This week I had the privilege of working with a small Adelaide Hills school that wants to keep its ‘small is beautiful'(Schumacher) character but at the same time to grow itself organically and sustainably, building on the beauty of the natural environment (with heritage forest) and active parent community, developing curriculum and pedagogy in line with the values and strengths of the school community.
I have decided to use a combination of Lessem and Schieffer’s Four Worlds model (mentioned in this blog when I first began almost 2 years ago) and Angeles Arriens’ Four-fold Way (I mentioned her work here a couple of weeks ago) as a way to help facilitate this action research journey. I was writing then about the four archetypal roles : warrior, healer, teacher and visionary. I think I have had enough of late of being the warrior and find myself more drawn to the healer role right now (for self as well as others!).
For our first workshop with teachers we did began with Arrien’s preferential shapes test (Signs of Life; the five universal shapes and how to use them) I found that as soon as the teachers and leader began drawing the shapes the energy in the room changed as if we had begun a mindfulness exercise. People really engaged mindfully with the activity and we had some wonderful rich conversations, even in the second last week of school with report writing more than looming!
Naturally teachers appreciate an activity that is relaxing and centring after a day’s teaching…. but it is more than that as you will see. I will give the description here as you may like to try it as well. I did it yesterday afternoon in a cafe after I picked up Arrien’s book from the library before working with the teachers (always a good idea!) and found it to be quite a deep process while doing it and something that has stayed with me over the last 24 hours or so.
On a piece of paper, draw these five shapes: circle, square, triangle, equal armed cross and spiral in this order: Place your preferred shape to the extreme left and work towards the right so your least preferred shape is to the extreme right.
It was interesting for the educators to do this as a group. I drew up a chart so that we could see what each person and done and there were some uncanny similarities such as all but one of us having the square as number 4! Arrien says the activity can be used to work with individual as well as group development in this way.
When you have drawn your shapes you can read the descriptions below.
The Meanings of the Positions
where you think you are
the process that now has your attention
the part of yourself of which you are most aware
indicates your idea of the future
indicates your current source of inspiration
not the most accurate indicator of where you actually are
exhibits an inherent strength predominant in you right now
areas of your nature that are currently fluid, strong, and resourceful
reveals innate talents you are using to assist the growth occurring in # 3
most compliments you receive correspond to these qualities
where you are
most significant shape, shows your true current growth process
often represents a process that is unconscious or overlooked
indicates where your own gifts can be best used right now
can be the source of unlimited creativity and healing
points to past challenges, tests, and circumstances
motivated your current process of change
is motivating you into the core work to be done that is symbolized in # 3
describes situations that you may have resolved or moved beyond
can serve as a reminder of where you are in your current growth process
represents old, unfinished business
identifies a process you have outgrown, dislike, still resist, or are judging
associated with unresolved issues you now wish to put aside
not work to which you should attend in the present
The Meanings of the Five Shapes
Circle—Wholeness and the Experience of Unity
Position 1—indicates your desire to be independent and self-sufficient
Position 2—your strengths are self-reliance and resourcefulness
Position 3—natural creativity will flow out of achieving individuation
Position 4 —you have become responsible and self-reliant
Position 5 —may be resisting or denying the process of individuation
Cross—Process of Relationship and Integration
Position # 1—process of relationship is most important in your life
Position # 2—the share journey is currently an effortless process for you
Position # 3—relationship process is occurring deep within your nature
Position # 4—a past shared journey inspired you to value partnership
Position # 5—may want to ignore or dismiss the importance of relatedness
Spiral—Growth and Change
Position # 1—process of growth most important to you right now
Position # 2—easy for you to handle change, whether you know it or not
Position # 3—profoundly engaged in the process of change
Position # 4—were challenged in the past to make significant changes
Position # 5—unlikely to show interest in the process of growth and change
Triangle—Goals, Dreams, and Visions
Position # 1—process of envisioning seems most important to you right now
Position # 2—you carry the gift of vision naturally; create and obtain goals
Position # 3—process of envisioning is essential to your current development
Position # 4—inspired by past goals and visions, motivated in the present
Position # 5—may be resisting honoring your dreams and establishing goals
Square—Stability, Solidity, and Security
Position # 1—stability and authenticity inspire you right now
Position # 2—inherent strengths are responsibility, authenticity, honesty
Position # 3—expressing your authenticity is essential to you right now
Position # 4—past issues of responsibility and accountability motivate you
Position # 5—may be denying the need to be consistent and congruent
Applying the Insights
Tension always exists between the tendencies symbolized in Positions 1 and 5. This tension is sometimes experienced as a conflict. One example: If you have the spiral in Position 1 and the square in Position 5, you may consciously yearn for change (the spiral), but the part of you that is attached to stability and security (the square) may feel unwilling or unable to change.
The first and last positions define an internal struggle. Resolving the struggle means finding a middle ground. Look to Position 3, which often contains the key to personal integration and increased well-being. Whichever shape you have placed in Position 3 is the place of integration where you can synthesize your experience.
The shape in Position 5 stands for tendencies you wish to avoid and represents your current idea of wrongdoing. The shape in Position 1 symbolizes the tendencies that appeal to you at this time and that is your current idea of right-doing. Position 3 represents the field where these opposing forces can be released. It is the place of integration where you can transcend your conflicts.
I had the spiral (1) Cross (2) Circle (3) Square (4) and Triangle (5).
It was interesting as I definitely felt an inexplicable antipathy for the poor old triangle which began to make sense once I read up on it, something there I was resisting!
I chose the spiral as the warrior part of me likes change … however according to Arrien the first shape is only what we think we are, it’s the most surface part. Position 3 (for me the circle) is actually the one that is most significant at the present time, and is often under utilised. The circle holds promise of creativity, flow, inspiration and I can see now that I am moving into a phase where I am becoming more drawn to wholeness and a sense of unity and that this is where I need to be for a while. Position 2- to do with relationship and integration is a strength I can see that, I can see Position 4 relates to groundedness and responsibility that is important to me, and the triangle at Position 4 well perhaps I have been resisting something in terms of honouring heart-felt dreams and goals and getting a little bogged down in trying to make changes.. it seems much better to be honour the creative and visioning side of myself and be part of creating something new and fresh. All this came from doing the shape test!
I encourage you to try the activity, it’s another way to work with mindfulness and the mind somehow recedes as it should and lets a deeper process take over…. I would love to hear from any of you via the blog or email or in person or by phone as to your experience and insights from doing this activity. I would love to post some of your reflections on this blog anonymously of course so please email me (see link below) if you are happy for me to do this, and if you wish, give yourself a pseudonym, that in itself can be an interesting process!
On another but related note I wanted to let you all know that the inner world of teaching and learning mindfulness topic that was trialled at my university last year has been approved as a masters level post-graduate topic in both face to face and distance modes. It will be offered in semester 1 next year as an autumn intensive for those who can attend the three days. The rest is online for both groups. If you are interested have a look at this link
Mindfulness and the Inner world of Teaching and Learning It can be done as part of a Masters of Education which has different strands including Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing, Special Education, Leadership and Management and more and it is possible to do an extended coursework project as a possible pathway to a PhD.
If you have any questions or require further clarification please email me email@example.com . If it is an admin type question I will pass your query on to the right person.
I absolutely loved teaching the pilot version topic last year, there were some profound, joyous, humorous and scholarly moments! This year I will be also incorporating some of my findings from my US research and conference trip around mindfulness plus other work from this year…it is of course being refined as I go along…
What a busy time of year this can be, take care- there seem to have been too many accidents occurring in the last week for my liking…