Sitting comfortably with who we really are


A thought as I sit within the chaos of birthing my doctoral thesis during the COVID pandemic.

Photo by Gabriela Palai from Pexels

My thesis is about connections. Connections to stories of learning revealed in connection to others and their stories, and to ourselves and our own stories of living and learning. My research is revealing the power that sits in spaces where these connections are encouraged and cultivated, where we have opportunity to dive deeply to unravel knowledge of ourselves in connection with others:

Participants’ collaborative engagement with their peers and the sharing of their stories of learning and challenge catalysed a ‘pilgrimage’ of sorts where they were able to navigate new terrain collectively. Formenti & West (2018) speak to this notion of lifelong learning as pilgrimage and quest, proposing it takes place through dialogue with diverse others—a journey to self that is unpacked and understood in connection with others.  Through the cultivation of social connections, awareness is seeded in the individual that ‘the world need not be as we have been taught, and we can learn in creative, collaborative, border crossing, boundary challenging as well as loving ways, in the company of others’ through ‘finding the courage to engage with and learn from the other and otherness, not least in ourselves’ (Formenti and West, 2018 p. 49).

Jennifer Miles (PhD thesis in process, yet to be published)

My research also reveals that it is in learning to sit comfortably in the authentic strengths and realities of who we are, we are more powerfully placed to engage with and influence the world around us, as Parker Palmer describes so eloquently in his discussion about the formation of great teachers:

‘If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see I have a chance to gain self knowledge and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject. In fact, knowing my students and my subject depends heavily on self knowledge’.

Parker Palmer (1998, p2)

I have written many times before about the deep work of Heather Plett, and today, another of her critical reflections on life and living came into my feed. In many ways it reinforces for me the the power inherent in creating these spaces where we can begin the process of ‘unravelling’ on our pilgrimage to self, in the company of others:

‘It’s time to divest of those belief systems and the cultural systems that prop them up. It’s time to live more honest and messy lives. It’s time to stop trying to fix ourselves and other people. It’s time to stop spending our money on things that don’t truly bring us joy. It’s time to stop changing our bodies to meet some ridiculous standards of beauty. 
It’s time to let our leaves rot so that they can nourish new life’.  

Heather Plett (2020. What if we show the mess?

I hope you find a little sensemaking in amongst these words, something that might help you further along the road of your own pilgrimage to self. And (note to self) don’t forget to enjoy the journey …

About Jennifer K Miles

I am an educator, researcher and writer, passionate about storytelling and its power to change perspectives of self. Through undertaking the journey of my own transformative learning, I now work with adults to support them in drawing forth stories of the strength and potential gained in their lives, as they move towards the creation of their stories as yet untold. My three beautiful adult boys are the most precious part of my story, and continue to walk with and support me in undertaking my PhD research. I write about story and transformative learning ... the circumstances of our lives and the stories remembered; influences on the construction of our self-identities - positive and negative; critiquing the assumptions and limitations we have come to accept about ourselves, our potential, and our place in life; daring to imagine a story untold.

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