As those who follow me on twitter will know I have been at the 16 International Reflective Practice Conference this week exploring with other practitioners in nursing and education the notion of 'Reflection in Action.' I felt that it would be useful, and possibly mildly interesting, to try and tie the ideas I have encountered together in one place. This is not a rehearsed or re-written reflection/blog and therefore it will be emotive and unpolished. However, my twitter feed has served as a value place to start to consider my personal outcomes from the conference. I will relate my thoughts the tweets I have made about my experiences to date and the wonderful keynotes delivered by Ben Okri and Jenny Moon.

Reflection is part of my role as a teacher and the TDA standards for teachers has reflection embedded within it so I do feel that this a relevant discussion to have on this blog. I realise that this might not be everyone 'cup of tea' but I also felt that it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

So what has reflection meant to me this week? Ben Okri's keynote explored 'new ways to the problem of living' (as my title suggests) and, in my interpretation sought to examine the current problems he envisioned with the life lived as a human being. However, in respect to Ben's opening thoughts i.e. brevity is the missing quality of our age, I will try to keep my ideas short.

Jenny challenged the delegates to think of reflection as a different 'thing' depending on the medium through which is presented i.e. thinking, speech, writing, drawing, poetry, performance, acting, dancing etc and that it means different things in these different mediums. However, I am uncomfortable with the notions of drawing, poetry, performance, indeed anything but writing (or typing) as a vehicle for my own reflections. I guess, naively I suppose, that this relates to Ben's profound concern about what it means to be human and to live as a human inasmuch as I have become disassociated with these other forms of expression to such a degree that I am uncomfortable with the level of ineptitude I might show in using them. Ben suggested that there has been a fundamental disconnect between the arts and philosophy, and living as a human being. These things are no longer interconnected but instead we have become concerned with being artist rather than living as an artist. In other words, art is a means to an end rather than a lifestyle choice.

Being aware of my promise of brevity I will conclude in this paragraph with three fundamental concerns that Ben expressed: Failure, actuality and listening. Failure has become an end point. When we fail we stop. However, for those who strive and aspire to something 'else' failure is not an end point but just a landmark on the road to success. Drawing on the musings around Leonardo de Vinci Ben suggested that de Vinci knew what he would achieve before he started in. Therefore, failure should not be seen as a obstacle but should instead be seen as something to learn from and use as a springboard for future, and inevitable, success. Actuality, Ben suggested, was what we see i.e. I see hundred white swans and therefore all swans are white, and subsequently remains unchallenged. Actuality is Plato's shadows on the cave wall. In contrast reality is 'how things actual are' i.e. not All swans are white. Yet it is the disconnect between actuality and reality that hampers our ability to live. Finally, Ben suggested that listening with an empty mind was more important than hearing. He felt that we could hear things but not listen to them. I guess that that relates to our own reflection. We can write (or perform) but listen to our own voices. Yet it is in really listening that we find the reasons and ability to live life like a human being.

I am not sure that I have done justice to these ideas and on re-reading these words I am sure to want to explore them again in my own private spaces but they serve as a record in time of my ideas. I will leave you with a twitter poem written by Ben a line a day on twitter in January 2010 and which he open his keynote.

As clouds pass above our heads

So time passes through our lives.

Where does it go,

And when it passes,

What do we have to show?

We can plant deeds in time

As gardeners plant roses.

We can plant thoughts, or good words too

Especially if they are noble and true.

Time is an act of consciousness:

One of the greatest forces

Of the material world.

We ought to use time

Like emperors of the mind:

Do magic things that the future,

Surprised, will find.

We could change our life today

And seek out a higher way.

The Buddha sat beneath a tree

And from all illusion became free.

And as we travel on this life that is a sea

We can glimpse eternity.

We can join that growing fight

To stop our world being plunged into night.

We can wake to the power of our voice

Change the world with the power of our choice.

But there is nothing we can do

If we don't begin to think anew.

We are not much more than what we think;

In our minds we swim or sink.

If there is one secret I'd like to share

It's that we are what we dream

Or what we fear.

So dream a good dream today

And keep it going in every way.

Let each moment of our life

Somehow help the good fight

Or help spread some light.

The wise say life is a dream;

And soon the dream is done.

But what you did in the dream

Is all that counts beneath the sun.

The dream is real, and the real is a dream

Each one of us is a powerful being.

Wake up to what you are,

You are a sun, you are a star.

Wake up to what you can be.

Search, search for a new destiny