Learning to Learn (with Til Luchau & Whitney Lowe)

Summary: If we don’t learn, we’re doomed to the same results over and over. But sometimes, we get in the way of our own learning. Can we learn to be better learners? Til takes Whitney on an illustrated tour of some of his favorite obstacles to learning, and gets his help applying these to our work as hands-on practitioners.

 

Whitney Lowe:

Welcome to the Thinking Practitioner. And welcome to The Thinking Practitioner, where Books of Discovery has been a part of massage therapy education for over 20 years. Thousands of schools around the world teach with their textbooks, eTextbooks, and digital resources, and Books of Discovery likes to say learning adventures start here. And they see that same spirit here on The Thinking Practitioner Podcast and are proud to support our work knowing we share the mission to bring the massage and bodywork community and livening content that advances our profession.

Til Luchau:

Check out their collection of eTextbooks and digital learning resources for pathology, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology at booksofdiscovery.com, where thinking practitioner listeners, that’s you, save 15% by entering “Thinking” at checkout. Hey Whitney, how you doing?

Whitney Lowe:

I’m doing very well, sir. How are you doing? It’s good to see you again. We’ve been off on a couple of different interesting tangent solo things here, but it’s good to be back with you again here today.

Til Luchau:

Well, yeah, we’ve done a couple of solo episodes and you’ve been some interesting places. Anything you can tell us about that?

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, I was out of the country for a little bit doing a five-day training down in Costa Rica with some wonderful folks down there and getting to spend some time in the jungle and the heat. And so it’s good to be back in the dry climate again. Yeah, I had a good time down there. Very good time down there.

Til Luchau:

Dry and high Oregon.

Whitney Lowe:

Yes, indeed.

Til Luchau:

Sounds like a great time. I know I’ve been down there to that part of the part of Costa Rica years ago and really enjoyed it.

Whitney Lowe:

It’s a wonderful place. Yeah, wonderful place. And so we talked about, a couple of episodes ago, I had a thing with Patti Shank. We talked about education, some, and we’re going to spin off in a little bit different place with that today, from what I understand, righty? What are we talking about today?

Til Luchau:

Yeah, I’m excited to share with you a set of obstacles, a set of things that could get in our way, as learners. And this is part of a mastery class we teach as part of our certification. So it’s just that idea that we have a role in learning too. And I really enjoyed your episode with Patti Shank. It gave me tons of ideas about stuff that you and I are already doing really well, and for sure, ways that we can bring this information to bear in an even more interesting way. So that’s just the educator side. So then today, this list is about what we can do as learners to get out of our own way, basically.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, which I’m eager to hear some more about those things because I’m always a voracious learner myself, and so like to look at some of these things and reflect on how they may be impairing my learning as well.

Til Luchau:

Great. And I even have some slides I’m going to show in the video version. We’re posting these to YouTube now, which is cool. So I’ll try to describe it to the listeners as well. But I got some visuals I’m going to show along with it. Let me fire up my screen share there. What do you think, can You see my first slide?

Whitney Lowe:

We do. I see a flame of learning here.

Til Luchau:

It is, flame of learning. So the context there is, why is learning even important? And you said you’re a lifelong learner, Whitney, and I think of myself that way. I know in our profession there’s so many people oriented around learning, that’s people that do cross profession, some, and come into this field from other fields, remark quite a bit about how voracious of learners the people in our profession are. Or how often they come to continuing teaching trainings or how much they’re learning online, doing all the different kinds of things they do. So I probably don’t have to make the case for learning, but that’s the context, to say that actually if we’re not learning, this is a quote from Seneca, the younger, back in the days of the stoics in Greece, he said, “Life without learning is death.” Or the other quote I’ve heard is, “You don’t grow old, you just stop learning.”

Whitney Lowe:

And this in and of itself is so important, because there is a mindset that we hear sometimes discussed in phrases that people use when they say things like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to finish my education.” Meaning I’m going to get my degree and we’ll be done. But the real thing to remember, especially nowadays with things that change so often and so fast, there is really no end. There’s no end to it for sure.

Til Luchau:

Yeah. And then there’s learning in the big sense too, which you could make the pretty strong case though, what we do in our hands-on work is a kind of learning where I help our client’s bodies learn, help them learn what different things feel like or what different movements are possible. And that maybe, in terms of mechanisms, we’re having a bigger effect in the learning department, even with our hands-on work than any other department. That’s one interesting argument.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, for sure.

Til Luchau:

But another tradition here, the Confucian tradition says, “Without learning the wise become foolish, with learning the foolish become wise.” I don’t know where I am on that continuum.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, me too.

Til Luchau:

I think of you as wise, I guess that leaves me in the other side.

Whitney Lowe:

I think of myself foolish pretty frequently too. So yeah.

Til Luchau:

And it’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom too, that there’s a certain amount of information we get, but that learning involves a whole lot more than just taking in information, say, or facts or techniques or whatever it is. It’s helpful for me to think about what we do in the context of learning traditions, getting better at something like our work, like we do, has many other companions in this set of traditions that emphasize learning. Certainly academia is all about that, the accumulation and refining and building of knowledge upon previous scholars. There’s certainly spiritual and religious traditions that emphasize learning, like a beginner’s mind in the Buddhist tradition, or we just heard the quote from Confucius about becoming wise. And then in the Christian tradition there’s many of them, like Proverbs, emphasizing the accumulation of understanding and insight over the accumulation of gold, or Jesus’, “Become little children.” This is part of this evolution as a being that I is embedded in a lot of traditions.

As well as scientific research is a learning tradition, martial arts, trade, artistic apprenticeships, business, this emphasis on a learning organization. And lots of business consulting has to do with helping businesses learn. As well as professional continuing education requirements in our field, lots of learning traditions that we’re a part of. There is an idea that learning would become electronic. And I’m showing a picture to the video of yours, of an illustration from a French magazine about the way that life would be in the year 2000. This magazine was written in 1901, so a hundred years in the future. In this magazine they pictured a classroom where the professor is grinding up books in a kind of mill, and somehow the information’s going to little wires and going into the student’s heads through these caps and headsets.

Whitney Lowe:

So it’s, to me, interesting when I see that particular image there, and I’m reminded of the story of the Rip Van Winkle syndrome in education. Have you heard that metaphor?

Til Luchau:

No. Tell me about that.

Whitney Lowe:

So the story of Rip Van Winkle is a guy who falls asleep for 20 years, or whatever it is, some period of time and wakes back up and everything has changed in his world around him. And the metaphor in the education world is, Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in the early 1900s and woke up in modern day and was walking around. He’s just, is completely astounded by these big things flying overhead and these vehicles zipping around and people looking at these devices in their phone, and he is just completely astonished at all the things that are happening. And then somebody takes him into a building, into a classroom and he says, “Oh, I know what this is. It’s a school. It looks exactly like it did back when I was studying.” And-

Til Luchau:

Maybe some of the schools haven’t changed.

Whitney Lowe:

That’s one of those things, yeah, it hasn’t really changed a great deal in that period of time.

Til Luchau:

Or ideas about how to get people information haven’t changed. Like here, they’re grinding up the books and putting them right into the student’s head. That’s what they pictured the future like. And there’s this idea that we can just go online and get some information, take some classes, and satisfy our requirements and be done with it. But the shift in perspective that might really help us to think of learning as an attitude rather than an activity, so a way to think about things more than just something we do, but a way to approach life. Not just picking up the book and shaking out the information into your head, it’s actually shifting the way we see things. Or this one that teachers love to quote. It’s like cliche, it’s been quoted so much, “Learning is not the filling of a pale, it’s the igniting of a fire.” William Yates. By the way, calling it a cliche I just realized is one of those obstacles to learning. That’s the trivializing one. I just trivialized-

Whitney Lowe:

Oh, about trivializing cliche. Right.

Til Luchau:

Anyway, let’s go through those, because I got 10 or so of the greatest hits. And this list comes from Julio Elias at the Newfield Institute, who I trained with for a number of years, and really has some interesting things to say about attitudes and about learning and about how we, as learners, really make the difference in how we affect other people. It’s basically, our ability to learn, ourselves, can make the difference in how we catalyze learning in other people.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, something I see, I just wanted to comment briefly on this. Something you said a moment ago triggered a memory for me of something I had read back when I was in graduate school and reading something about, I believe it was a Carl Rogers’ book or something, that was talking about education. He was talking about the phrase that’s used so often in education in the classrooms, where we talk about covering content. And he said, it’s an interesting phrase to talk about covering it, because you often end up just dumping information and really covering over the significance of that learning for people. And I thought that was an interesting perspective and shift and change on the way those words are used in looking at stuff.

Til Luchau:

Good point. You and Patty were talking about that, how it’s not just about getting through it, at all.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

And you talked with her about ways to really help our students, as teachers, retrieve it. And so then as learners, the way that we think about it, the way we take it in, the way we relate to it will make a big difference too, in whether we’re just covering it or actually shifting something that we do.

Whitney Lowe:

Right. All right, let’s see what you got.

Til Luchau:

Okay. There’s a handout that goes with this. I’ll put it on the show notes, just a list of these and a kind of a self-assessment scale. But basically if you’re listening along, you can just see which ones you recognize in yourself. They pretty much cover my greatest hits of my own learning obstacles, that’s how I know them so well. But yeah, the handout is optional. Go to our show notes and download it if you want. The first one, An inability to unlearn is an obstacle that gets in my way of learning new things. If I can’t learn something new, then I’m not learning. And there’s this phrase, “Fast, past, matching,” from Mickey Connolly. He says, basically we listen to a teacher or to a conversation, companion, or to a client just long enough until we know what we would say if we were in their shoes. And then at that point we start formulating our response. So it’s basically we’re, in a really fast way, we’re matching what we hear to what our past is, and then we know to respond.

And there’s some analogy to the way we understand predictive processing in the brain now too. Whereas the brain is basically matching or experiences all the time with what it already knows. And the only time it uses appreciable energy is when there’s something that doesn’t fit, which is a kind of unlearning. So if we’re just matching, if we’re just hearing things and going, “Yeah, oh, I got that. I know that technique.” Or, “I got that concept.” Or, “Yeah, we learned about the shoulder already.” Then that’s the moment you stop learning.

Whitney Lowe:

An interesting piece of that, or an example of that just comes to mind too. We talk about learning, let’s think of that from a clinical perspective too, about learning from our clients and what their unique personal experience about something is. And that statistic that’s often quoted, that it takes the average healthcare professional, this was about physicians, they had done this, something like they interrupt their patient within the first 25 seconds, or something like that.

Til Luchau:

18 seconds-

Whitney Lowe:

18 seconds within-

Til Luchau:

… was the average amount of time.

Whitney Lowe:

… in the interview process. Because you hear something you’ve heard before and it’s just like, “Okay, this is what this is.” And so that’s a really good example of, we need to really unlearn and listen to what they’re saying so we can learn what their unique experience is.

Til Luchau:

True. Claude Bernard, the French physiologist, said, “It’s what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.” Or that we’re lost the instant we know what the result will be. That’s one who’s the Spanish painter and sculptor. Next obstacle. The belief or the idea that I can’t learn that. So this is me deciding, “Oh yeah, I’m not a math person.” Or whatever. “I’m not intuitive. I learn more politically.” Whatever it is. But as soon as we have that thought, it becomes a self-fulfilling opinion. And Julio Elias’ point is, it’s always an opinion, and not a fact, because we never get to test it. As soon as we decide, we stop trying. It just stays there, “I can’t learn that.”

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, that’s really true. I have had to grapple with this a lot in talking with a lot of students too, especially in the early days of our online education experiences, convincing people that they could learn valid and relevant things in an online environment. And because everybody says, “Oh no, I’m a hands-on learner. I have to learn this by doing things.” And so there’s an obstacle there to recognizing there’s different types of learning that are going to be done in those different environments.

Til Luchau:

And a lot of people come to our field with this as a sore spot in their academic history, really feeling like they couldn’t learn. And so being attracted to something that was more hands-on. So for a lot of people it’s a revelation, or a shift, to realize, “Wow, I can actually learn more than I thought.”

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

Next one. Cognitive blind spots. And you can imagine a pie chart where everything that can be known is one slice of the pie. It’s pretty small. Everything, all knowledge, anywhere in the known universe, to humans, would be the slice of the pie. It’s probably a pretty small slice of the pie.

Whitney Lowe:

Especially nowadays. Yeah.

Til Luchau:

Well, yeah. And then the slice of that that I know, everything that I know, is even a smaller slice. So there’s a little sliver of that.

Whitney Lowe:

Sliver of that. Yeah, for sure.

Til Luchau:

So everything that can be known is one piece. A sliver, that’s everything I know, which leaves a huge bit of the pie is everything we don’t even know we don’t even know. So the cognitive blind spot says that I’m not even aware of what I don’t know. I know there’s some things I don’t know, but I’m not even aware of much bigger set of facts or perspectives or possibilities that aren’t even on my map.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, for sure.

Til Luchau:

Confusion is our next one, our next obstacle. And it’s a feeling, or you could say a autonomic state that can come with, we call, confusion. But another interesting definition, again from Julio Elias, he says, maybe it’s an addiction to wanting things to be clear and unambiguous all the time. Maybe what we call confusion is just a fixation on having it clear all the time, or lacking tolerance for chaos and uncertainty. That if we could allow things to be a little less clear, maybe we’d be less confused.

Whitney Lowe:

Yes. I’ve got a question I want to pose to you in terms of confusion here. Do you think this…? Confusion often may arise because of a prior inaccurate or incorrect understanding of something, when then somebody’s applying that learning to a new thing that they’re encountering and they’re confused because this doesn’t jive with what they’ve learned before. I guess you have to get to a point of recognizing, and then we’re back to those things you mentioned a few moments ago about unlearning something that’s maybe inaccurate.

Til Luchau:

Precisely, yeah. It may be even accurate, but if it’s prior, I’ll be confused if I’m trying to match what’s happening now to something in the past, as opposed to letting myself suspend judgment long enough until the new pattern can emerge. I’m always trying to fit it into what I know already whether it’s accurate or not. Yeah, I’m going to be confused if it doesn’t fit. Ida Rolf called it, “Learning to be comfortable walking on shifting sands.” And that’s something that she would say often to her students is they go, wait a minute, “This doesn’t fit with what traditional kinesiology says.” She says, “Well, you got to learn how to be comfortable walking on this shifting territories. Maybe there’s things aren’t quite as fixed as we think. Can you still make your way across the sand dunes?

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, that’s good. I like that.

Til Luchau:

Another obstacle, and this is one of my personal favorites, is an unwillingness to admit that I don’t know. An unwillingness to admit that I don’t know. And this comes with a lot of baggage for most of us, at least for me, because our educational system, our traditional one at least, really emphasizes knowing. We test on what you know, “Raise your hand if you know. Who knows the answer?” And so that, as a student, a lot of us really competed to know or to be the first one that knew. And that certainly was me. And so what got valued was knowing, there was not as much value in not knowing.

Whitney Lowe:

And do you think that…? I was talking with another educator about this this past weekend over in Costa Rica when we were down there, about, especially with adult learners, you go into a continuing education course or even your entry level basic training programs, there’s a lot more inhibition of people talking out and posing their opinions, their ideas, when they think they’re going to be looked down upon, or they don’t feel comfortable knowing things. And this is especially true, so often when you have in the continuing education realm, you’ll have people who are in your course who are just out of school and people who’ve been in practice for 25 years in the same room, supposedly learning the same things. So that’s an inhibition for a lot of people to open up and-

Til Luchau:

On both, that’s right, on both sides of that spectrum. The newbies are going, “Oh my God, I don’t know anything.” The people that have been doing it for 25 years says, “Wow, am I really out of date? I don’t know.” But there’s that, we can work that in any particular way, to feel that… We’re basically unwilling to admit that we might not know or we’re in that place of just like, “Oh geez, I have no idea.” Or as Voltaire says, “A doubt is an uncomfortable position.” There’s a vulnerability in that. But Voltaire also said, “Certainty is a ridiculous position.” So that the certainty we get of, “Yeah, I know this. I’m so sure about this.”, is basically also an obstacle to learning something new.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

Buckminster Fuller, who was a big influence in my field, and Ida Rolf, and the idea of Tim Saggerty came from him, he says, there’s basically an attitude you need to have as a learner, and that is the dare to be naive. He called it the courage or the audacity to be naive.

Whitney Lowe:

And that’s back to what we were just talking about a moment ago too, is that, and I’ll just speak as educators, one of the things that I find to be very important is to create a safe space for people to be okay with that place of not knowing. And that’s sometimes not created real well for a lot of the classroom spaces that people are in.

Til Luchau:

That’s true. And for our clients. Sometimes our clients will come in feeling like they need to know what’s going on and need to know the answers they need to do it right, or whatever it is. And so creating that safety for them not to even know what they’re feeling. We’ll ask them a question, “What do you feel?” They don’t know how to answer that. That can be a difficult moment for our clients as well. That’s it, as a teacher, that’s our first job. I see it. My first job is to help people feel comfortable in unknown place.

Whitney Lowe:

And on the flip side too, I was reading this, this was on a website that was about patient advocates saying that it’s a completely new environment and situation in 21st century healthcare, where patients may often go see their health professional armed with a wealth of information they got off the internet or wherever else. And sometimes if it’s something possibly unusual, they’re coming in and they know way more about this than you might, as the practitioner. And so we have to be okay being in that place with saying, “Well, I don’t know. Tell me what you’ve learned, what you’re knowing about here.”

Til Luchau:

So even as the practitioner. Absolutely. That’s right. Another one, not making learning a priority, not making learning or the practice of your learning a priority. Just prioritizing other things in life besides the learning, burning the candle at both ends. Staying too busy, going on to the next thing without giving yourself time to integrate, practice, feel into what you got. That’s the continuing education junkie syndrome where you go from workshop to workshop. Don’t make the time to actually use and absorb and practice what you’re learning, for example. Or on the other end, just staying so busy with the rest of what it takes to have a life that there’s no space anywhere for that. No room to do a lot of workshops. I’ll throw a little scorecard in the handout too. You can just do it as you listen here as well.

Just think for yourself for a second. How many times in the past year did you participate in professional continuing education? How many times in the last year did you do some kind of continuing education? Just think of a number. How many times in the past year did you research a client’s condition where you actually had a client come in, or hear about a client, where you actually go online or you look up one of Whitney’s courses, or you go pull out your massage and body work magazine and actually research a condition? How many times in the past year would you estimate? Another number. How many times did you ask questions about a client or a condition from peers or supervisor? That counts as research, but it’s a little different when you’re asking a real person too, because then you can have a conversation.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

How many times in the past year did you seek professional care for yourself? That’s a learning experience for us as practitioners, whether we’re going to another body worker or even a dentist, for example. We learn things. I always learn something from going to other professionals, about how they manage the conversation, about how they construct the interaction, about the expectations they set. Really amazing and useful things.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

That’s a learning experience. How many times in the last year did you talk shop with other practitioners? So these questions I’m asking, how many times, they’re all things that basically give you a sense of how much you prioritize learning, or not.

Whitney Lowe:

This is one of those that, in terms of that talking shop with other practitioners, that as much as we like to bash things like social media, this is certainly one of those places where it has been a tremendous value for people to be able to connect with other practitioners. I just remarked, myself, about reading a lot of the massage and body work forums and reading some of the stories that people tell of things that happened to them in the treatment room, that we’re just like, “Oh my gosh, this is just so out of my realm of even thinking something like that would ever happen.” But in the olden days, we didn’t have the opportunity to hear a lot of those things and learn from them and figure out, how would I have dealt with this? What would I do? And this is a great value for that.

Til Luchau:

You’re right. That’s one of the amazing things that social media, for example, brings to us. But there’s also, the other number I was going to ask about was taking in a work related article, book or podcast. So you get to at least mark one because you’re listening to us today.

Whitney Lowe:

There you go. Right.

Til Luchau:

Yeah. How many times in the last year did you read a work-related article or listen to another podcast? Something like that. So if you got the scorecard, you could total those up and talk about your score, think about your score. But the basic question is, are you satisfied with your answers, each one of those places? Well, maybe it’s the constructive use of guilt or conscience or the wanting something to be better. There’s a lot to be said for accepting things as they are, but the question here is, are you happy with those answers or is there something else you could do to shift those priorities for yourself?

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, that sounds good.

Til Luchau:

Okay, back to the Top 10 learning obstacles. Next one, trivializing. Trivializing. Basically not taking advantage of the opportunities that you’re in, by discounting them. And it could be saying, like I did before, this is really cliche. It could be like, “Well, this is just going to be on the test.” It could be saying, “I’m not going to use this.” You could be saying this, “This teacher hasn’t been teaching as many years as I have, so I don’t need to listen.” Whatever you do inside yourself that trivializes the opportunity you have in front of you is an obstacle to learning, basically. Another one, having to get it right. Having to get it right.

Whitney Lowe:

That’s a big one.

Til Luchau:

That’s a big one. It gets in our way of getting it anyway at all sometimes if we think we got to get it right. And there’s the example of flying an airplane. You want to get that right. And that’s the learning you do for that kind of skill is important to get that right, and so there’s lots of ways to practice that where your mistakes aren’t going to have a big consequence. But in most things in life, the only way you learn is by not getting it right. By trying it different ways and self-correcting or getting input about doing it a different way.

Whitney Lowe:

And again, I keep going back this, but it is relevant in talking about this. This is something I’ve had discussion with lots of educators over the years about, one of the things that is really an outstanding benefit, potential benefit of a lot of the online education models is it really decreases a lot of the inhibition that people have about having to get things right publicly. Like we were talking about the fear or inhibition that people feel in the classroom environment about saying things or making mistakes in front of their peers publicly. The ability to make those kinds of mistakes and learn from them in a more private environment for adult learners has really been a significant benefit for people when they’re doing those kinds of things.

Til Luchau:

That’s great. That’s great. Yeah. We do that in our small groups, in our online learning. But we also have our private Facebook forums where we discuss the work and hopefully the idea being that privacy at least helps people feel like there’s a little bit of safety around them just saying whatever they need to say. But you’re right. No, that can be a huge barrier to even sharing in a group or on social media or post, whatever, how they get it right. But as again, Mickey Connolly says, the return on investment on failure… The only hope for getting anything out of failure, in other words, is learning. Learning is the only thing that makes something you consider a failure, to be worth it. And there’s a picture here of somebody that’s trying to pull a boat and it fell off their trailer. Hopefully there was some return on investment, somebody learned something from that. All right. This one is tricky. The inability to grant the necessary authority to a teacher. The inability to grant the necessary authority to a teacher, that can get in the way of us learning.

Whitney Lowe:

Tell me about that one. That’s interesting.

Til Luchau:

Well, we have in our American individualistic culture a lot of value on our own authority. And most of our psychological models are about individuation and following what’s right for me, and getting in touch with what is my way. And there’s so much value for that, that gives rise to all sorts of empowerment. If you have those options, it gives rise to all sorts of innovation, creativity, alignment with yourself. What we don’t learn, and this gets really obvious to me, going back and forth across different cultures, what we don’t learn so well, as Americans, is how to give over authority to somebody who might know more than us. We’re basically all cowboys and we’re all… At least, I won’t speak for anybody else. A lot of us think we’re cowboys, and think we’re Clint Eastwood and you can just do it our way and be the loner all through our learning career also.

Or we have authority issues, rightly so, because there’s so much abuse of authority, especially in the education system where we really felt like some of our middle school teachers were Hitler, or something like that. We really were concentration camp survivors. Not to trivialize that at all, but to say that was really the reaction we’re having to authority at that age. And if you’ve been in any situation where there’s been an abuse of power, either subtly or overtly, then it’s going to be pretty dicey to trust that someone else has something to offer you, and even listen to what they have to say.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. So I want to ask you a question here and riff on this for just a second, because there seems to be also sometimes a flip side to this of excessive granting of authority to individuals, and maybe not questioning that authority appropriately. That is also an obstacle or impairment to learning because we think, “Oh, because the person standing up in front of the room said this, it must be true.” And our inability or discomfort with the idea of questioning authority, that’s like a flip side obstacle that may happen sometimes.

Til Luchau:

Absolutely. Unquestioning acceptance of whatever we say just because Whitney and Til said on a podcast, for example.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

Because somebody in authority has that statement. So no, that’s true. That’s the converse. As a culture, we’re much more attuned to be suspicious of that. We don’t really as much, but that’s why I included this one. This has been my own challenge of course too, is to give over authority to somebody else, to a teacher, and not just always be looking at them with the skeptical resistance, suspicious eye, like they’re going to take me somewhere I don’t want to go. Okay. Another one, forgetting that learning happens in the body. We can say everything happens in the body, but learning is another one. There’s lots of research that shows that people that can participate with their bodies in learning remember more, get a better understanding, can apply it better, even if it’s just conceptual information.

Whitney Lowe:

So what would that look like? Tell me about what does learning in the body look like for maybe, I mean, it’s obvious to see what that looks like for learning a new treatment technique or something we’re doing, but what about, like you mentioned, conceptual models and things like that. What does that look like for learning happening in the body?

Til Luchau:

Yeah. Well, a treatment… Yeah, a technique is obvious. You’re going to learn more if you can do it with your body than if you’re just going to watch it.

Whitney Lowe:

Sure.

Til Luchau:

And then a way to actually, to stay comfortable in your body, to actually connect what you’re learning to movement. To stay fresh is one thing. Seriously, literally just standing up and learning something, you’re going to learn it differently than sitting in a classic school desk with a molded plastic chair and metal legs, that you’re fixed in a certain position. So being able to adapt and respond in your body is just going to help you mentally process thing. It’s like Feldenkrais’ idea that has been borne out by neurological research. He said there was no cognitive activity without a motor correlate, and his example was vocalizing. And sure enough, almost nobody can read without some sort of motor activity in their throat and tongue.

Whitney Lowe:

Really? Huh? Interesting.

Til Luchau:

It’s almost… Yeah, it’s subtle for many of us. We don’t realize it, but if you put a machine up there, you can detect it. We all are doing something with our body, even when we’re thinking. Even thought is a motor activity, in that point of view.

Whitney Lowe:

And then from what we know about retrieval of prior learning, then if my understanding is correct about that, many times we want to try to be able to reproduce the motor activity that was present when the learning occurred, to retrieve that learning, whenever possible. Right?

Til Luchau:

State dependent or motor dependent retrieval make a lot of sense. So learning the technique while you’re doing it, for example, in the context, was the obvious way to do it, but also probably mocking things up in a way that you can remember and lets your body remember what you know.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

You have those terms, muscle memory and things like that. Musicians know a lot about that, athletes know a lot about that. It’s true for our physical disciplines as well.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Just recalling conversation I had with some of my college classmates when they were staying out way too late, partying and drinking excessively on night before an exam, and when they should have been studying and saying, “Well, if you’re getting seriously inebriated the night before when you’re studying and trying to read this stuff, that doesn’t necessarily then translate into, you should go in and take that exam while you’re really wasted also.”

Til Luchau:

Not so much state dependent retrieval in that case. But we could say, in a classroom, we want people and we want ourselves, if we’re a student, to basically be chill about it, to be relaxed, to be in a state of receptivity and openness so that we can take information and then use it and retrieve it. Something like what we want to work in too, the state of autonomic calm that we want to work in. So that’s the next obstacle too, is there’s a bunch of body mind states that are not conducive to learning. Embarrassment is one of those, we talked about that, the shaming that can happen and different educational processes of not knowing. But also alarm, also maybe inebriation or hangover, like you said, or extreme boredom or restlessness. And there’s a reason that so many kids that got to move, get classified as having attention issues, because we’re not really good in the conventional education system of letting people process in their body. We insist that they find a body-mind state that is essentially cognitive focused and still, which is only one possible thing on the whole continuum of possibilities.

Whitney Lowe:

This story comes in, have you seen the Ted Talk episode with Ken Robinson about how schools kill creativity?

Til Luchau:

No.

Whitney Lowe:

And we’ll probably put a plug for this in the show notes. It’s a wonderful talk. But in there, he talks about this very issue by describing the school experience of Jillian Lynn, who was the choreographer of Cats and just numerous Broadway musicals. And just essentially telling the story of how she was in school, and just doing very poorly and having a very hard time in school. And her mom took her to the principal and the principal, who was someone who had a fair amount of insight apparently, luckily for her, eventually ended up saying to her mom, “There is nothing wrong with your daughter. The problem is she’s a dancer and she needs to get out of this school and go to a dance school, because that’s what she needs to be doing. That’s where her learning is going to happen.” And everything. It’s a wonderful story, and I would encourage everybody take a listen at that ted talk. Ken Robinson.

Til Luchau:

That was… Okay. We’ll put that in the show notes. That was my story. I wasn’t a dancer, but I was not a kid who was happy in a classroom, and I was lucky enough to have had teachers and parents and different people that gave me opportunities just to learn by doing. So that was really my story as well. Because openness and curiosity, they’re like the precursors of learning, are themselves body-mind states. The ability to learn is precondition by the state that we’re in our body. If we’re alarmed, if we’re shut down, if we’re tired, if we’re fearing of being bullied, whatever it is, we’re not going to learn as much. Well, I’m trying to make an adult… I’m going back to my school days with these examples.

If we think we’re going to be harshly graded in a continuing education or if we’re going to be overwhelmed with information, or all the things that get in the way. If we had to stress about getting to class. Like getting ready for this podcast, the computer not working, whatever it is, if we come into that situation in a stressed state, we’re not going to learn as much. It’s a body state that doesn’t predispose itself to learning.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, I think so. And some of those are really challenging, some of those places, to have the self-reflection, to be aware of where we are and what those things are doing for us. That is a challenge for so many people.

Til Luchau:

You’re talking about the self-awareness to understand if I’m in an open place or not.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Til Luchau:

That’s absolutely right. That’s right. There’s a little exercise I thought I’d end on. That’s my list, basically.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, I like that.

Til Luchau:

But there’s an exercise we could try where if you shift your, listeners, viewers of the video, whatever else, shift your body toward more openness than you’re now, open something somehow. Maybe it’s your breath. Maybe you take a deeper breath, maybe you relax your body, let some tension go. Maybe you soften your eyes, maybe you soften your jaw, maybe you relax your face. Yeah, maybe you relax your ears if you’re listening. But if you just do that, if you just take a second and feel that openness or relaxation in your body, that’s going to allow a whole different experience of listening or watching or taking in information as well. Yeah. That’s all there is to it. That’s the basic exercise. That’s the body-mind precondition that you need for learning, just opening something.

Whitney Lowe:

And a lot of those, we talked earlier about too, sometimes, like you were speaking about the hard chairs and the desks and all that kind of stuff that’s present in a lot of the formal education environments, aren’t terribly conducive to that sometimes. And that’s one of the things that I’ve found to be both unique and fascinating and helpful in some of the things that were done in massage education, at least in my training in the time we did it, which allowed people to move their bodies around. To stand up, to get up, to sit on the floor, to stretch out, to be in different positions, to be receptive to what was going on. And there was acceptance of that. Acceptance and openness for people to be able to do some of those kinds of things.

Til Luchau:

That’s true. It’s long been a field where lots of experimentation around experiential learning makes sense, because that’s what we’re teaching, a physical thing in innovative, creative environments. I traveled and did teacher trainings for a couple of decades early on, and it was really, really fun. And there was such talented teachers in different massage schools around the country too, already doing amazing things. I learned so much every time I’d go into a school and help start those conversations of, how are we teaching this stuff in this situation? I know you’ve done a lot of that as well, too.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing those. Those were wonderful, and I took away some good things there that I want to go back and take that scorecard and look at some things of what I’m doing, and find some better ways to bring openness to those learning experiences for myself too.

Til Luchau:

That’s it. Yeah, the scorecard, I’ll put that on the show notes. Again, it just helps you rate yourself in different areas and ask, “Where could I be more open or be more easy around this whole question?”

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, cool.

Til Luchau:

What else, Whitney? Anything else you want to throw in our mix here?

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, that’s a nice overview of some of those things for people to keep in mind as they’re looking at… Just reemphasizing that learning has to be a constant ever happening process for us in order to both grow professionally and keep ourselves interested in the things that we’re doing. That is so crucial for all of us, and the more we can know and understand about how to do it right and to do it well, it’ll make those experiences so much better for everybody. So thank you again so much for sharing those. That’s a great list.

Til Luchau:

And to make it congruent with what we’re asking from the other person’s body in that situation, we can find that in ourself, that openness, that relaxation, that adaptability in our own bodies, our own imaginations then we end up learning a whole lot more about this than everything else. Time for our rollout.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, we can roll it out from here.

Til Luchau:

The Thinking Practitioner Podcast is supported by ABMP Associated Bodywork and Massage professionals. ABMP membership gives professional practitioners like you a package, including individual liability insurance, free continuing education, quick reference apps, online scheduling, and payments with Pocket Suite, and much more.

Whitney Lowe:

And do remember ABMP’s CE courses, their podcast and Massage and Bodywork Magazine always feature expert voices and new perspectives in the profession, including yourself, and me as well. And Thinking Practitioner listeners can save on joining ABMP at abmp.com/thinking. And today’s show is also sponsored by the Academy of Clinical Massage, where our mission is to help you become a better practitioner, working with pain and injury conditions. And you know it’s challenging, and we do too, to find high quality training in your location when you need it, and we try to bring you exceptional orthopedic massage training to the comfort of your home through our innovative online programs so you can learn anytime, anywhere, and immediately help more of your clients. So this year we’re completely revising all of our online orthopedic massage programs, and you can learn more about these at academyofclinicalmassage.com.

Til Luchau:

I look forward to checking that out. I know you’ve been working hard on it.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, still going. Still chugging away at it. So yeah, we’re going to get there. And we would like to say thank you to all of our listeners who’ve hung out with us today and do hang out with us frequently, and thanks again to also our sponsors. You can stop by our sites for the video, show notes, transcripts, and any extras over there. Those resources, you can find them over on my site at academyofclinicalmassage.com. And Til, where can they find that with you?

Til Luchau:

Advancedtrainings.com. If there are questions or things you’d like to hear us talk about, you can email us or you can also just read your question into a voice memo on your phone and email us the memo, and maybe we’ll even play it on the air. That’d be fun.

Whitney Lowe:

Oh, yeah.

Til Luchau:

The email is [email protected] or look for us on social media under our names. My name is Til Luchau. Yours?

Whitney Lowe:

Today my name will be Whitney Lowe. And you can rate us on Apple Podcast, if you will. That does help other people find the show. And you can hear us on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or wherever else you do happen to listen, your own favorite podcast app of choice. So as usual, please do share the word, tell a friend. Thanks for being with us today. Til, great to be with you. Thanks for that list of fascinating learning obstacles that we’re working with. And we will pick it up here again soon.

Til Luchau:

Thanks, Whitney. See you later.

Whitney Lowe:

Okay. See ya.

 

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