Learning by Storying our Connections

The much needed healing of our world and psyche, requires that we learn how to restory our lives with meaning, grounded in place and in ways that open our sense of wonder and appreciation for the miracle of life.

Many people are craving for stories that can provide nourishment for our psyche and give direction through this time of so many challenges. Learning as Story is essential for developing a felt sense of belonging out of which can emerge a deeper appreciation for our Earth and our place within the web of life. People only tend to care for what or who they feel connected to. A major transformation is required in how education stories our perspectives.

Learning as Story

  1. Learning as Story in Place.
  2. Exploring the Mythic Structures of Learning.
  3. Creating New Stories of Learning.

1. Learning as Story in Place

Learning through storytelling has been the focus of indigenous cultures for thousands of years. Indigenous stories tend to cultivate a sense of belonging to life in meaningful connection with the natural places that grow us up. Places of life reveal how our stories interconnect and are woven through multi-dimensional layers of meaning.

Collective Learning through Resonance

There is so much information that surrounds us, and which may even form part of us, that we are not conscious of. Information that may influence our feelings and behaviors in ways we do not know. Some of this information lives mainly in the subconscious or unconscious layers of our mind, which is often the birthplace of our stories.

Deeply engaging stories create morphic resonance fields between people and life through shared experiences of meaning, emotion, and anticipation.

Learning as a story in place can become so much more engaging when we support people to enter into a state of morphic resonance with the information and places they seek to learn from and with (Sheldrake, 1987). Having conducted many group learning processes for decades, we have noticed a significant shift in people’s learning capacities when first supporting people to come into resonance with each other and their places of learning. For example, by relaxing and syncing our attention through a quick breathing exercise, or an imaginal process.

  • Prepare yourself — Get present to yourself and your body, release your own tensions, and harmonize your awareness through some relaxing breaths. Form a clear intention for the kinds of learning experience you wish to facilitate and support. Connect with your inner wisdom, the collective wisdom of your group, and the wisdom of the land on which you are. Now form the intention for this to harmonize and align.
  • Prepare your learning space — Whether your learning space is a physical classroom or an online learning space, create a healthy and welcoming atmosphere. Find creative ways to bring nature into the classroom (if possible). For online learning, a screenshot of nature and harmonic music while people are entering, can also create a welcoming feeling.
  • Prepare your students — When your students have entered, ask them to become present in their bodies here and now; to relax for a moment and let go of whatever it was they were doing. You can give your group a quick breathing exercise for harmonization: “Breathing in, connect with life within and around you, revitalizing you energy and awareness. Breathing out, relaxing and let go of any tensions you may feel.” If appropriate, you can also ask your students to form a clear intention in their heart and mind for what they like to receive from this class, and how they like to support this time together for everyone here.
  • Create meaningful connectedness through storytelling — If the collective field of the group still feels unsettled or dissonant, share a heart connecting story that gives voice to the feelings of unease in a way that makes it okay to talk about it, and perhaps even laugh about it together. If the group is tense because of any hardships they have experienced lately in their lives, find some time or a special occasion to invite a conversation about this, and again in a way that is safe and supportive.
  • Healing collective places of hurt — When facilitating a learning process in places where there has been violence, conflict, trauma, or life-threatening situations, connect with the collective field of that place and acknowledge the trauma and those who have suffered there. Invite the collective consciousness of that place to respectfully share what it needs to heal. If appropriate, you can facilitate this as a group exercise for your class by asking the students: “If you were the place where all this hardship happened, what would you need to heal and feel safe again? How can we help to restore the healing power of life here? And how can we help to regenerate the collective consciousness of this land, which also includes all the people, animals, and other life forms who experienced these hardships?” Then allow your students to spontaneously share their ideas and feelings. You can also ask them to draw this or write a letter to this place, or to share/write/draw this together on a collective storyboard. Show them how by doing so you are together co-creating a new story for this place and each of us, one of healing and the renewal of hope.
  • Regeneration by seeding new life — To complete a healing process, explore how together with your students you can plant new life in the places of hurt and harm. For physical places of trauma or in a physical classroom you can plant a flower or some herbs or other plants through a collective agreement that this plant represents the new life that is entering to bring harmony, peace, and healing. For online places, you can share an exercise for planting your intentions for the regeneration of life in the collective fields that need our help, by planting a smile, joy, love, care, peace, and seeing this collective field regenerate with vitality and come alive with all the beautiful qualities of our consciousness and loving intentions for wellbeing.

Collective Learning Inquiries

Learning and development happen by sensing, processing, coupling, structuring, and integrating information to become knowledge, wisdom, meaning, and understanding. Storytelling is really the art of cohering all this information into meaning and understanding. Leading cosmologists and physicists suggest that the nature of consciousness, matter, and reality is in-formational, see also article 3 of this series. This informational understanding of life and reality also raises several fundamental questions for collective learning:

  • How does the information of our past through collective memories influence how and what we learn today?
  • How does the information of our futures through shared imaginal spaces influence how and what we learn today?
  • How can we become more conscious of the presence and influence of the past and futures within ourselves, within the groups and cultures we form part of, and within the morphic fields of the places in which we learn, live, and evolve?
  • Explore the presence of the past — Support students to explore the presence of the past in their places of learning and development. For example, by asking students to connect with their elders and learn about the stories, dreams, and cultural heritage of those who lived here before them. Explore what animals and ecosystems lived in their country or place before them, and let them reflect on what happened to the information of the animals, plants, insects, and ecosystems that are no longer there or went extinct. Consider whether and how this information, or these earlier abilities, have now become part of another ecosystem, and may even form part of latent qualities and capacities within us. Inquire why stories of dragons, and other mythical animals, continue to be part of our human collective imagination, myths, dreams and stories, and what these qualities represent in us today.
  • Explore the presence of the future — Support students to explore the presence of the future in their places of learning and development. For example, by asking students to share their dreams, hopes, visions, and ideas for the future. Envision the multiple futures that live within us; those that are ideal or optimal futures as well as desired, undesired, unknown, and probable futures. Explore how these futures are present in our stories, narratives, feelings, and dreams.
  • Explore the narratives and archetypal structures of our stories — Support students to become aware of their own life as an unfolding storythat forms part of larger stories and places. Discover how stories connect us to places, people, and possibilities. Explore the deeper archetypes of our stories and how this evolves over time, and how we can change our stories — personally and collectively.
  • Explore how our stories can help heal trauma and suffering — Support students to become aware of the traumas and suffering of the places in which they live and grow up, as well as the trauma of our collective injuries and inflicted harm. Focus on narratives that provide a safe space for expressing, sharing, and revealing the many layers of our personal, cultural, and collective traumas. Raise awareness about the ways that trauma and pain may continue to be part of us, and how this requires sensitivity, care, empathy and compassion. Help students understand the indigenous principles of our relatedness and interconnectedness; how the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
  • Enhance the harmonics of unity in our places of learning — Support students to safely enter into collective consciousness states of unity and harmony, through collaborative activities in arts, storytelling, poetry, music, dance, theatre, and sports that can create shared experiences of meaningful togetherness and a deeper appreciation for each other and life.
  • Include nature in our places of learning — The presence of nature in classrooms and places of learning has a remarkable effect on our state of learning, as well as opportunities for learning outdoors and being immersed in nature. Create spaces for nature in our schools and other learning environments, for example by including animals, plants, trees, ponds, and food gardens.

2. Exploring the Mythic Structures of Learning

Mythic structures can connect us across time and space to the deeper transformative powers of life and our universe. According to mythic scholars like Carl Jung, Jean Houston, and Joseph Campbell, mythic structures are archetypal psychic structures that shape our collective unconscious. Myths can take the forms of allegories, fables, and even fairy tales. As mentioned by Jean Houston:

The Mythic Structures of Trading Life

For thousands of years, people have believed that sacrifice of people and animals was necessary for religious reasons or to settle a balance with the spirits of nature. This was often done by sacrificing a life in exchange for protection, fertility, or power from gods, deities, spirits, and supernatural forces. One could say that sacrificial exchange formed part of the earlierst forms of human trading. Trading has been part of human development since our early beginnings, even though not all cultures chose the sacrificial route for their continual development.

  • Do you believe that sacrifice in some way or form is necessary in order to advance or progress in life? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • What do you consider the difference between a ‘sacrifice’ and an ‘offering’?
  • Do you believe that participating in economic activities requires sacrifices from you, and if yes in what ways?
  • Do you consider that reciprocity is an important principle of life that also needs to apply to our economic systems?
  • What do you believe needs to change in order for our human societies to become reciprocal with all who form part of it, including nature and non-human life?
  • If you were to design an economic system without sacrificing life, what would be the qualities of such a system, and what design principles would you apply?

3. Creating New Stories of Learning

Now more than ever we need stories and narratives of hope, unity, love, courage, creativity, compassion, and collaboration. Stories that celebrate who we can become as human beings and provide an education of the heart. How can you help to co-create a new story of learning?

How can we each become story stewards for life-centered learning and the journey of our transformation?

Decolonizing the Mind

Transformational learning begins within, and this also includes ‘decolonizing’ our mind from all forms of dominant views and practices. Decolonizing our mind begins by bringing in the ways of knowing and understanding that have been severely constrained and suppressed by the doctrines of domination and control. This includes indigenous knowledge, perspectives from the Global South and developing countries, feminine perspectives, and perspectives of non-human life.

  • What role do we each play in the old and new stories of violence and division?
  • What can we learn from more peaceful and caring cultures in the ways they educate their young to learn about the dangers of violence and domination?
  • How does the colonial pattern or impulse of domination live in you and in each of us?
  • What do we seek to achieve and gain by feeding these impulses, how do we transform this (starting with ourselves)?
  • What can we learn from Global South perspectives regarding the impacts of colonialism and postcolonial global capitalism?
  • How can we co-create new stories of learning and development that are truly inclusive of our diversity and united in shared principles of care, compassion, and respect?

To summarize, education for decolonizing our minds and cultures is a process of deep unraveling of the multiple interwoven strands of violence, domination, trauma, division, and harm.

This process of unraveling and healing requires safe learning spaces for exploring these deeper issues, as well as for exploring how together we can heal the harm and multiple layers of trauma. Only then can we genuinely co-create a world based on freedom, mutual respect, and dignity for all people and non-human life. We offer the following guidelines for creating such safe learning spaces:

  • Explore freedom and wellbeing from multiple perspectives — Explore with your students what freedom and wellbeing mean for them, and what it may have meant for their parents, grandparents, and ancestors. Explore how the pursuit of freedom and wellbeing shaped the lives of their families and cultures, and the impacts of this pursuit on the lives of others, including our planet.
  • Make the narrative patterns visible — Explore the underlying assumptions, expectations, belief systems, and cultural and ancestral doctrines of the narratives we feel attracted and repelled by. Explore the relational dynamics of dominance and suppression and polarities of the oppressor-oppressed, and how this affects our sense of agency and trust in ourselves, life, and others.
  • Facilitate Third Way approaches to heal the dualization of pain — Share about the dynamics, feelings, and impacts of the colonization of our minds through Third Way approaches that help to heal the divides. In particular to make conscious, and eventually transform, the intertwinement between victim-perpetrator and oppressor-oppressed.
  • Introduce new perspectives and mutual learning opportunities — Explore how through digital learning opportunities students from various cultures, countries, backgrounds can exchange with each other about these topics, and especially with indigenous communities and those living in the Global South or former colonies.
  • Co-create new stories of learning and connection — Facilitate the co-creation of new stories of identity belonging, healing, and how we ‘humane’ together, which emerge from learning collectively how to heal the traumas of our pasts and nurture into being the future worlds we seek to become. Explore with your students the multiple creative ways for crafting, creating, sharing, and expressing these stories as (short) films, poems, art, plays, articles, blogs, books, paintings, sculptures, and more.

Storying our Connections through System Sensing

Developing integral consciousness while learning for standardized tests and rigid learning outcomes through standardized curricula is challenging at best. Developing integral consciousness requires being able to freely enter into flow states, without pressures of rigid expectations. It also requires developing system sensing capacities, which are quite different from the more commonly known system thinking capacities (Smitsman, 2019).

  • the informational flows and dynamics that form part of our experiences;
  • the archetypal structures on which we base our beliefs and sense of reality, and;
  • the presence of past and future potentialities within and around us.

Whether we are conscious of this or not, we all form part of social systems and fields that we together weave into being, and which become our stories.

When our focus on life is predominantly intellectual we miss out on all these subtle dimensions of being and interbeing. To summarize, learning for regeneration and thrivability requires that we become aware of the many subtle nuances of how the dots connect, and the dots we each are in the larger patterns of life.

Other articles in this series


Houston, J. (2009). The Hero and the Goddess: The Odyssey as Pathway to Personal Transformation. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books Theosophical Publishing House.



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