what is kindness?

I have returned from the Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference where I had many wonderful experiences, including a conversation with Kathryn Greenhill of Curtin University about kindness and libraries (one of Kathryn’s research interests). It was so exciting to meet and talk with someone with similar interests, and I can’t wait to read Kathryn’s research. For now though I want to gather together all the thoughts and opinions about kindness that I wasn’t even aware that I had before our conversation and give them some shape. What that might look like in a library is to come!

So, for me, kindness is,

Kindness is an expression of love, it is love in action. The love in action is love for me and for you.

Kindness is a cyclical process with distinctive ‘phases’ (this bit totally informed by nonviolent communication):

  • You notice that I have an unmet need – maybe you hear me tell you directly; maybe you sense something is amiss.
  • You communicate with me to clarify my need.
  • You consider whether assisting me to meet my needs might satisfy a need of your own.
  • If you decide to go ahead, we negotiate and commit to some action that will meet our needs.
  • We are both rewarded. Needs are met — perhaps not the original need you noticed, perhaps the need might be simple recognition, acknowledgement, or to matter to someone. Perhaps we start all over again…

Interruption: But what is a need?

A need is a value we hold dear in a particular moment. Connection, respect, safety, fun, self-expression – there are hundreds of needs. A nice list is available from the Centre for Nonviolent Communication

Kindness is characterised by particular needs, including

  • Love and respect for self and other. We agree on an action – it is not decided by one person and imposed on another.
  • Curiosity. You are genuinely curious to hear what it is that I am needing. You are willing to listen.
  • Vulnerability. Kindness is risky. You and I may need to take part in one or more open and honest conversations. We might even discuss feelings. We might take actions we may not usually take. Sometimes I will have to confront and let go of some preconceived ideas about you. This may be painful.
  • Mutuality. Everyone gains something: an opportunity to contribute perhaps.

Kindness is effortful, involving work and growth. I am actively learning about you and me, about what it means to be human, to be connected to another.

Kindness is a wellspring. Because all involved benefit from the kind action, it regenerates itself. Kindness is thus root, trunk, leaf, and seed.

Kindness is a spiritual practice: a way of observing the world around me and appreciating the interconnectedness of all things, of all things including me.

Kindness is itself a human need.

Kindness might also be:

  • “I’m just doing my job.” Yes, my job is what I get paid to do, but if my actions can be mapped to the descriptions above it is kindness.
  • “I’m just doing what anyone else would have done in the circumstance.” Yes, and if it maps to the description above it is kindness

Finally, kindness might look like but is not:

  • Actions motivated by sympathy, pity, guilt
  • Actions born of power or privilege – charity that imposes a gift upon another, something I don’t need plus an expectation of gratitude
  • Kind people/unkind people, just moments where we any person is or is not inspired by their own need to connect, contribute, to express kindness.

What did I miss? Is there something in particular that did or did not resonate for you? All comments appreciated 🙂

Making connections at a library conference

Excited again.

Tomorrow I’m off to APLIC2018 —  my first library conference! There will be many things to see and do, but I’m going to focus on workshops and presentations about building engagement and collaborating with my clients to improve library services, design new ones, and evaluate whether these services are effective.

I’m also hoping to meet other librarians interested in caring, kindness, mindfulness and similar topics.

Making a difference, here I come!

A banded snail in close up. The snail appears to be looking right at the camera.

Banded snail (Cepea nemoralis). Andy MurraySome rights reserved. Flickr.

 

 

Can an online course facilitate a transpersonal experience?

I am excited.

I used to think no way, there is no way online learning environments can allow the same quality of interaction as face-to-face classrooms. It isn’t possible and I’m not going to try.

Of course this is not true, It’s just I had to learn some stuff.

I had to find a teaching philosophy that encouraged me to communicate authentically with students and invite them to do the same (I’m practicing with Watson’s Caring Science at the moment). And I had to learn how to use some online conferencing software that facilitates active learning in groups: allowing students to talk, message and share their screens with each other (zoom is good, I’m guessing there are others).

And my teaching got better and the students learned more and enjoyed the experience too.

But just now I had a transpersonal experience as an online learner — and in an asynchronous environment too. I posted on a MOOC discussion board that I was feeling a bit vulnerable (yes, my word of the week) about all the caring stuff I am getting myself into and I got this response from Linda:

“I agree, Rowena, that that can feel a vulnerable place but if you think of vulnerability as being ‘without a shell’, then it helps to understand that it’s easier for new ideas to penetrate when we aren’t wearing our ‘shells’ – and that makes for a more equal relationship between student and teacher” (1).

Linda is another student in the class. She has no inkling as to my snail thing. She just hit upon the perfect metaphor for me though. And she extended my idea – I hadn’t thought about how removing my shell makes me more open to new ideas.  And when I read Linda’s words I felt so excited, just like I would in a face-to-face classroom. I have expanded.

And see: this whole interaction supports Linda’s words! I am excited again!

I’m even thinking that in a face-to-face classroom, Linda and I may not have had this interaction… Linda may live across the world from me. And perhaps a face-to-face classroom may not have provided us with the time to think and compose a thoughtful response. Or maybe I would not have spoken up in a classroom in the first place.

And now I am wondering: Is it possible that an online learning environment can provide not just equivalent transpersonal caring spaces, but unique or even expanded ones?

If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.

photo of a slug aliding across a reflective surface. The slug is grey on top, becoming more salmon coloured at the bottom. It is a beautiful photo.
Slug. Wilfbuck. Some rights reserved. Flickr

Source

  1. Welch, Linda (17 May, 2018). [Reply to comment on theories of learning]. Retrieved from Futurelearn Course: Introduction to teaching and Learning in Higher Education Website. Linda kindly gave me permission to reproduce her comment here.

Watson’s 10 ‘Caritas’ & Caritas 1 in the library

This snail has a gorgeous brown and white pattern on its shell. It is photographed from the front but is turning to look to the left.
Crackers93. Snail. Some rights reserved. (Flickr).

Jean Watson is a nurse educator, creator of the transpersonal caring science philosophy and founder of the Watson Caring Science Institute. Central to Watson’s caring science are the Caritas: ten guidelines for the creation and maintenance of authentic, caring healing and learning environments (1).

I would love to live and work in such an environment! And so I reflect on the first Caritas:

Sustaining humanistic-altruistic values by practice of loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity with self/others (2).

I see three dimensions to this Caritas. The first dimension I see talks to values: this Caritas asks us to value each *human life we encounter for its own sake: life and individual lives are intrinsically precious. Intrinsically precious: before and beyond religion or science, life is precious because it is precious.

The second dimension of this Caritas suggests that it is possible to lose touch with this value — that it is necessary to sustain it. And ain’t that the truth! Reading the Caritas on my verandah at 6am on a Saturday morning with the weekend ahead of me and the birds singing in the garden, the preciousness and beauty of life is obvious. Helping a client find what they need for their assignment and sharing that aha! moment with them: yes, it’s there too. But I might find myself in a different situation: feeling overwhelmed by another phone call while I am already trying to answer one query, and have a last look at the reading I was supposed to do before a meeting in ten minutes. The preciousness of life is not so obvious to me in these moments.

The third dimension of the Caritas suggests we might sustain the value of life (or perhaps consciously reconnect to it) by practicing loving-kindness, and compassion, remaining calm and composed, first with self and also with others.

First with self: well, this is “my one wild and precious life” (3). Can I be kind to myself first? What would that look like? Would it look like an interruption to my habit of saying yes, sure, I will get that to you in 5 minutes. Can I instead breathe and look at my schedule and say Just a moment, I will be able to get to that this afternoon/tomorrow/when I see you on Wednesday. Would it sometimes even look like muting the phone or turning off email for a few minutes to give myself some time to do that reading/thinking/creating? It feels good to just imagine that. And I can also imagine a flow-on: being able to be fully present in conversations rather than being distracted by the things I need to get to right now, or even an hour ago. And being able to give a thoughtful, considered response that draws on all of me, not just the autopilot.

Maybe this is a good week for Cartitas 1. 🙂

*human life, or maybe all life and lives! trees, animals, rivers, the planet, the solar system, the sun, all of it.

 photo credit

Crackers93. Snail. Some rights reserved. (Flickr).

other sources

  1. Sitzman, K., & Watson, J. (2016). Watson’s caring in the digital world: A guide for caring when interacting, teaching, and learning in cyberspace. New York, NY: Springer.
  2. Watson, J. (n.d.). 10 Caritas Processes. Retrieved from https://www.watsoncaringscience.org/jean-bio/caring-science-theory/10-caritas-processes/
  3. Oliver, M. The summer day [poem]. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html

 

vulnerability

This is a close-up phtograph of a slug in a field of poppies. The slug is reaching from one poppy stalk to a flower on another stalk. Theorange poppy the slug reached toward is the brightest object in the photo.
Slug. Some rights reserved by Joi (Flickr).

I’ve gotten stuck. One post into my re-imagining myself as metta-librarian: an academic librarian exploring the transpersonal, I find myself unable to press publish on my latest post. The truth is I’m scared. I’m scared people will say oh my god, what right does she have to talk about that stuff, she doesn’t own that, she doesn’t have her act together, she hasn’t been mindful once and really sometimes she is a bit of a bitch!

At least that’s what I tell myself.

So, I gingerly poked my fear with a stick, I turned it upside down to see what was underneath. And of course it was a nasty case of vulnerability! Here I am wanting to explore and share all this beautiful stuff that makes my world a better place but exposing myself to the judgement and opinions of others is so frightening.

So I found and watched this excellent Brene Brown TED talk on vulnerability. I thought, I can see being vulnerable is necessary for me to make meaningful connections with others, but I’m 49 already, I don’t want to do a year of therapy to deal with this stuff… How can I establish a feeling of safety now?

There is no deep and meaningful answer. I used humour:  I reminded myself that I have been blogging more than 15 years and my average post gets 8 views and 4 likes. Only one person I know in real life regularly reads this blog and she is my daughter. And the excellent folk who regularly like and comment on my posts have tolerated a variety of ramblings from me without complaint. *Feeling much better now, I continued: Furthermore, if and when I do get an audience of librarian-types, or transpersonal types, I will have posted heaps, got my act totally together and just generally be awesome!   That made me laugh too. Ho ho ho!

Even though I still feel a little scared, I hereby give myself permission to press ‘publish.’

*I am not being sarcastic. Introverts reaching out are always a little relieved by an underwhelming response. (According to the results of my self-case study 🙂 )

photo credit

Slug. Some rights reserved by Joi

This awesome photo of a slug being vulnerable and courageous was shared by Joi Ito on Flickr. Thanks Joi!

what is a transpersonal academic librarian?

cropped-4813730836_1f15eefcff_b-1.jpg
felina con botas. ‘Caracol en flor‘ CC BY-ND 2.0

What might I be/becoming?

My liaison librarian role has a learning/teaching focus, so the following exploration is a bit of a mash-up between the learning/teaching component of an Australian competency framework and an essay on transpersonal education…

Learning and Teaching: Academic librarians working in learning and teaching should have a strong understanding of and competence in the following:

Client relationships – building and managing relationships and partnerships with researchers, faculty, students and professionals, and communicating information and resources to a range of clients within a holistic, expansive, growthful, transformative process that involves a both/and rather than an either/or attitude; that is experiential and reflective, inclusive and integrated.

Information services – providing advice and instruction to enhance access to relevant and reliable information; knowledge of core finding tools, databases and resources at a level appropriate to the position to encourage an individual to find his or her unique, authentic nature, potentials, and voice, and to express and apply this knowledge and wisdom to the greatest possible extent, for the benefit of self and others.

Teaching and learning – knowledge of institutional curriculum to effectively embed information literacy as appropriate; knowledge of learning models and strategies, pedagogy, current educational technologies for the academic environment, and learning analytics to provide scaffolded training and skills development opportunities for clients; awareness of new developments in learning and teaching and potential for library services and programs to nurture an experiential learning that is fully and deeply lived, immediate, embodied, particular and concrete, with the potential to  provide service to a community.

Learning management system (LMS) – knowledge of the structure and the use of campus learning content management system to allow full expression of not only conventional forms of intellectual functioning, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis but also the many forms of intelligence (emotional intelligence, spiritual intelligence, and the multiple forms of intelligences), oral dialog, pluralistic ways of knowing, and the informative and educational value of personal experience, the wisdom of the body, the great spiritual and wisdom traditions (which are really world psychologies), real philosophy, poetry, myth, story, the arts, contemplative inquiry, and all forms of creative expression.

Digital content creation – developing, creating and implementing online learning modules to facilitate exploration, expression and celebration of the embodied values, qualities, and practices key to transpersonal education. These qualities and values include appreciation of differences, appreciation of others and of the Universe at large, attention, authenticity, compassion, creativity, deeper levels of meaning, discernment, empathy, expansiveness, gratitude, insight, inspiration, intention, interconnectedness, intuition, mindfulness, self-observation, spirituality, spontaneity, and wisdom.

Literacies –  knowledge of current terminology, principles and practice relevant to sourcing, using, evaluating, creating and sharing of information in an academic and digital environment; nimble, flexible, and efficient selection and use of appropriate technologies to read, search, evaluate, organise, create, connect and communicate to develop transpersonal and knowledge practices from diverse wisdom approaches, to inspire direct knowing and insight specific to learners’ education and lives.

Ethical use of information – awareness of copyright law, contract obligations and plagiarism in the learning and teaching context to facilitate awareness of self in relationship to a larger whole and often awaken learners to a sense of wonder and awe and connection to the cosmos.

How I came to be interested in the idea of a transpersonal librarianship

Sources of this ‘found poem’

Leong, J., & Woods, S. (2017). CAVAL Competencies for Academic and Research Librarians.

Rowe, N., & Braud, W. (2013). Transpersonal education. In H. L. Friedman & G. Hartelius (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of transpersonal psychology (pp. 666-686). Chichester, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons.

taking the dogs out

the best part of the day was taking the dogs out.

Gemma is small and brown. She is part Corgi (her legs) and part Joy. She loves to run around and around in great circles over the grassy hill and back again.

Dooley is my Mum’s fool of a poodle. He is tall and thin and black and he chases after Gemma, barking. She runs around him, leaping at his throat when he gets too close.

After the chasey game, they lie in the cool grass and I sit with them as the stars start to come out. There is slobber on my leg and my foot, but Gemma is lying on her back in the grass with her tongue lolling out, smiling up at me.

And all is well in my world.