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Discover: Belonging is Essential

Belonging is a key aspect for the Transformative Learning Community map. The word belonging has many connotations, as in being included, as a part of or aligned with something larger than oneself. It is a degree of comfortableness, an ease within a relationship; a closeness- a feeling of being intimate or belonging together as in togetherness.  It can be defined  as happiness:  emotions experienced when in a state of being. Belonging is often associated within a family context, fitting in or meshing with, and offering a form of identity.  Reviewing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you see belonging is one step up from safety which follows basic physiological survival needs.

It is also aligned with love which prepares and builds toward self esteem and ultimately self actualization which Maslow described as a desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming. Later additions to this model include transcendence positioned above self-actualization. Transcending beyond the personal self to include experiences with nature, and the pursuit of science, aesthetic experiences and service to others.

Learning in community expands the sense of belonging as the space within the learning includes dialogue and experiential exploration with others as part of the process.  The intention is for each learner to discover safety in this space which facilitates the self expression within the content exploration.  Being seen and heard becomes a natural element for each participant, including the mentor who experiences a new unfoldment within each lesson within the course through the relationships between and with the learners.

According to Peter Block in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging  the key task for leaders in bringing about  qualities of an authentic sense of belonging is to create structures for authentic engagement. This means 1) creating a context that nurtures an alternative future, one based on gifts, generosity, accountability, and commitment; 2) initiating and convening conversations that shift people’s experience, which occurs through the way people are brought together and the nature of the questions used to engage them; and 3) listening and paying attention.

Block is especially adamant about convening conversations in small-group settings. The small group is “the unit of transformation,” he says, because it creates a sense of intimacy. “The intimacy makes the process personal. It provides the structure where people overcome isolation and where the experience of belonging is created.”

Transformative Learning Community unfolds within the intentional space, and although we are all  in the midst of a major societal shift due to the pandemic, the sense of belonging within the community is alive and well here. Together we unfold transcendence as authentic exploration to transform people’s sense of isolation and self-interest into an experience of connectedness and caring for the whole.You are invited to discover for yourself.

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