Friday, 4 April 2014

On 14:45 by Victoria Stanham in ,    No comments
Have you ever taken a lesson with a teacher (or session with a therapist) and, though you go through huge shifts during the lesson, you then find it difficult to translate those insights into your ‘real’ life?

It’s like your lesson belongs to one world, and your ‘real’ life to another… and they are so different, and you are so different in one and the other, that they appear to be different realities altogether… making communication between them all the more difficult.
A lesson is a ‘constructed’ situation with the aim of connecting you to certain knowledge. But the ‘real’ world isn’t constructed along the same lines; in it, it is you who has to activate the newly acquired perspective on your own. This isn’t always easy nor self-evident: what was obvious during the lesson might seem inaccessible or inapplicable in your ‘real’ life.
How is it that we can make this translation of knowledge and resources from one situation to the next?
There are 4 ways of relating to the process of learning new things. Distinguishing between them can help you generate and integrate changes. Each way serves a specific purpose, and facilitates the process in its own manner.
These 4 great teachers are:
1. Learning in an individual lesson (the guide)
2. Playing and experimenting in a group (your peers)
3. Rehearsing and practicing at home (you)
4. Real-life application (Life)
Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Individual lesson: The purpose of your lesson with a teacher or therapist is pushing the limits of what you know further into the unknown; i.e. learning new things. This is challenging in itself and may throw you into a panic at times. That is why it’s so important to choose your guide wisely. The more at ease and safe your feel in the learning situation, the faster you’ll make progress, the more you’ll learn, and the more involved and enthusiastic you’ll be about uncovering all your latent potential.
In each lesson you may look at concrete ways of translating the newly acquired knowledge to ‘real’ life situations. However, knowing the theory does not equate to being able to apply it. Sometimes the stimuli in your ‘real’ life are too strong and erratic for you to be able to act in the newly learned way. The easiest thing to do then is to fall back into your old, well-known, ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ ways. If this happens again and again, your process of transformation becomes arrested, and you, frustrated.
This is where the second way of relating to new material comes in handy.
2. The practice group: A practice group can be a formal (a study group or therapy group) or informal affair (a friend or partner who shares your interest). The purpose of being in a group is to practice the use of the tools and resources you learned in your individual lesson, but doing so in a safe context where the agreements are clear between participants. These practice moments are also ‘constructed’ situations, but they are nearer to what goes on in ‘real’ life because you have to relate to peers, respond to their stimuli, and manage your own reactions.
Sometimes practice groups are created specifically for the purpose of training in the use of certain tools (i.e. a study group). But this isn’t necessarily requisite. For example, if you are taking individual lessons to correct your postural faults and coordination, you might join a Pilates or Yoga group where you can practice the use of the tools you acquired in your individual lesson. The Pilates or Yoga groups wasn’t built specifically for that, but their structural characteristics are such that make them ideal places to train yourself in the use of your psychophysical re-coordinating tools.
3. Individual practice time: In the safety of your home, away from peeping eyes, you can practice and experiment with details (securing what was integrated and revealing what wasn’t). This practice time is analogous to a musicians solo practice time, when he/she takes the time to get to know his/her instrument, and himself/herself in relation to it.
Individual practice time is paramount for polishing off rough areas, to experiment with variations on a theme, to elaborate interesting questions for future experimentation with group and/or guide. Your time in your individual lesson with your teacher is going to be a lot more profitable if you have done your homework… we all know that from our school days… it’s what we tell our kids and students… and yet, do we follow our own advice?
4. The role of applying the knowledge in ‘real’ life: Finally you have to take the risk of trying out your theories in the world-out-there, in order to prove, disprove or amend them. However, you don’t need to do your first tests in the most stressful conditions you encounter in your daily life. Much like you do in the other 3 learning ways, you can start simple, safe and controlled, and progress onto more emotionally complex situations as you master each step.
For instance, if you are experimenting with a new way of reacting and relating to food, trying to eat more consciously, perhaps it’s not the best idea to start your experiment in the middle of a noisy family dinner or at a friend’s birthday party, when your main focus of attention is on other things. Start with going out on your own (or with your study-buddy) for a cup of coffee or tea, move on to consciously eating your packed-lunch at work while relatively undisturbed, and little by little add other dining situations when there are more stimuli to manage. Get the picture?
You won’t always have a guide or group readily available. Sometimes you have to, or prefer to, start by learning from a book, video, or blog. That way you also get a chance to study the material and decide if you really want to take the plunge into its serious practice and application. If you do, you’ll eventually want to go deeper, to really commit to change, and then a guide and group will become indispensable.
But remember that you always have your individual practice and your ‘real’ life experimentation available to you. Even when you do have a guide and group you are not excused from not taking the acquired knowledge and making it yours, embodying it. If you really mean to change, this is your responsibility.
Next week, we’ll look into some concrete ways of translating kinaesthetic knowledge from a lesson to daily living. I’ll start by sharing with you the practice and observation exercises I give my individual pupils. I invite you to try them out, play with them, ask me questions, and give me feedback on them.


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