Critical Reflection and slow reading practice




An essential element of growth and transformation is the ability to reflect on one's assumptions, values, attitudes, opinions and beliefs; those structures of meaning through which one perceives and interacts with the environment. We are taught to nurture our reflective skills in order to lead an examined life that is worth living, to badly paraphrase Plato. Reflection should not be based on hypothetical cases or what-if scenarios.

Meaningful reflection is possible only when it is rooted in actual experience where we can consider the details and dynamics of the experience and our responses to them.We can first look at data about a given situation:
What information do I need in order to learn through this experience?Describe the here and now experienceWhat essential factors contributed to it?What are significant background factors?

Then start to reflect on the experience:
What was I trying to achieve?Why did I intervene as I did?What were the consequences of my actions to myself and others?How did I feel about the experience when it was happening?How did others feel?How do I know how others felt about it?

Now we are ready to unpack influencing factors:
What internal factors influenced my decision making?What external factors influenced my decision making?What sources of knowledge did/should have influenced my decision making?Only now we are ready to start to think about choices:What other choices did I have?What could be the consequences of these choices?

And finally we can think about what we have learnt:
How do I feel about this experience now?How have I made sense of this experience in the light past experience and future practice?Has this experience changed my mental models?

Please watch this video for some sobering thoughts about how limitations in our cognitive abilities call into question our ability to trust our perceptions without a practice.



In order to develop skills for critical reflection you may want to practice the lost art of slow reading - this will balance your ability to attend to the many with your ability to attend to the one :

1. Allow 30 minutes for this activity. Find a quiet place and a quiet mind to allow you to direct your attention to a favourite inspirational text: use a poem or paragraph that speaks to you emotionally and/or spiritually

2. Focus on understanding and trust your awareness will remove from your mind and heart all that makes you unreceptive to understanding this text. Find a sense of giving yourself over to your reading

3. Ask those you love past and present to 'accompany' you in your reading

4. Read a little, slowly forming the words with your lips, keeping your hearts alert, letting the words find their way to your heart, keep your mind attentive

5. When something strikes you, stop. Repeat that particular phrase several times. Let it sink into your heart

6. Next is your response - how does this word/phrase affect you? Is it a word/phrase of correction or encouragement?

7. Stay with it until you have received all the nourishment that is possible from it

8. Keep reading for the time you have allowed, following the process above each time something strikes you

9. End by making some resolution as a result of what you have read

10. Write down anything that strikes you as a way to close your slow reading session

This activity is from 'Lived Time: life beyond clock time' by Dr. M. Funes, 2013