Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ignatius and Metacognition - What it Means to an LOD Student

I'm looking forward to expanding my appreciation for the topic of mindfulness, metacognition and metacognitive and affective experiences overall as I continue to develop as an LOD/HRD/HRM practitioner. 
One of the greatest values of higher education is that we put ourselves in a context where independent learning activities are engaged in group and community areas of learning at the same time.  This is rather like an incubator or hothouse experience.  In the HRD world, this LOD program experience for me has been like a community of practice.  It doesn't work without mindfulness and you can absolutely tell that some of the contributions in our discussion boards throughout the program have had varying degrees of mindfulness.

As an old social constructionist in my adult education background, I strongly believe in context and how our social environment shapes us individually and collectively.  That being said, I want to squarely place our reflections on mindfulness in our Jesuit-sponsored higher educational setting and really take the opportunity to discuss the interplay between a Jesuit institution of higher learning and the topic of mindfulness.

As a post-Vatican II baby, I grew up fully capable of seeing the beneficial elements of all the world's religions (and please don't take any of my comments out of that context as you read them because I have a deep and abiding love of Buddhist thought and practice and have spent time in a Buddhist monastery on retreat).  Nevertheless, where we are and what we are up to in Future-Focused Leadership or Creative Leadership is entirely Ignatian at its most fundamental roots.  There is a Society of Jesus because Ignatius had a metacognitive experience that was personally transformational.  From that affective experience, he produced enough psychological capital to generate social capital for generations (and Saint Louis University is only one of the many by products of a metacognition that took place hundreds of years ago).  While I've never done the full 30-day Ignatian Exercises, I've had many smaller periods of the Exercises and I can tell you that within our Christian heritage there is a vast amount of material on contemplation and meditation (that along with our Buddhist companions make for a wealth of East and West dialogue about this topic overall).  Now, we are all in a larger global environment and a balance of both worldviews (assuming that East and West is comprehensive enough to serve as a mental placeholder) is an imperative.

I'd also like to suggest that the Spanish context of Ignatius' time was a hotbed for metacognitive and affective experiences which in addition to Ignatius we can add the names of John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila.  On the negative side of the spectrum this environment also produced the Inquisition and a host of non pro-social interactions as well.  I wonder if our own context is an equally compelling hot house for such experiences given the rise of out hyper-connectedness through the virtual world where we are interacting with thinking through "likes" and "shares" etc.  These likes and shares are the affective components of our metacognition.  It only takes a bit of critical self-reflection to watch what thoughts are shaping our feelings each and every day.  Further, as LOD practitioners we know that under the iceberg of daily life are the thoughts and feelings that serve to interpret every interaction that takes place through our senses every day.  Our world reflects to a larger degree our individual thoughts and feelings.  I think that the global and thought-leading businesses are the forerunners in this and that this is quite to the point that artificial boundaries between the sacred and the profane are part of our past and not our future.

To be here, now, and the experiences that accompany that self-perception is mindfulness and at the same time profoundly humbling.  So on one hand, CPS and the metacognition that supports its effectiveness is really just a version of the delivery of the Ignatian Exercises to an audience ill equipped to balance the demands of the secular and the sacred.

I envy those of you in the blended program and those of you with physical access to Saint Louis University.  I haven't visited the campus but I've watched every Biliken video and had the opportunity to visit many Jesuit schools in the past.  What I can tell you is that students there appear "happier" than on other campuses here in the United States including other Catholic campuses.  I'm curious if you share these insights and to what you attribute these differences?  The Jesuit model of mission which went global before companies were really companies is not particularly religious if your mind doesn't categorize it that way.  In fact, my alma mater, Nova Southeastern University, is one of the largest growing private universities, and although they don't know it, they are an example of the secular Jesuits because they are applying the same principles like student-centered design of curriculum and campus life.

Lastly, I just want to put to you all that our LOD program is personally and professionally transformational and in that it is 100% authentically JESUIT!

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