All posts filed under: Empathic Intelligence In Practice

The Third Key: Systems Thinking

“The idea is to pay attention to the living world as if it were a spider’s web: when you touch one part, the whole web responds.”- Robin Wall Kimmerer, Interviewed by The Sun Magazine While many of us understand intellectually that we are, of course, part of an interconnected web, the dominant approach to teaching and learning focuses on objectifying and separating out parts and individuals in the ongoing effort to find what is core or essential. “Whereas the scientific method (summarised by Popper as the three Rs: reduction, repeatability and refutation) increases our knowledge and understanding by breaking things down into their constituent parts and exploring the properties of these parts, systems thinking explores the properties which exist once the parts have been combined into a whole.” From ReallyLearning.com, Briefing Paper One: Systems thinking The ReallyLearning.com article is an excellent introduction to systems thinking. As indicated by the quote, systems thinking provides something a purely analytical approach cannot: it allows us to discover the properties that arise from the relationship between the parts of …

The Second Key: The Felt Sense

When I learned mindfulness meditation, there was a word that one of my teachers used to describe the experience of witnessing the chattering activity going on in your brain: waterfall. I loved that they had a description for that moment when you discover the endless stream – or great rushing river – of thoughts and stories and judgments and worries and fantasies and hopes that passes through our minds! In addition to our thoughts, which we experience as the inner talking of our mind, there is also the physical experience that the body is having. Now, it should really come as no surprise to any of us that we are not simply walking, talking brains. We have entire bodies attached to us. These bodies are performing miraculous functions everyday, the kinds of things we learned about in biology class. Your body is an incredibly complex biological universe communicating and responding in relationship to the parts of itself and the external environment. Through meditation, I learned to become aware not just of our loud-mouthed brains, but …

The First Key: Motivation & Intention

When I was a high school teacher, I was very concerned with internal motivation: I wanted my students to be internally motivated to agree to the choices I was giving them! At the time, I didn’t see the irony. In fact, I saw myself as a progressive, compassionate teacher. A “cool” teacher. I placed my students’ interests first…as long as their interests fit with the choices I made for them, and could be measured according to the assessments I was forced to give. Our students aren’t blind to this deception. The student who appears to the teacher as unmotivated, disruptive, unable to focus? That one is saying, “I will not be coerced to want what you want.” And so, it is appropriate that the first key to unlocking your empathic intelligence takes this deception head on. For while the words “motivation and intention” appear rather benign and straight forward, they are actually subversive and revolutionary in the context of the dominant culture of learning and education. The question is not, “what are you being told …

Politics, Emotions and Intelligence

This afternoon, I was consoling my son who was crying after getting a jab in the eye, when I heard another parent say to their son, “there will be no crying on the playground today!” Years ago, as a freshly minted teenager in 1984, I remember the criticism voiced around dining room tables when Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as the Vice Presidential candidate by Walter Mondale: as a woman she was too emotional and unable to make the kind of reasoned decisions a man can. And here we are today, with Donald Trump as the leader in the Republican primaries, where many voice concerns like this one from the National Review: “Now is not the time to be voting for president based on emotion.” I have always been suspicious about the call for “reason” vs “emotion.” My suspicion lies in the fact “reason” seems to have more with a person’s ability to express their biases while remaining calm than it does with reason of the intellect or the heart. In this distortion, emotions are viewed …

Knowledge is power – and I’m not sharing it!

“…I feel like education is a way of keeping knowledge from the students. That it’s used to teach them how to be powerless, how to lose their power.” This past November, I was an organizer and presenter for the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference. I focused my presentation on the Expanded Knowing Project – my topic: “Education, Justice and Social-Change: Investigating Complex Systems with Constellations.” (A video interview discussing my presentation is below – scroll down if you’d like to see it) What I want to share here is an excerpt from the session: The distortion of “Knowledge is Power.” A comment about the workshop set-up.  After a brief silent sitting, participants were asked the question, “What is the purpose of education?” and invited to let their body respond (if that’s a foreign concept, here’s a short primer on the felt-sense.) As facilitator, I started the constellation with three representatives: Student, Mother and Father. The “Student” was a high-school student representing herself (serendipity brought her to the group!); the “Mother” was the student’s mother representing herself; and the “Father” was a participant representative. The …

From Meaningless to Meaning-Full: How I Used Body-Centered Inquiry to Understand the Life of Sacagawea.

(Most scholars pronounce her name, given to her by the Hidatsa tribe, with a hard g: Sah-KAH-gah-WEE-ah) A year ago, my young daughter and I signed up to see an all-Native production of Sacagawea, Bird Woman. Knowing little about her beyond a few basic facts and her image on the dollar coin, we decided to do a simple Body-Centered Inquiry in advance of the play. I placed three pieces of paper on the floor, one to represent Lewis, one to represent Clark, and one to represent Sacagawea. We took turns standing on each of them, and reporting what we noticed. I didn’t notice much when standing with either Lewis or Clark, but when I stood with Sacagawea, I felt a heaviness in my chest. It felt like deep grief. Using this body information, it became the lens through which we began our research: Why would Sacagawea feel grief? In most accounts, her story begins with the first and probably greatest source of her grief: her kidnapping away from her people, the Lemhi Shoshone people, by the rival …