Embodied, Spiritual, and Narrative Learning
The whole person is made up of mind, body and spirit. It’s a rarity that the body and spirit are taken into consideration when discussing about learning. The Western heritage has a lot to do with this since it defines learning as a mental process that takes place in the mind, but is that the only place it takes place. This chapter will bring us into the secular views of what the world debates in relation to learning body and spirit, it’ll cover somatic or embodied learning and the spirituality role in learning. Later we’ll take this to the Scriptures to analyze it using the true spiritual lens, the Holy Spirit’s lens.
Early theorist that studied the mind
Descartes – 17th century French philosopher who declared that “I – (my mind, by which I am what I am)” is entirely and truly distinct from my body and that “body, figure, extension, motion, and place are merely fictions of the mind” (Descartes, 1637)
18th century “Enlightenment” & “Cartesian” – The separation of mind and body was reinforced by this group. They believed that knowledge could be obtained through reason alone (roots of humanism, agnostics, deists and atheism). This movement was birthed after the Renaissance boom. At this same time the Mother Lodge in England and the Grand Orient in France paved way to the modern Masonry in the rest of the world, including the beginning stages of the Illuminati. (Schnobelen, Lucifer Dethroned, 1986-1993). As a result of this, thinking and learning was equated to mental processes with knowing through thinking or cognition.
Embodied or Somatic Learning
Learning is defined in this part of the book as “a change in a mental state, from one of ignorance, to one of knowledge…” p.190
Unfortunately Beckett & Moore classified learning from either the highest to lowest levels of thinking, to which the embodied classification is within the lowest level. In other words, the daily things we do and how we interact with our environment.
Michelson states this to be absurd since both mind (thinking) and body (kinesthetic/hands-on learning) must both be present. Example- traumas, accidents, first experiences to were bodily functions are affected and the human body reacts to an experience.
In reality Somatic learning is just ancient mediation but with a fancy title. If we are to find the latest definition of somatic or embodied learning, we would see the art of knowing how to unity your mind, soul and body in one. This we know is the same arts taught in Buddhism, Zen, Yoga and Tai Chi. So, can a Christian use mediation to unite their mind, soul and body? What does the Scriptures say about this? “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23, For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Galatians 5:17.
The word body can be tied to the word “FLESH” and although there are some experiences that are helpful in which we use our senses to learn, there are others that can be harmful when not disciplined. Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible says about FLESH:
What then is meant by the term “the flesh” (ἡ σὰρξ)? Perhaps most plainly it refers to that part of us that is alienated from God. It is the rebellious, unruly and obstinate part of our inner self that is operative all the time. It is that part of us that does not want to be told what to do. It is stubborn, refuses correction, and does not want to have a thing to do with God. It bristles at limits and rules. It recoils at anything that might cause me to be diminished or something less than the center of the universe. The flesh hates to be under authority or to have to yield to anything other than its own wishes and desires. The flesh often desires something simply because it is forbidden. The Protestants often call the flesh our “sin nature” which is not a bad term in summarizing what the flesh is. In Catholic tradition the flesh is where concupiscence sets up shop. Concupiscence refers to the string inclination to sin that is in us as a result of the wound of Original Sin. If you do not think that your flesh is strong, just try to pray for five minutes and watch how quickly your mind wants to think of anything but God. Just try to fast or be less selfish and watch how your flesh goes to war.
The flesh is in direct conflict with the spirit. “The spirit” here refers not to the Holy Spirit but to the human spirit. The (human) spirit is that part of us which is open to God, which desires him and is drawn to him. It is that part of us which is attracted by goodness, beauty and truth, which yearns for completion in God and to see His face. Without the spirit we would be totally turned in on ourselves and consumed by the flesh. Thankfully our spirit, assisted by the Holy Spirit draws us to desire what is best, what is upright, good and helpful.
Perhaps it is good that we look at just a few texts which reference “the flesh” and thus here in Lent learn more of the flesh and its ways. This will help us to be on our guard and to rebuke it by God’s grace and learn not to feed it. I make some comments in red with each quote.
1. The Flesh does not grasp spiritual teachings – [Jesus said] The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spiritand they are life. (John 6:63)
Having taught on the Eucharist, most of his listeners ridicule his teaching and will no longer take Jesus seriously. So Jesus indicates that their hostility to the teaching on the Eucharist is of the flesh. The flesh demands that everything be obvious to it on its own terms. The flesh demands to see physical proof for everything; demands that it be able to “see” using its own unregenerate power. And if it cannot see based on its own limited view, it simply rejects spiritual truth out of hand. In effect the flesh refuses to believe at all since what it really demands is something that will “force” it to accept something. Inexorable proof which faith demands takes things out of the realm of faith and trust. Faith is no longer necessary when something is absolutely proven and plainly visible to the eyes of flesh. The flesh simply refuses to believe and demands proof.
2. The flesh is not willing to depend on anyone or anything outside its own power or control – For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless….I [now] consider this rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ (Phil 3:3-9 selected)
The flesh wants to be in control rather than to have to trust in God. Hence it sets up its own observance, under its own control. And when it has met its own demands it declares itself to be righteous. Since the flesh hates being told what to do it takes God’s law and makes it “manageable” based on the flesh’s own terms. So, for example, if I am supposed to love, let me limit it to my family and countrymen but I am “allowed” to hate my enemy. But Jesus says, no, love your enemy. The flesh recoils at this for unless the law is manageable and within the power of the flesh to accomplish it, the Law cannot be controlled. The flesh trusts only in its own power. The Pharisees were “self-righteous” That is to say, they believed in a righteousness that they themselves brought about through their flesh power. But the Law and flesh cannot save. Only Jesus Christ can save. The flesh refuses this and wants to control the outcome based on its own power and terms.
3. The Flesh hates to be told what to do – For when we were controlled by the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. (Rom 7:5)
The disobedience and rebelliousness of the flesh roots us in sinful behavior and prideful attitudes. The prideful attitude of the flesh is even more dangerous than the sins that flow from the flesh since pride precludes instruction in holiness and possible repentance that lead to life. But the flesh does not like to be told what to do. Hence it rejects the testimony of the the Church, the scriptures and the conscience. Notice, according to the text, the very existence of God’s Law arouses the passions of the flesh. The fact that something is forbidden makes the flesh want it all the more! This strong inclination to sin is in the flesh and comes from pride and indignation at “being told what to do.” The flesh is refuses God’s Law and sets up its own rules. The flesh will not be told what to do.
4. Flesh is as flesh does – Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the spirit have their minds set on what the spirit desires. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:5-6)
The flesh is intent on things of this world, upon gratifying its own passions and desires. On account of the flesh we are concerned primarily with ourselves and seek to be at the center. The flesh is turned primarily inward. St Augustine describes the human person in the flesh as “curvatus in se” (turned in upon himself). But the spirit is that part of us that looks outward toward God and opens us the truth and holiness that God offers. Ultimately the flesh is focused on death for it is concerned with what is passing away: the body and the world. The human spirit is focused on life for it focuses on God who is life and light.
5. The Flesh is intrinsically hostile to God – The mindof the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:7-8)
The flesh is hostile to God because it is pridefully hostile to any one more important than itself. Further the flesh does not like being told what to do. Hence it despises authority or anyone who tries to tell it what to do. It cannot please God because it does not want to.
6. The Flesh abuses freedom – You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal 5:13)
The flesh turns God given freedom into licentiousness. Licentiousness is to demand freedom without limit. Since the flesh does not want to be told what to do it demands to be able to do what ever it wants. In effect the flesh says, “I will do what I want to do and I will decide if it is right or wrong.” This is licentiousness and it is an abuse of freedom. It results in indulgence and paradoxically leads to a slavery to the senses and the passions.
7. The Flesh Demands to be fed – So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Gal 5:16-17)
Within the human person is this deep conflict between the flesh and spirit. We must not be mistaken, the flesh is in us and it is strong. It has declared war on our spirit and on the Holy Spirit of God. When the spirit tries to obey the flesh resists and tries to sabotage the best aspirations of the spirit. We must be sober about this conflict and understand that this is why we do not do what we most know is right. The flesh has to die and the spirit come more alive. What you feed grows. If we feed the flesh it will grow. If we feed the spirit it will grow. What are you feeding? Are you sober about the power of the flesh and do you and I therefore feed our spirit well through God’s word and holy communion, through prayer and the healing power of confession. What are you feeding?
8. The Flesh fuels sin – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-210)
This catalogue of sins for Galatians 5 is not exhaustive but is representative of the offensive and obnoxious behavior that flows from the flesh. Be sober about the flesh, it produces ugly children.
So here is a portrait of “the flesh.” It is ugly. You may say I have exaggerated, that the flesh is not really this bad. Well I am not, just buy a newspaper and see what the flesh is up to. You may, by God’s grace, have seen a diminishment in the power of the flesh in your life. That is ultimately what God can and will do for us. He will put the flesh to death in us and bring alive our spirit by the power of his Holy Spirit. But step one is to appreciate what the flesh is and understand its moves. Step two is to bring this understanding to God through repentance. Step three is, by God’s grace, to stop feeding the flesh and start feeding the spirit on prayer, scripture, Church teaching and Holy Communion. Step four is to repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of our lives. God by his grace will cause the flesh to die and the spirit to live by his grace at work in us through Jesus Christ.
So basically somatic learning or embodied learning teaches us to use our body while the Scriptures clearly indicates there are certain fleshly (body) desires we cannot give in to. Therefore, real Christ followers should not be participating in any activity that encourages the matter of mind and body being one, that encourages ancient cult practices like Yoga or Zen type meditation, or even any learning method that includes nakedness as a form of sensory art.
Rejection of the Body
Goldenberg, Pyszczynski, Greenberg, and Solomon (2000) – created a hypothesis that the body is problematic because it carries a constant reminder of the inevitability of death. They claim that we are animals with a deep rooted instinct for self-preservation. Their message indicates that the further the flight from the fact we must include our bodies in the learning process because if not “our flight from our physical nature causes us to lose a bit of what it means to be human” p.191
Here lay a paradigm: “A mindless person is considered to be brutal yet a person too logical is considered to be less human.” Analysis this statement…what is the correct path?
Reclaiming the Body in Learning
This type of learning is linked to experiential learning. Somatic knowing which is spiritual knowing is connected to adult learning through meaning-making experiences. The Arts are just as important as Math because it targets areas of experiential learning that could not be accomplished otherwise, for example, dancing. Physical contact with a partner, interaction within a sports match, meaningful and passionate feeling, and adrenaline rush and fast passed thinking for coordination. These aren’t possible if we separate the learning process from the body.
Another proven fact is that a newborn die faster if ill when they receive no kind of human touch or interaction. Touch meets a baby’s needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or baby wearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children. (www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php#sthash.ZE9RihFG.dpuf)
Kinesthetic, sensory, affective, and spiritual all remain very much in tune with the body. Movement or action can serve to motivate lessons on discipline, diligence, dealing with stress or problem solving. We also can see that affective learning involves strong emotion. (Dirkx, 2001) Science connects our nervous system to the outer parts of our body (our environment) and tell us that emotions are within neural networks that involve reason and help recall memories making the experience a meaningful one. (Hill, 2001/ Mulvihill, 2003)
Remember that there is a reasonable amount of learning that can be done using our bodies. Where it gets complicated is when your bodily desires give in to sin in the name of learning.
Spirituality and Learning
The example given is one of a person’s experiences in a Buddhist temple as he stayed overnight. She had some anxiety about turning 60 yet at the end of the experience, the anxiety was gone. The book claims that the person’s encounter was a spiritual experience that helped her coupe with her own aging.
Now, in the scriptures, within the books of the Pentateuch, we see Moses’ life and what he had experienced in Egypt being raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter, he knew of the supernatural and spiritual effects of their customs and rituals. Therefore, God showed him that His power over Egypt’s was greater by sending the plagues. Therefore we can determine that spiritual learning exists, but what we must be careful with is on which side you are dealing with. God’s power and peace is greater than any counterfeit the enemy may possess, we just have to help people understand that the only one that can give a true supernatural experience is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
On p. 199 it talks about how popular culture vehicles of movies, books, television shows and magazine articles are reflecting this kind of interest. Developmental psychologist Carl Jung asserted that as adults move into mid-life and beyond there is an inward turning to contemplate the meaning of life and spiritual aspects of oneself. Hold-on! Carl Jung? The Carl Jung is proven to have indoctrinated our pop cultural minds during this time. Take a look at where Carl Jung is also quoted.
Retrieved from: Interview with an Ex-vampire series summary, page 24, on 06/16/2014
Wrapping this section up, we see that the topic of spirituality gains interest in the public eyes and everything from Yoga to Zen to emotional intelligence starts to become seen in books, magazines and articles. So much so; within the 1960s-1970s shows on paranormal and supernatural powers started becoming famous. Be Witched, Isis, Dark Shadows, The Phoenix, were examples of supernatural cult shows that enticed you into the “spirituality” genre of that time.
Defining Spirituality Debate
p200 – “religion is an organized community of faith that has written doctrine and codes of regulatory behavior. Spirituality, however, is more personal belief and experience of a divine spirit or higher purpose, about how we construct meaning and what we individually and communally experience and attend to honor as the sacred in our lives…”
Taken from p 201, discuss this definition and what you agree/disagree on in relation to defining spirituality. Is spirituality a synonym to faith? Are they different? Can they work together? Is either one a false concept of truth?
Narratives are stories which is the oldest and most common way or form of sense making. Folk stories, parables, narratives all boil down to someone communicating an idea of ordinary circumstances in a common way to all people, using common/daily things.
- Cultural – those that define the social-cultural milieu in which we live (myths)
- Familiar – embrace certain values and beliefs, customs, roles and rituals
- individual- how we story our own lives
- Organizational – express and create the lore of the organization as in cultures and families
Forms can be storytelling, storying the curriculum, and autobiographies. They can be real or fiction, regardless which they are, they are to provide a moral in the end. p 209
The most commonly used as a daily method is autobiographical writing or what is also known as journaling. Diaries help manage emotions, manage time by preserving the past, or condense past with the present. This is called the “self in the mirror effect”. Journaling whether on your own life or about what you have learned is a powerful tool for adult learning, especially is the learner is asked to reflect on the day’s events and activities.
- Articulating connections between new and existing knowledge improves learning
- Writing about learning is a way of demonstrating what has been learned.
- Journal writing accentuates favorable learning conditions, it demands time and space for reflection, encourages independent thought and ownership, enables expression of feeling and provides a place to work with ill-structured problems.
- Reflection encourages deep rather than surface learning… p 212