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Global Community - Transformational Learning: Lessons from the Amazon Rainforest

Co-creating a Global Community: Mindfulness into Action

Mariana Vergara

on 29 September 2015

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Transcript of Global Community - Transformational Learning: Lessons from the Amazon Rainforest

Mindfulness into Action:
A Transformational Learning Experience

Mariana I. Vergara
Teachers College
Columbia University

Participatory Action Research is "engaged research" looking at the process through which participants co-construct and take the
initial steps toward an actionable and empowering strategy
to address their concerns (Heron, 1996; Reason & Bradbury, 2010).

Bray, Lee, Smith & Yorks (2000) define Collaborative Inquiry
as a process consisting of repeated episodes of reflection
and action through which a group of peers
answer a question of importance to them.
These different perspectives are called "mental models". However, in order to deal with the mental demands of modern life, adult thinking needs to continue to evolve through higher levels of consciousness.
Sometimes, people have different ways of looking at life because they have distinguishing life experiences.
The aim of this project is to achieve mindfulness
by looking at our taken-for-granted assumptions
then, we move into Action to co-create a
Participatory Action Research study with
the Indigenous Kichwa community of Rio Blanco
Orlando Fals Borda (2006) describes the painful duty as researchers
to decolonize ourselves, to discover the reactionary traits and ideas
implanted in our minds
and behaviors mostly
by the learning process.
If you would you like to join our Global Community Development Working Group, contact us at: mariana.vergara@tc.columbia.edu
This Indigenous community has over 500 years under colonization.
Knowledge is power, when the "colonized" person identifies the "mental models" that guide his/her behavior, this person can find his/her own power within and exercise
an agentic behavior.
Co-creating a
Global Community

In July 2009, I went to the
Amazon rain forest and did Participatory Action Research in conjunction with the Indigenous Kichwa community of Rio Blanco. By 2012, many people have joined this effort of "Mindfulness into Action". This presentation is trying to summarize some of the outcomes, and invite you to join us...

July 2009, presenting this project to the CEJJES Institute in New York

May 2010, winner of the "Visual Narrative Award" at the Social Media Issues Festival
at Teachers College

December 2010, presenting this initiative to the Human Dignity & Humiliation Studies Network in New York

June 2011, presenting this project at the launch of the World Dignity Initiative in Oslo

October 2011, presenting this pilot at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, US

December 2011, presenting this initiative at the 8th Workshop of Transforming Humiliation and Violent Conflict at Teachers College
In 2010, our video was the winner of the "Visual Narrative Award"
First Annual Social Issue Media Festival
at Teachers College
Our "inner world" never disappears, but we try to put it mindfully into parenthesis. This technique is called "bracketing". Yorks (2005) describes "bracketing" as occurring when the present is "bracketed" for purposes of learning with the intention of creating actionable knowledge and new meaning. In this way, we are capable to set aside one's taken-for-granted orientation to a particular phenomena.
At the individual level, the design of
this project uses Phenomenological Documentation.
We use Heidegger Existential Phenomenology, as a way to exercise phenomenology inquiry,
making sense of "life experiences" in order
to identify our "own mental models", and then co-construct plans of action with the Indigenous Kichwa community of Rio Blanco
Mindfulness into Action
The Design:
The case for Integrating Phenomenological Documentation with Participatory Action Research through Collaborative Inquiry
(a) content (what is perceived, thought, and felt in terms of both formal knowledge and their personal stories);
(b) process (how this content is being experienced and processed); and
(c) the taken-for-granted premisses and suppositions revealed by this reflexive process.
In this context, all parties involved in this
co-inquiry need to be consistently
reflexive and testing
(a) content; (b) process ; and
(c) the taken-for-granted assumptions.
Engaging in this level of reflexivity requires both the intention and the skill for what Torbert (1991,2001, 2004) has identified as first person, second person and third person action inquiry.
When the Washington & Jefferson College Environmental Science students went to the Amazon, they had already decided what type of intervention they were going to perform in the field. This type of research paradigm is called research "on" people. However, by the conclusion of the trip, their research paradigm had shifted. They were conscious (mindful) of doing research "with" people, instead "on" them.

College students Outcomes
Due to Globalization, the Amazon rain forest is facing many challenges...
In July 2009, the Indigenous Kichwa community of Rio Blanco were able to pin point their "mental models" of oppression and set the following goals:
Obtain property titles of their lands
Build a road for access to Rio Blanco
Create a school for their children
Create a Natural Medicine School
Create a mechanism to process natural medicine
Create a Healing Center
Collect seeds from endangered medicinal tress and medicinal herbs
Reforest these medicinal trees

As a result, by September 2009, the Kichwa community made the mining company leave their land without the use of violence
By 2010, four additional mining companies were driven out

By 2011, all 45 families obtained their property titles, the road to Rio Blanco was built, and now faculty and students have access to this initiative in the Amazon rain forest

Indigenous Kichwa Community Outcomes
A) Indigenous Kichwa Community
B) Doctoral Student
C) College Students
Outcomes from this
Mindfulness into Action
Doctoral Student Outcomes
Doctoral Student Outcomes
March 2012, discussing this initiative at the Global Community Forum at Teachers College

April 2012, discussing this pilot with the Mindfulness & Education Working Group at Teachers College

May 2012, presenting this study at Clark University in Massachusetts, US

June 2012, students from Washington & Jefferson College make a trip to the Amazon to perform Participatory Action Research

July 2012, this pilot becomes a branch of the World Dignity University

October 2012, presenting this initiative at Teachers College

November 2012, presenting this study at the 14th Conference of Social and Community Psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway

December 2012, presenting this pilot at the 9th Workshop of Transforming Humiliation and Violent Conflict at Teachers College
During our Participatory Action Research
Creation of a Natural Medicine School
& its supporting Textbook
Among the goals identified by the
Indigenous Kichwa Community:
Gathering inventory data of Medicinal Trees and Medicinal Herbs for textbook
Development of Capstone for their academic purposes
Environmental Studies
College Students Outcomes
Adult Education Guided Intensive Study

In 2009, I began pursuing my doctoral studies at AEGIS at Teachers College, Columbia University. During my AEGIS experience in June 2009, I went through what it is called a "disorienting dilemma". This "disorienting dilemma" triggered my transformational learning. Transformational Learning theory as presented by Mezirow (1991), "is when we interpret an old experience (or a new one) from a new set of expectations" (p.11). As a result, I went to the Amazon rainforest and this initiative began.
They are 45 extended families (472 people) in Rio Blanco, Napo at the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest region.
Indigenous Kichwa Community of Rio Blanco
This project uses
Phenomenological Documentation.
We use Heidegger existential phenomenology, as a way
to exercise phenomenology inquiry, to
"Be Here Now"
Mindfully making sense of "life experiences"
in order to identify
our "own mental models",
then move into Action and co-construct
plans of action with the
Indigenous Kichwa community
of Rio Blanco
When we participate in this Mindfulness into Action project, through cycles of reflexion, we identify our taken-for-granted assumptions. This process facilitates mindfulness. Then, we move into action to co-create a Global Community
Currently, these students are making presentations in different departments (biology, anthropology, etc) at Washington & Jefferson College to recruit more students for this project.

Would you like to join us in this effort
to Co-Create a Global Community?
Environmental Science
College Students Outcomes
Full transcript