Friday, November 15, 2013

The Inner Life: Self-Examination

Recently a student wrote these compelling words in a Case Study:

 The fact is that I could not control this thought that came into my mind, and that made me realize that this subconscious negative stigma of addiction is deeply ingrained in me, even when I can vocalize a standpoint that is contrary….I cannot change how I initially felt in the situation, but I can use those feelings to change how I act in the future.  (Lang, 2013, p. 4)

This student made a startling discovery.  Our biases, our prejudices, can go deep, so deep that they inhabit us beyond our conscious will, even when we “can vocalize a standpoint to the contrary.” (Lang, 2013, p. 4)  While this particular Case Study addresses bias against those with addictions, we can easily substitute negative stigmas of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, and the list goes on.   

Such encounters with the self can lead to the despair of “I’ll never be good enough”, or they can be opportunities to be real, to be transparent with one’s self and with the Holy.  Howard Thurman, in Meditations of the Heart, writes of the second possibility:

                      There is a great virtue in the cultivation of silence, and strength to be found in using it as a door to God.  Such a door opens within.  When I have quieted down, I must spend some time in self-examination in the Presence of God.  This is not facile admission of guilt for wrongs done or a too quick labeling of attitudes in negative terms.  But it does mean lifting up a part of one’s self and turning it over and over, viewing it from many angles and then holding it still as one waits for the movement of God’s spirit in judgment, in honesty and in understanding.   (Thurmond, 1981, p. 19)

              Silence – where do you find silence in your life?  In a Facebooked, Twittered, texted,
              e-mailed, Internetted, Instagrammed, flickred, cell phoned 24/7 culture, where do our
              students find silence?  Where do we find the silence to sit in self-examination with the
              Holy, so that we may feel “the movement of God’s spirit in judgment, in honesty and
              in understanding”?  (Thurmond, 1981, p. 19)    

             This student found that silence in engaging the case study methodology, in taking the
             experience out and looking at it “from many angles and holding it still as one waits…”
                    (Thurmond, 1981, p.19)
             I would love to hear from you.  How do you cultivate silence?  How do you encourage
             your students in the ways of silence? 

                    Trudy Hawkins Stringer
             Lang, L. (2013)  Subconscious Stigma.  Unpublished Case Study.

         Thurman, H.  (1981)  Meditations of the Heart.  Boston, MA:  Beacon Press

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