Author Archives: Jennifer K Miles

About Jennifer K Miles

I am an educator, researcher and writer, passionate about storytelling and its power to change perspectives of self. Through undertaking the journey of my own transformative learning, I now work with adults to support them in drawing forth stories of the strength and potential gained in their lives, as they move towards the creation of their stories as yet untold. My three beautiful adult boys are the most precious part of my story, and continue to walk with and support me in undertaking my PhD research about storytelling and the learning of our lives. I write about story and transformative learning ... the circumstances of our lives and the stories remembered; influences on the construction of our self-identities - positive and negative; critiquing the assumptions and limitations we have come to accept about ourselves, our potential, and our place in life; daring to imagine a story untold.

Love and blessings to all

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Good morning all my lovelies. The day dawns quietly here on the Mornington Peninsula, and I am mindful of my family and friends near and far across the seas.  On this day that celebrates new life and hope, I send out to each of you my love and gratitude for the many gifts you bring to my life. 

Some of us see each other daily, and for many of us, the experience of life keep us physically apart. For some this season heightens awareness of painful transitions in life, and for those who are experiencing such challenging times, please know that my love is with you, and that you are in my heart. 

However (whether or not) you choose to honour and celebrate this season, my blessings to you and yours, and my wish that you will find peace, joy and contentment in each moment for life as it is. 

Jenni xox

Pondering the rhythms and rhymes of life

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Mountain road sunset.jpegI am in the midst of bringing my thesis to life… drawing together and making sense of the collage of sometimes disparate discoveries and ruminations on theorising and practicing education. I am most interested in identifying the conditions that foster transformed perspectives on life, living and learning, in this case within the learning spaces of teacher professional development in Vocational Education and Training (VET).

I have been fortunate to find myself supported by a wise coach (and dear friend) who is helping me navigate the ‘road home’ for my thesis. We have been exploring the key values that underpin this journey to completion, and have both been intrigued by my resistances to certain terms… ‘structure’ and ‘discipline’ to name two. We are exploring the origins of my seemingly irrational response to their inclusion in my positive language bank, and considering ways I might reframe my perception of their value.

As I ponder my responses, I have this morning come across intriguing reflections from Michel Alhadeff-Jones, a fellow member of the international transformative learning community with whom I connect. In a recent blog post, Michel explores the time-related tensions that exist in our fast-paced world, most particularly related to the outcomes-driven world of education. In his article he reflects on the inclusion of Twitter and other social media platforms in our academic and personal lives, and the dichotomous impact they bring to bear… the delights of opening to new ways of seeing and engaging with the world, against the tensions and intrusions into the natural rhythms and rhymes of self:

I am experiencing mixed feelings that seem to be quite common nowadays: the excitement of discovering new people (but not necessary new ideas) and the depressing feeling that keeping up with the pace of social media runs against other rhythms of my life (e.g., the pace of family, intellectual and working lives) … to try to keep this tension alive and to question the deeper meanings it carries. On one hand, the need for novelty, fresh insights, connections and the excitement of instantaneous connections; on the other hand, the need to consolidate what is already there, to preserve oneself, and to embrace the duration of long term perspective and lifelong development.’

The problem is not so much about choosing between one or the other. The issue would be rather to learn how to regulate between openness and closure, instantaneity and duration, excitement and boredom, etc. Those are interesting “motifs de dualité” (Bachelard, 1950) that are constitutive of the everyday rhythms of our lives (sometimes we feel the need to be connected or stimulated, other times we prefer to remain on our own or quiet).

Alhadeff-Jones 2017

Michel’s rich musings have struck a chord for me related to the broader concept of creating honouring spaces for learning… a key inclusion in my PhD thesis… that connects with notions of time explored previously in my Masters:

Just as Rogers (1961) ponders the process of enabling and establishing a relationship that provides the groundwork in which the individual can cultivate their personal growth, the aim of my study was to examine the ways in which undertaking the quietly reflective process of telling the stories of one’s life might foster future growth and productivity. These same analogies relating to the idea of cultivation can be seen in M. Scott Peck’s conceptualisation of education:

“Education is derived from the Latin ‘educare’, literally translated as ‘to bring out of’ or ‘to lead forth.’ Therefore when we educate people, if we use the word seriously, we do not stuff something new into their minds; rather we lead this something out of them; we bring it forth from the unconscious into their awareness. They were the possessors of the knowledge all along.” (Peck, 1978)

To illustrate how this ‘something’ might be enabled to be led forth from our learners, I will return to the notion … of providing the ‘space’ for this process to unfold, and link it the Socratic notion of the educator as midwife. In supporting the ‘birth’ of this ‘something’ that lies within each of our learners, we also need to consider the quality of time required for them to inhabit the ‘space’ most effectively, as creating space for something doesn’t necessarily mean it will emerge. Rämo explores the Greek bifurcation of the concept of time, as it relates to the notions of chronos and kairos, (Ramo, 1999). He highlights that where chronos refers to ‘the concept of time as change, measure, and serial order’, the quantifiable, measurable aspects of passing time according to the clock in a neutral, absolute sense, the kairos notion of time relates to the ‘right or opportune time to do something’. He gives as an example a farmer’s ‘kairic’ or intuitive sense of the right moment to sow and harvest, adding that it is tied to the self-determination of the individual. Smith (1969) identifies three aspects present within the concept of kairos – the right time, a time of tension that calls for a decision, and an opportunity to accomplish some purpose. Jaques (1982) and philosopher Ramírez (1995) also stress kairos as episodes of intentions and goals, while Hammond (2007) proposes that in Hellenistic Greece, kairos denoted a time in which something could happen. He proposes a fitting or opportune time – a ‘season’, a time for ‘something’. Aristotle (cited in Ramos (1999, p312)) suggests ‘What happens at the right time (Kairos – season) is good’ and the Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson, Weiner, & Press., 1989), defines Kairos as ‘Fullness of time, the propitious moment for the performance of an action or the coming into being of a new state.’ (Miles, 2010)

So interestingly, as I contemplate these resistances to ‘structure’ and ‘discipline’, I find myself returning to the roots of my original inquiry, commenced over a decade ago. Whether I consider the tensions inherent in deciding whether to be present and active in social media as an academic; the process of supporting my learners as they unpack and critique their uncontested assumptions, or the impact of the structure and discipline required to be productive and successful in my goal of completing my thesis… I have deepest knowing that fertile space must always be available for the dreaming and emergence of creativity, self-expression and previously unimagined possibilities. Fertile space inhabited by Kairos time, where ‘the coming into being of a new state’ is able to unfold.

I am reminded of Leunig’s eloquent musings:

Let it go,
Let it out,
Let it all unravel,
Let it free
And it will be
A path on which to travel.

Leunig (2017)

Perhaps it lies somewhere on the road between these…that one might ‘structure’ and be ‘disciplined’ in creating and inhabiting these fertile oases in the midst of an otherwise organised space. It is certainly something worthy of deep reflection… in Kairos time…

References

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017a). Time and the rhythms of emancipatory education. Rethinking the temporal complexity of self and society. London: Routledge.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017b). Twitter and the experience of temporal neurosis. Retrieved from http://alhadeffjones.com/blog-autoethnography-of-a-rhythmanalyst/

Hammond, J. (2007). Living on and off the clock: Some thoughts on time management. Retrieved from www.smcm.edu/rivergazette/_assets/PDF/may07/may07/reeveschair.pdf

Jaques, E. (1982). The form of time. New York: Crane, Russak.

Joss, R. (2007). It’s not about you. Retrieved from http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/joss_you.html

Leunig, M. (2017) Let it go. Retrieved from http://www.leunig.com.au/works/poems

Miles, J. K. 2010 Restor(y)ing lives: Autobiographical reflection and perspective transformation in adults returning to study. (Master’s thesis) Monash University. Clayton.

Peck, S. M. (1978). The road less travelled. New York: Touchstone.

Ramo, H. (1999). An Aristotelian Human Time-Space Manifold: From Chronochora to Kairotopos. Time & Society, 8(2-3), 309-328.

Ramírez, J. L. (1995). Skapande Mening: En begreppsgenealogisk undersökning om rationalitet, vetenskap och planering [Creative Meaning: A Contribution to a Human-Scientific Theory of Action]. Stockholm: NORDPLAN.

Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person; a therapist’s view of psychotherapy. New York: University of Chicago Press.

Simpson, J. A., Weiner, E. S. C. (1989). The Oxford English dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.

Smith, J. E. (1969). Time, times and the ‘right time’. The Monist, 53(1), 1-13.

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Finding meaning and making sense of the everyday

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I’m into the seventh week of my family’s annual beachside holiday on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. Every year we come down to immerse ourselves in the soothing, natural delights offered by seaside living. Endless, changing vistas of magnificent skies and calming seas provide soul-healing space for us all.

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Traditionally, in previous years I have luxuriated in a daily early-morning swim in these divine waters to reconnect myself to nature, however this year has found me struggling to relinquish the warmth provided by my bed in favour of the invigorating seas.

I am also here in this peaceful place to bring my PhD thesis to its conclusion. I have managed to set aside a significant time period to achieve this, and have found myself more focused on paying greater attention to the need to sit down and commit to my writing. Even for this though, I have on many occasions curled up on my bed and allowed myself the luxury of immersion in the inner world of my thoughts.

Today is different. As I awoke to the sound of the seas lapping on the shore, I checked my emails to find this commentary from Heather Plett. Just as I did when reading  her article ‘Waking up is hard to do‘ (see also the link within this to ‘Holding space’), in ‘Trauma and Trump’ I found incredibly powerful words that connected deeply and provided me with a sense of profound personal meaning related to my response to Trump, and to others who have behaved towards me in ways that are cruel, dismissive and lacking in emotional intelligence.

Heather speaks, amongst many other things, about the somatic response of trauma and grief we experience and the ways our bodies unconsciously react to deeply disorienting situations.

Her words stirred me intensely, and I suddenly found myself longing to step into the comfort of the sea, to feel her soothing balm on my skin, to luxuriate in her embrace. So while most of my fellow seaside companions were still slumbering, I returned to the sea for my early morning swim.

I have much sense still to make of this, but it has affirmed, most significantly at this point, the emotional and physical connections we have… across our own times and across generations… and the ways in which these past experiences inform our present realities.

In response to the cognitive understanding of my past emotional and physical reactions, my body yearned to reclaim its power, to counter the unconsciously expressed trauma and grief, experienced through an act of reconnecting with healing rituals. It also reminded me that we are always in a state of becoming… we are always learning and unlearning our ways of being in the world.

Heather’s words spoke to me at a very deep level and uncovered personal revelations. Her may not connect with you, but I encourage to have a read to see if her thoughts stir anything for you.

I wish you a magnificent day ahead…

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