Chapter 24 - Learning from Experience
The way that the soul learns and grows is very much like the way that we consciously learn through experimentation - by trial and error. As we do things we learn what causes us pain and suffering and what creates love and happiness. As we consciously learn within our lives, so our souls learn over many, many lifetimes. And this does not just apply to actions that we can recognise, but also to everything that our souls do and feel.
Kolb & Fry (1975) wrote about the experiential learning cycle - the cycle of learning through experience, shown in a slightly modified form below.
This learning cycle can help us to understand the way in which our experiences can be consciously learned from.
The cycle starts with experiencing and feeling; this could be emotional feelings that you have or any experiences that you have in life. What is done, said, heard, thought and felt by you and others are all experiences. This is about your actions and reactions in your life. Some of these experiences may seem trivial at the time or may be something that you are used to as ‘normal’ but all experiences are valid and important. If we want to change our lives to fill it with happiness, success and abundance then all of our experiences are relevant.
The next phase of the cycle involves recognising and reflecting on experiences and perhaps recording them; maybe this could involve keeping a journal, of exactly what happened and how you felt about it. It is important to note details and to be honest about the experiences and to be as objective as possible; for this it might even be helpful to ask a witness what they think happened.
When we have reflected on our experiences and recorded them, they can be analysed. Why did it happen, what caused an event? Although all experiences are relevant we want to learn how to have happy and enjoyable experiences and avoid pain; so what was the effect of the experience on you? What was the effect of your feelings about it? Try to look at things from different perspectives to thoroughly understand it. Maybe meditating and asking for help and guidance in understanding will help or you can ask for help and guidance through dreams to help you understand.
The next part of the experiential learning cycle is to make a plan of how to behave, feel, react or generally do things in a different way in order to have a happier experience next time. Remember during your planning that this could involve courageously stepping out of your comfort zone, into unknown territory. This is the part where you decide what action to take to create a better life. Through your insight and understanding that you have found from the previous part of the cycle you can change your experiences in order to break a problematic cycle and move on.
Learning to learn better
The experiential learning cycle has four distinct stages and different people pay more attention or are better at some stages than others. This can reflect our individual learning styles or the way in which we learn from our experiences. There is Learning Styles Questionnaire (written by Peter honey and Alan Mumford (1983) and available on the internet) that can help you to find which parts of the cycle you place more emphasis on. This can be useful so that we can better understand ourselves and so that we can consciously develop the process of learning from our experiences.