic and common examples are demanding that preadolescent children participate in professional forms of competitive games, e.g. Little League, and imposing reading and writing on the early child. Both are examples of an adult agenda supplanting the child’s natural, biological enfoldment. To maintain the bond and win the approval, children will strive to succeed at the premature challenges we demand and will usually fall short of our expectations. These early failures worm their way deeply in the psyche and become permanent fixtures of the child’s emerging self-image. And our premature demands block full development of those capacities that are appropriate to the child’s particular age and stage. Partial development of early stages compromises the optimal unfolding of later stages. Personal development stumbles, and with it the evolution of culture and the species.
Taking your cues from the child implies an adult state that is quiet, listening, observing, sensitive, and curious, a state that is not completely committed to or invested in prejudgments. Only such heart and mind can actually perceive, learn from, and respond to “what is.” Being in this state, the adult is learning from the relationship as he or she participates in it. The goal is to lift our response out of what David Bohm called the reflex system. Reflexes involve little or no intelligence. To invite intelligence into the relationship demands greater energy and attention than defaulting to reflexes. “Taking your cues from the child” implies this added energy, attention, and intelligence. Looking for cues represents a very different quality of attention than assuming we know what should and should not be.
This subtle but radical shift in energy and attention radiates throughout the relationship. The child senses that he or she is actually being seen, really felt and understood. Children trust adults who bring such care and attention to the relationship. They feel respected and express this respect freely. Trust, respect, shared meaning, and creative learning fill the relationship.
To observe in this way is to literally “not know” what the child or we might be the next moment. Prediction and control may have a place in the relationship, but not the only place. Parents, educators, and caregivers find this very challenging; they like being in control. Our invitation is to become again as a young child, to look, feel, and experience the world as if it were for the first time, but from the vantage point of maturity. Taking our cues from the child opens new universes of empathy and understanding. Behold, all things are made new again.
Respond Deeply & Completely
(The Awakening of Intelligence)
Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock warned that the increasing speed at which culture moves will change our lives dramatically. We are busy, occupied, stretched to the limit, stressed, over-committed. Researchers point out that challenges that demand a shift in context are much more stressful than challenges of a like kind. Responding to a three-year-old in the middle of a business call, for example, is more stressful than dealing directly with a business challenge. Responding to the child while in a business mode requires a shift of context. We are challenged from two or more directions at the same moment. Attention splits. Our response to each challenge is compromised; it becomes more superficial, more mechanical, and less optimal.
Responding Deeply & Completely requires two things: undivided attention and space (time, leisure, an interval or gap) between the conditioned reflexive response and the unexpected. If no interval exists, the reflex system takes over. Our response is habitual, mechanical, predetermined.
Our first four principles cultivate and gather attention. We are more aware of our state of being. We feel safe enough to play and extend our “safe place” to include the child. We suspend our agenda and invite the unexpected. We listen, observe, and take our cues from the child rather than superimposing our agenda on the moment. Each of these playful practices demands greater attention, and this increased attention literally transforms us and our relationships, that moment. For what, you ask? For a deep and complete response to the world and all its challenges.
Real transformation of ourselves and our relationships unfolds in the response we make to this present moment. The philosopher J. Krishnamurti put it quite simply: “Reincarnate now.” In making that statement he challenged two things: the role of knowledge and the role of time in this transformation. By knowledge he meant the reflex system, our conditioning, what we know and assumptions implicit in our knowing. By time he meant “becoming,” using the known past to create something completely new. The past can modify itself endlessly. In doing so we have the feeling that we are making progress when in fact we remain bound to the same old patterns.
Unless I fundamentally change, the future will be what I have now. This is a simple fact. If I am vicious, cruel, brutal, today, as I have been in the past, I’ll be that tomorrow. You can’t get away from it. If I am quarrelling with my wife or husband and so on, I’ll do it tomorrow too. So tomorrow is now. And to break this chain in which we are caught, there must be a mutation now.
Ojai, California, 1985
Years ago Ram Dass (Richard Alpert, Ph.D.) popularized the “eternal present” in Be Here Now, claiming that if we give complete attention to the present, the future takes care of itself. More recently Eckhart Tolle described the same idea in his book The Power of Now. Creativity, intelligence and insight are not products of habit, of the reflex system. Intelligence is innate, not accumulated or learned and is woven throughout every cell of our body and all of nature. Our challenge is to access this vast intelligence and to meet the moment with both our reflexes and insight-intelligence. It sounds very complicated but in practice it is very easy, so easy in fact that it feels like Doing Nothing at all, yet another book on transforming consciousness, by Steven Harrison.
Innate intelligence is always “acting” for our well-being and the well-being of our relationship/environment. The reflex system, knowledge and its assumptions, often blocks and prevents our experiencing this deeper wisdom. Reflexes may be compared to a bully playing loud music on a quiet summer afternoon. The quiet sounds of nature, our nature, the wind in the trees, the birds, the sound of our own innate wisdom are pushed aside by our bully reflexes, insisting that the world conform to our or her agenda, or else. Suspending our agenda, inviting the unexpected, accepts and respects the need for reflexes and simultaneously looks deeper for emerging wisdom and intelligence, which is always new and creative, never “known.” Intelligence “acts” spontaneously, naturally without our having to “do” anything at all. By giving space for intelligence to express we discover that reflexes are only one of many possibilities. This opens the door to original or authentic play, as O. Fred Donaldson describes so well.
Deep in our nature is original play, which is far more fundamental than the games and rules we have invented. Original play is both an all-embracing vision of reality and a practice of kindness, which permeates all of one’s relationships. To play in this way is to be in touch and to be touched deeply by our authentic human nature and the natural world. Original play cultivates an ever-renewing sense of enchantment and engagement with the world. It develops calmness, awareness and a flexible ability to handle stress, surprise or challenges without aggression. This play develops radically different behaviors than those encouraged by the dominant contest culture. The response is deeper, more universal and authentic. When in this play the limitations of our cultural identity drop away, leaving the dynamic relationship of the two faces of God, exploring, learning together. Original play is truly an ecological intelligence. The sensitivity this play develops needs to be understood and integrated into all aspects of family, community and professional life. Discovering the intelligence of play opens once again the genius of childhood most of us lost long ago.
O. Fred Donaldson, Ph.D.
Essay on Original Play with Michael Mendizza
Responding Deeply & Completely to the child rather than mechanically or superficially resonates throughout the relationship. The deeper adult response challenges the child to respond in kind. New patterns and possibilities emerge that “act” in unexpected and creative ways. Playing with the new and novel becomes feedback and the source for the next insight, challenging and transforming both child and adult. The adult and child provide for each other the exact catalyst needed to transcend the limitations of their current patterns, habits, and reflexes. Each mentors the other in new and novel ways, and each is born again and again through the ever-changing play of their relationship. Is it always this new and creative? Certainly not. But the possibility for some new discovery exists each and every moment. That imminent possibility changes everything.
(More on Television & Computers)
Imagination is such an important issue. It demands some exploration of related issues such as language development, the use and abuse of television, clear and creative thinking, computers, higher learning and aggression.
Our previous principle, Responding Deeply & Completely, opens the door and invites creative intelligence to express in and through our relationships. This intelligence is ever-present, percolating beneath the surface of awareness. Get out of the way, suspend assumptions and agendas, quiet the mind, and there it is. David Bohm and the philosopher J. Krishnamurti called this vast innate wisdom insight. For those who have eyes, let them see.
Another form of creativity, one in which we actively participate, is imagination. Einstein knew that imagination was more important than knowledge. He understood that our greatest discoveries and most profound works of art are created and refined first in the inner world we call imagination. Far from being a waste of time, the daydreams and fantasies of childhood build the foundation for all higher learning. Yet, imagination is rarely developed. The model imperative holds true for imagination as it does for all other capacities. Provide a well-developed adult model and enriched, challenging environment and the child spontaneously and playfully responds. No external model or environmental challenge, no development.
The dictionary defines imagination as the ability to create images not present to the sensory system. The environmental challenges or stimuli that evoke these inner images are descriptive words, symbols, and metaphors. Of the many changes impacting childhood one of the most dramatic is early language environment. In 1991 Newsweek reported that the typical teen in 1950 B.T. (before television) had a spoken vocabulary of 25,000 different words. Today’s teens have vocabularies of 10,000 words, which implies a corresponding reduction in critical and creative thinking skills.
“Sagging Syntax, Sloppy Semantics, and Fuzzy Thinking” begins chapter five of Jane Healy’s wonderful book, Endangered Minds, Why Children Don’t Think, and What We Can Do About It. Healy describes how language skills, verbal and written, organize and define how we think. Rich and varied language skills translate into greater capacity to understand abstract concepts, perceive ratio and relationships, to think critically and creatively; all are byproducts of imagination.
Writing is the road test for language as a vehicle for thought. An alarming number of students coming off our linguistic assembly lines are failing it. “Very few of our students can write well,” states Archie E. Lapointe, executive director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. “Most students, majority and minority alike, are unable to write adequately except in response to the simplest of tasks.”
Well-reasoned and well-organized writing proceeds from a mind trained to use words analytically. No matter how good, how creative, or how worthy a student’s ideas, their effectiveness is constrained by the language in which they are wrapped... The verbal tools that clarify relationship in reading and writing do the same job in math, and studies of children with exceptional mathematical talents often reveal similarly high verbal skills.
Jane Healy, Ph.D.
The central theme of Healy’s book is that environment and culture, the model imperative again, affect both brain development and function. Supporting this is the pioneering research of Marion Diamond, professor of neuroanatomy at the University of California, Berkeley. Diamond says: “To those of us in the field, there is absolutely no doubt that culture changes brains, and there’s no doubt in my mind that children’s brains are changing.”
Healy describes how new “advanced” standardized tests for today’s ninth graders are significantly easier than what fourth graders were expected to read in 1964. The vast majority of young people are literate; few, however, can understand text above elementary school levels. Most are challenged when asked to draw inferences from basic texts, follow a sequence of ideas or articulate one’s own argument based on a sequence of facts presented. The National Assessment of Educational Progress estimates that only 5 percent of high school graduates can satisfactorily master traditional college-level materials. Society and the job market are growing increasingly abstract and complex while the capacity to deal with complexity and abstraction is diminishing. What is the cause and what can we do?
Despite incontrovertible evidence that children who read well come from homes where reading is a prominent part of life most parents do not read themselves. Eighty percent of the books in this country are read by about 10 percent of the people.
The proportion of readers in the United States is continuing to become smaller with a steady and significant decline in the number of book readers under twenty-one, according to Dr. Bernice Cullinan of New York University. She reports on one large group of “typical” fifth graders queried about the average time spent reading outside of school: 50 percent read for four minutes a day or less, 30 percent for two minutes per day or less, 10 percent read nothing. This same group of children watched an average of 130 minutes of television per day.
Yet, as Cullinan reminds us, children become good, insightful, analytic readers only by lots of practice with reading.
Our society is becoming increasingly aliterate, says Cullinan. An aliterate person is one who knows how to read but who doesn’t choose to read. These are the people who glance at the headlines of a newspaper and grab the TV schedule. They do not read books for pleasure, nor do they read extensively for information. We cite this example because it draws attention to three critical issues: 1. the relationship adult models have with written language, 2. the profound shift from the use of descriptive words to graphic images to communicate, which we see most dramatically in the shift from family conversation, storytelling, and the golden days of radio to television and computers, and 3. how these two influences, the model and the environment, conspire to affect brain development and behavior.
Jane Healy, Ph.D.
Descriptive words, symbols, and metaphors act as nutrients. They challenge and feed the developing brain, growing and expanding the capacity for imagination. Television and computer images, being concrete rather than abstract forms, are like junk food in this respect, empty calories that displace the nutrients needed for growth. The particular centers of the brain necessary for critical and creative thinking are not engaged while a person is viewing television and computer screens. A diet lacking abstract symbols and metaphors results in retarded growth of these brain centers. As with all development, the later stages are built upon and embedded in the formative stages.
The development of each brain center adds to the play of consciousness we call reality. Development, and therefore “reality,” for a child born deaf or blind will be quite different from that of a child who can hear or see. As each new capacity unfolds and develops, it affects the nature and quality of those which came before and all that will follow. Opportunities, possibilities, and the worldview for a literate person is profoundly different than for one who cannot read or write. The same is true for imagination. Content is not the issue. We are focusing on capacity and how the development of one capacity folds back and affects all other capacities, lifelong. The presence and development of imagination, or lack thereof, profoundly affects everything that follows, and descriptive language is the key.
Language development begins before birth. The critical period for the development of imagination is early, approximately age two to seven or eight. Most of the “childlike” qualities Ashley Montagu describes in Growing Young involve imagination; curiosity; playfulness; willingness to experiment; flexibility; humor; receptiveness to new ideas; eagerness to learn. None of these qualities are reflexive. None emanate solely from the sensory motor or emotional brain centers. The later, more abstract brain centers interpret the flow of sensory and emotional data provided by the earlier brain systems and assign names or word/symbols for the more important experiences or states. We then participate in the creative process by using these words/symbols to stimulate mental images. The creative play of these images results in the discovery of new patterns and possibilities that we then use to change our environment. The inner affects the outer, which affects the inner in an unending reciprocal, creative dynamic. Fail to develop imagination and this expansive creative cycle ends. We literally can’t imagine new forms and possibilities. We are stuck in a reflexive, mechanical, cause-and-effect world over which we have little control. Hope, the passionate vision of a new alternative, a better future, has no meaning whatsoever without imagination.
Of the range of capacities within a given species some individuals develop one set of capacities to a high degree, while others may develop very different abilities or skills. Elite athletes, for example, may run long distances with ease but be unable to balance their checkbooks. Poets may weave elaborate tapestries with words, but not be able to shoot a single hoop. As each capacity is developed, the internal image projected in consciousness by the senses and brain systems articulating that capacity change. We might say that the colors and intensity emanating from that capacity grow brighter, more acute and therefore play a more dominant role in perception. The range and variety of capacities are species-specific. The particular set of capacities each individual recognizes and develops is experience-dependent. It is in harmony with the model-environment.
Change the model, change the environment and the specific set of capacities developed changes with it, along with the internal image and one’s worldview, which shapes all of one’s relationships. And this reciprocal dynamic is going on every day, moment by moment, loping back, affecting our personal development as we affect the outer environment. Creator and created are locked in this mirroring, interdependent relationship.
For millions of years this environment-development, creator-created relationship unfolded, manifesting as greater and greater capacity for abstraction. Human beings evolved, discovered fire, invented tools, created symbols, words and languages to stand in the place of things real and imagined.Quickly these symbols began to compete with the external environment as the source of internal imagery. Stories were created to flood the developing brain/mind with internal images not present to the sensory system. Schools were formed to nurture and cultivate and develop this capacity to imagine. In the mid-twentieth century this evolutionary drive stumbled.
Some ten years after we began to systematically separate infants from mothers in hospitals, eliminating bonding and breaking down development of the limbic-heart dynamic, we introduced television. The major damage of television [and by implication computers] has little to do with content. Its damage is neurological, and it has, indeed, damaged us, perhaps beyond repair.
Television replaced storytelling in most homes and transformed the radio from storyteller to a music box. Television also replaced family conversation in general. With television on the scene, parents rarely played with children. All sat around the box, and even playing among siblings disappeared. Thus no capacity for play and its internal imaging developed. Nintendo cannot replace imaginative play.
Television floods the brain with a counterfeit of the response the brain is supposed to learn to make to the stimuli of words or music. As a result, much of the structural coupling between mind and environment is eliminated; few metaphoric images develop; few higher cortical areas of the brain are called into play; few, if any, symbolic structures develop. E=MC2 will be just marks on paper, for there will be no metaphoric ability to transfer those symbols to the neocortex for conceptualization, and subsequently, no development of its main purpose, symbolic conceptual systems.
Failing to develop imagery means having no imagination. This is far more serious than not being able to daydream. It means children who cannot “see” the inner image—what the mathematical symbol or the semantic words mean; nor the chemical formulae; nor the concept of civilization as we know it. They can’t comprehend the subtleties of our Constitution or Bill of Rights and are seriously (and rightly) bored by abstractions of this sort.
They can sense only what is immediately bombarding their physical system and are restless and ill at ease without such bombardment. Being sensory-deprived they initiate stimulus through constant movement or intense verbal interaction with each other, which is often mistaken for precocity but is actually a verbal hyperactivity filling the gaps of the habituated bombardments. [Which is to say, failure to develop imagination is a key factor in understanding our epidemic of attention-deficit disorders in young children.]
The average child in the United States sees six thousand hours of television by his or her fifth year, at which point, in the midst of what should be the zenith of their dream-like world of play, we put them in school, prevent bodily movement (most purposeful learning is sensory-motor at this age), and demand they handle highly abstract-symbolic systems (alphabets and numbers) for which most of them have no neural structures at all. Driven by nature to follow their models, they try and cannot. Their self-esteem collapses, and failure and guilt give rise to anger. Even after beginning school, children’s television time continues unabated. They spend more hours viewing television than attending school, and our national daily viewing time grows year by year.
By 1963 studies had shown a direct one-to-one correspondence between the content of television and behavior. Violence on television (and by implication on computers) produces violent behavior in young people. Everyone knows that. Once one has habituated to violence as a way of life, however, anything less is boring. There are sixteen acts of violence per hour of children’s programming, only eight per hour on adults’. By the time our children become teenagers, they have seen an estimated 18,000 violent murders on television, their primary criteria for what is “real.” Life is shown to be expendable and cheap, yet we condemn them for acting violently.
Our criticism of television and computers, especially for the early child, has to do with the way these technologies create counterfeit images for processes the developing brain is designed to create itself. The basic rule of development holds: no challenge from the model environment, no development of that capacity.
The essence of imagination is play and it is this “free-play” of the mind and body that make imagination so important. Many adults unfortunately are themselves play-deprived. They lack imagination and an open-ended playful response to life. There is the ‘right way’ to do just about everything, and if life doesn’t conform to the expected standard, well, you know what happens next: conflict, frustration and anger. Research found the same to be true of children. Children who developed imagination and play were less aggressive and violent than those who did not. Stuart Brown’s research with convicted felons showed a similar correlation between the absence of imagination and play and aggression.
Retaining our childlike capacities as we mature—curiosity, playfulness; willingness to experiment; flexibility; humor; receptiveness to new ideas and a lifelong eagerness to learn—all involve imagination. Each time we respond to a child or to the world with these qualities, we are developing these qualities. Turning off the television is a great way to begin developing imagination. For many this represents a major challenge, which drives home the point of how addicted we have become to counterfeit imagery. Reading aloud age-appropriate literature with children helps. Talking to children during meals, describing one’s own childhood experiences, inventing stories, planning/imagining a vacation, any use of descriptive language to create images, shared meaning and undreamed-of possibilities expand the field of imagination and all that it holds.
This moment has never been before. Do we meet it with the same old pattern or with the wonder, excitement, and growth we felt as a child? Each of our principles: being attentive to being (the model imperative), safe enough to play (protecting, belonging, the safe place), inviting the unexpected (suspending assumptions), taking our cues from the child (the art of listening and observing), responding deeply and completely (authentic feelings and needs), and imagining, create a “crack” in our habits of body and mind. With that crack we become, if only for a moment, less mechanical. As if stepping into some new, unknown territory, we recognize that energy is there. We are attentive, alert, curious. All our attention, and vast intelligence, is gathered, ready to meet, learn and be transformed by the moment, deeply and completely. And what strange creature do we find? A changing reflection of ourselves and of the entire species, the child or children we love, the future of humanity.
Like a mime dancing with his or her reflection, each move is embodied by the other and in that instant both are transformed, and the transformation changes the next moment, and the cycle is repeated, transformation after transformation, moment by moment, dancing. Learning is taking place with each new “crack” in our habits, with each new perception. That learning is embodied and expresses, reincarnates, now.
This renewing principle was beautifully described on page 34 [of Magical Parent - Magical Child] by David Bohm in a conversation with Rupert Sheldrake and Renee Weber. Bohm was describing quantum theory and the relationship between energy [mind] and matter. He used the analogy of a ballet and the music being played to illustrate how “meaning” organizes matter. In this case the meaning was the music and the dancers were matter.
Electrons in a super-conducting state [perhaps what we are calling the Zone or optimum learning relationship] for example, move in a regular, coordinated way so they don’t scatter. In an ordinary state, they are like a disorganized crowd of people. Now if you compare this to a ballet, you could say that in the super-conducting state, the wave function is like the score, which acts as a kind of information, and the dance is the meaning of the score…
The meaning of the whole score is such that it determines how many independent dances are going on and what they are. To make this ballet dance analogy better, let’s say that the wave function score is not fixed, but is a score, which depends on the initial configuration of the particles. The dance would vary according to the configurations of the dancers.
Dialogues with Scientists & Sages, by Renee Weber
When asked what he meant by the “wave-score” not being fixed, Bohm described how most often the conductor is reading sheets of music and that the dancers are moving in predetermined patterns. We might compare this to our normal modes of parenting, with its rewards and punishments. In Bohm’s renewing analogy the conductor is creating the music spontaneously by sensing and responding to the configuration of the dancers and their movements. The dancers inspire the conductor who embodies that inspiration and expresses it as a new musical score. This new music inspires the dancers to move in new ways, which transforms the conductor¾creator and created mirror one another in an unending dance of creative development. This renewing, transforming cycle encompasses all of our principles into a creative, flowing process. This principle lifts the experience and the adult-child relationship out of mechanical, predetermined patterns and opens the door to lifelong learning, curiosity, playfulness, willingness to experiment, flexibility, and humor. Paraphrasing and applying David Bohm’s essential description of science to parenting, we find that:
Parenting consists of thought and action, which arises in creative perception and is expressed through play. This play unfolds into provisional behavior, which moves outward into action and returns as fresh perception and new insight. This process leads to continuous adaptation by the adult and the child, which undergoes constant growth, transformation, and extension. Relating to and mentoring children, therefore, is not something rigid and fixed that accumulates indefinitely in a steady way, but is a continual process of change. When serious contradictions in the adult-child relationship are encountered, it is necessary to return to creative perception and free play, which transforms the relationship and leads to new insight. Parenting, coaching and educating apart from this renewing, creative cycle inevitably leads to conflict.
And it is this conflict, and the implicit resistance it implies, that prevents us from being in the Zone, that optimum learning relationship, all the days of our lives.
The Optimum Learning Relationship
Mentoring the future of humanity is a gift, a profound responsibility and a tremendous challenge. It demands our very best each moment. Nothing less will do. Accepting this challenge means that adults must learn and grow right along with their children¾easily said but difficult to do.
Understanding that play is the essence of true learning takes the sting out of this responsibility. Right and wrong, winning and failure have no place in true play. How could we fail as parents, as educators, and coaches if we are being fully present with children, if we are listening and responding deeply and completely, if we are curious, expecting the unexpected, learning from the moment and creating a new response based on what we just discovered?
When we learned to ride a bicycle, hit a baseball, to dance the tango, compute the circumference of a circle, drive a car, make love, build a house and a thousand other new things, did we not gather all our attention and energy to meet the challenge completely? The difference is that children are constantly changing and so are we. To respond appropriately we need a model that is as flexible as we are. With such a model mastery is not a fixed point. It is a never-ending journey, a process, a dance, moving.
Mastery is that mysterious process where that which is difficult or even impossible to do becomes easy and even pleasurable through practice. Mastery is learning and learning what we are designed to do, lifelong. Mastery is open-ended. It is a journey where every mile we go along the path, the destination becomes two miles further away. New possibilities keep opening and expanding every step along the way.
All of life is a learning environment, especially when we have children. What could be better for our selves, for our children and our society than to have the full development and realization of every individual be our basic aim? And to approach this possibility with our own children is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of all. It is the person who can really learn and change every day that wins at the game of life. Whether or not they’re winning a particular contest doesn’t matter at all, that person is winning all the time.
Educator, Author: Education & Ecstasy, Mastery,
This Life We are Given
David Bohm once remarked that if Einstein saw more than Newton it was because he stood on Newton’s shoulders. What better way for you and I to see far and wide, to develop our highest potential, than to hold our children as high as possible so we can see and explore the new world that they are creating? And play is the optimum state for this relationship to unfold.
Thanks for taking this journey with me.
What an amazing, miraculous gift.