I mentioned that last week I attended a three day course on Transformative Coaching, and I learned a lot. The course is designed by Youth at Risk and the overall aim of the three days is to enable participants to discover new ways of thinking. Nothing radically new, we spent a lot of time examining paradigms as master interpretive filters with the power to construct thought, form attitudes and therefore influence action; we acknowledged the importance of paradigms, and the necessity of being critically aware of our own; and then the more personal acknowledgement that our current paradigmatic way of looking at the world may distort rather than creatively interpret the world in which we live and move and have our being. Changes in our lives may only happen if there is such a radical deconstructing of a mindset resistant to fundamental change because our paradigm is not on the table for discussion.
Naturally the course itself assumes certain things about paradigms, and how we construct them, and are not always aware that we do, or that our way of looking at the world is itself open to challenge, question and critique. Every half decent training approach has to make assumptions about how human beings think and feel, the inner climate of ethics, values, convictions, and their intellectual isobars like assumptions, learning experience, cognitive awareness, conscience and the part inner environment plays in the creation of standpoint.This training course is no different in making such initial assumptions, and it is a very good course.
Another approach altogether is mentoring. Like many buzz words mentoring carries its own cultural baggage of meaning, and becomes used so often that it becomes unexamined, and the in crowd who use it assume it means a certain way of being and practice. Amongst the strengths of having a mentor is the benefit of learning from an experienced person, seeing how 'it is done', finding support, guidance and example in this other, more senior colleague or trainer. However I remain gently sceptical about mentoring in these terms, especially if such mentoring has a directive remit, whether explicit or through the authority and influence of someone who in the mentoring relationship inhabits the position of knowledge, experience and therefore power. Mentoring can become a way of shaping people as copies of the mentor. Admiration is its own filter, and is by definition reluctant to see that which might be open to critique and challenge. And the person being mentored is not always in the position of 'knowing better' so that the habits of thought, action and attitude of the mentor consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or not, shape ways of being and doing and thinking and feeling in the mentoree - I know, isn't that an ugly word.
So whether I am at a course aimed at transforming my thinking by challenging my existing paradigms, assumptions and ways of being, or whether I am working within a relationship of learning with a mentor, I am still required to be critically aware not only of my own questionable presuppositions, but also of those who challenge them. Everyone has a position, standpoint, worldview, mindset.
Against the background of all such thinking I hear the words of Jesus:
Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn of me;
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
And no, I'm not making the banal point Jesus is my mentor, or Jesus is my paradigm shift. That kind of T-shirt theology is just that. Neither of those terms or ways of seeing our lives and the world are sufficiently descriptive of the disruptive and regenerative consequences of responding to Jesus invitation.
Take up your cross and follow;
become as a little child; love your enemies;
inasmuch as you did it unto the marginalised, vulnerable, poor,
God-forsaken, you did it to me; blessed are the peacemakers;
anger and hate are murder; forgive seventy times seven.
We don't just need a mentor for such behaviour, we need an inner renewal, a spiritual invasion of grace, a comprehensive renovation of heart and mind. And yes that will indeed require a paradigm shift, not as a one off, but as a way of life in which repeatedly and continually we see the world anew and renewed. The Incarnation, Transfiguration, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus do not only renew my way of looking at the world - they have renewed the world I look at and live in. The resurrection is, for Christian theology, the ultimate paradigm shift.