Two friends were a regular visitor to a bar. They used to drop in by sun down and drink to their hearts content till the bar closed.
One day, the bartender, noticing that only one of them has come to the bar inquired about the other.
“It’s sad. He died last night”, said mournfully his surviving client.
“Oh! I am so sorry to hear this but the way you guys were drinking it had to happen sooner than later”, said the bartender, feigning sadness.
Quickly retorting in defense, his client said, “Well, it was not drinking that he died of. It was an accident. Last night he was at home drinking by himself. There was no power so he had lit a candle. Around mid-night when power came he wanted to blow out the candle. By then he had consumed a lot of alcohol which filled his breath as vapor. So, when he blew at the candle, instead of it getting extinguished, the flame caught his breath and burned him down.”
“Good lord! I am sure this would have taught you a lesson”, replied the bartender.
“Yeah, definitely. You always learn from others’ mistake and so have I”, said the client.
“So you will stop drinking now?” inquired the bartender.
The friend confidently replied, “No. I would continue to drink like we always have but will make sure that I do not blow at a burning candle when I am drunk. This is what I have learnt from my friend’s mistake.”
Such is the state of ‘learning’ today. Thanks to the proliferation of self-professed pundits of ‘learning’ and wide-spread dissemination of grossly inadequate understanding of its process in the media – social and otherwise- the meaning of this word has been sufficiently distorted to mean anything else but a process of human transformation and growth.
E-learning, m-learning ; on-the-job learning, classroom learning; formal learning, informal learning; learning from mistakes, learning from others … learning-on-taps, learning 2.0 … there is a plethora of jargon floating all around which at the best may be denoting some form of information exchange or transfer leading to some kind of cognitive understanding of a concept . Definitely not growth or transformation of any kind.
Isn’t learning by its very nature, transformational? Well, when I look at my practice as an enabler, I tend to agree that real learning by its very nature and definition needs to be transformational and growth inducing. In this context, the term Transformational Learning, is kind of a deliberate exaggeration to distinguish true learning from its above commoditized pseudo versions, which are any day more popular.
So, what then is Transformational Learning? How is it so different from what an individual get’s to experience more often than not?
Nature, by its very nature, is creative. And it’s process of creation is transformational – simultaneous destruction and creation of forms. The chrysalis and the butterfly, the seed and the sprout, the rain and the cloud – every moment there are countless transformational processes going on in Nature, each in perfect harmony with the other. And in this transformational process the five elements play the role of transformational enablers – the earth, the water, the sun, the air and the space.
This law of transformation applies to natures most advanced being too. Human beings. It is now proven beyond doubt that we are all born human to make manifest in us the glory of attaining the highest form of existence. And if you look behind, all of us as children have been led along this transformative journey as we learned to walk, talk and express – all by itself – enabled by the environment. It was working like well-oiled machinery till we became adults. Suddenly our own designs took over and we fell out of the rhythm of transformation. While on the one hand we resist letting go of our forms, to deform and reform, on the other hand we fantasize. Fairy tales like the Frog and the Prince and mythological stories are abounding with evidence of such fantasies. And all fantasies are trailers of possibilities. Apologetically resigned to his self-designed helplessness man chooses to shy away from the world of possibilities and take refuge in fantasies in waking and dreams in sleep. That’s the story of a seed. Oblivious of its possibilities of sprouting, it sleeps, it dreams. It fantasizes of making things happen in its world and yet remains unproductive, impotent in action.
Transformation is a shock. A wake-up call. It may be self induced as in heeding to the wake-up alarm or putting it to snooze only to be jolted into consciousness with suddenness – all a part of the natural design, as natural as a tsunami, earthquake or a recession.
And once awakened the learning begins. Like a child who surrenders to being held by his mother, mankind is then taken through a path of witnessing. A path the shows up all that is there and all that is not there but can be created. A path of choice making. A blissful journey of pain and wonder. A journey of abandoning and beholding. This process of learning is bed rocked in the faith of being a learner. That is a pre requisite of transformational learning: that I have not arrived, I shall never arrive and yet arrival is what I am seeking. This learning is also about challenging the contextual benchmarks which are nothing but limits of mediocrity, with love and compassion, or maybe a little bit of pity. For, transformational learning takes one to a new level of creation which completely nullifies all proven benchmarks and standards. The pain inherent in the process of transformational learning is not so much about what it endows but its more about what it takes away.
Yes, transformational learning is all about being able to say good bye with a smile to sub optimal compromises with life and embrace new benchmarks of creation and co-creation.
Are you ready to go through this transformation? Are you ready to learn?