Experiential learning : an exploration of the effect of Zen experience on personal transformation
This inquiry started by examining my own and others experience of Zen, and comparing it with Self Organised Learning. The aim was to see what effect each system had on the lives of the participants. The thesis plots how I had a tacit reliance on myself as a measuring instrument, and how this became an integrating theme running through my 'finally chosen' methods. The methodological difficulties caused by the paradox of trying to understand Zen and also be scientific converged when I realised that I had treated myself as the central measuring instrument throughout the inquiry. It was this discovery which allowed the thesis to be treated as a koan from a Zen perspective and yet to be a contribution to academic knowledge. The thesis traces how personal authenticity became the defining characteristic informing all my methodology. This inquiry asks and answers the question can research be transpersonal? Initially the research started out looking at a transpersonal issue in the form of asking those who had regular interactions with a Zen master about their experience. This learning curve was contrasted with Learning Conversations with postgraduates at the centre for the Study of Human Learning, using inner directed learning in their research projects. During the research process, several major re-orientations took place which, necessitated changing my method and my interpretation of the data. These shifts of direction were largely driven by a need to find a method of inquiry which was appropriate to uncovering the transpersonal qualities I was investigating. As the inquiry developed I widened my sources of data to include art, fiction, accounts of death and grieving, and satsang (questions and answers with a master) in order to give an in depth picture of the impact of the transpersonal on participants' lives. In treating the thesis as a koan there can be no emphasis placed on which purposes related to which outcomes. It was in the gradual abandonment of such a stance that the deeper insights and resolutions occurred. During the inquiry I eventually identified the qualities of wholeness, authenticity and openness as the defining characteristics which appeared to trigger changes in direction. Such an approach made it necessary to examine the implications for validity that approaching transpersonal issues in this way had uncovered.