The Book

The Book

As you may already know, this website is developed in part to showcase a book on education that is being written based on my experiences. I'm in the process of querying for a publishing agent and I'd like to take this opportunity to share the first two chapters of the book as a part of an open query for any of the agencies who might be interested in taking this work on. What follows is the sample manuscript containing an introduction and two chapters, plus the reference list written for those two chapters. The reader should note that the printed version of the document is better formatted according to APA style guidelines, and has been adapted to fit a web page.

If you are interested in publishing this work, please contact me at

Left-Handed in Jefferson County, CO: Resilience and Stigma in Education

At a time when there are young people taking to the streets in protest of what was called education reform, during the 1989 education summit when the idea of implementing performance measurements and standards was developed, students in 2014 are seeking to be heard. What is truly utilitarian about this happening, is that young people are learning the way of non-violent protest and direct political action. In 2014, during the fall and winter of this year, a controversy had been created when the acting school board in Jefferson County, Colorado; sought to monitor and select approved materials for the teaching of advanced placement history. The administrators thought that it would be prudent to censor the materials in order to make historical events, particularly in terms of events in the civil rights era, more tolerable to young people and less likely to incite civil disorder. The response was one of direct action, formed by the students who marched on county school board meetings in protest, and began walking out of state required exams and tests. The boiling point around course materials for advanced placement history was not an accident, it was the manifestation of already expected tensions between the students who had already raised concerns of institutionalized racism having become a part of standardized testing, and administrators who sought to regulate teacher salaries through the standardized program developed at the 1989 education summit. The skirmish surrounding history textbooks has taught thousands of young people in Jefferson County, Colorado; how to organize peaceful demonstrations and create nonviolent action that currently has the potential to change the administration of schools in the State of Colorado. However it is a part of a larger conflict, students are seeking to be heard, and are seeking education that is equitable, and also individualized and meaningful as a part of their experiences growing up in Jefferson County.

Young people commonly discuss what is called the school-to-prison pipeline, or the route which young people go through if they do not measure up to the social expectations placed on the population by administrators, and sometimes the stigma unintentionally created by educators who are not strong communicators or adept at the formation of successful teacher-student relationships. Young people are not acting simply in protest of course materials or the systems by which they are judged, they are acting to demonstrate a unified social identity and asking for an education that is meaningful and that provides a sense of achievement. I know this, because I am a person who has survived the school-to-prison pipeline, and I have held the space for the many accusations and negative social expectations created in the context of Jefferson County, and I have found that creating a meaningful social identity in the larger life context can be a great healer of social stigma.

In Colorado, we are all a part of what is called a culture of honor, a system of social expectations that relies on mutual respect for protection and intimidation for the maintenance of social spaces that provide safety. The western frontier was thought to have been a social climate which contributed to a culture of honor, southern frontier states were also characterized by this cultural development as a part of the initial frontiersman and herding culture, a culture that exhibits some characteristics that are still visible today (Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle & Schwarz, 1996). Rooted in the original cattle herding culture of the time of pioneers, it is thought that cultures of honor developed in pioneer states because it was the system of intimidation, norms, and values that best protected the rights and property of pioneer farmers, herders, and cattlemen (Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle & Schwarz, 1996). The evolution of this culture of honor in Colorado was perpetuated in the 1950’s and the 1960’s when Colorado was thought to be a geographically safe location in terms of distance from potential nuclear strikes from Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles during The Cold War, and the state was fortified in all major cities with the addition of military bases and military research communities. I like to think of Colorado as having the culture like that of bionic sheep, because as an analogy it describes our tendency to be a part of the culture of honor, in a way that has been augmented through military fortification and social expectations related to military honors.

The combination of standardization and government intimidation in a culture of honor that is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline is tangible in this space, social expectations and interactions have greater consequences than legal proceedings, and academic expectations created out of intolerant standards have created a hostile space for young people to learn in.

As for the author, I started out neurologically left-handed, and in our culture at the time there were still individuals who were caregivers for me who thought of this uniqueness as a religious disharmony, and I have struggled throughout my education with handwriting because my many early elementary teachers insisted that I write with my right hand. This of course later elaborated itself as a developmental deficiency, and one which I have received therapy and counseling for while in my earlier years of school, and one for which a solution was readily available but never attempted. Throughout my education social expectations have influenced my life this way, in a negative way, and a way that I maintain a sense of gratitude for as I have learned to adapt and evolve around these steadfast stigmas. For example I am now ambidextrous and agile as a part of having been forced to learn handwriting with my less dominant hand. From the time I started my secondary education, to the time I had earned my first four-year degree, twenty-two years had passed. I survived in a public school which had focused on teaching the means of learning and not the content of the learning materials, and I have utilized the many strategies for learning and instruction that I had earned during my progression through an oppressive system, during my more than two-decade adventure through academia.

As a writer, I would like to bring readers on this adventure with me, and my views as an educator have led me to conclude that learning is a cyclical process. My awareness of the experiences of young people who are seeking to establish an optimally distinctive identity and academic success, begins a cycle of adventure that will progress throughout this writing. Later in this writing I will convey in greater detail the happenings surrounding the direct actions that process and resolve the conflict between young people and the administrators of education; first I think it is important to discuss how the attainment of meaning applies to our experiences, motivates us, and in a transpersonal way establishes success through our individual and optimally distinctive merging with the larger life-contexts that we inhabit.

     My life serves as an experience in self-actualization, and the purpose of this book is to describe a process of renewal, which can lead to intrinsically motivated self-actualization or being-cognition. Being-cognition, as opposed to deficiency-need cognition was the dynamic which Abraham Maslow described during his evaluation of people who seem to have an endowment of creativity who did not fit his original transcription of the process of self-actualization (Maslow, 1974). Self-directed learning and intrinsic motivation are synonyms for this kind of motivational goal, a true love of learning that can be imbued through peak experiences.

     I am a fledgling educator and I recently graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors in psychology and criminal justice at Walden University. My degree had been conferred in January of 2014, a capstone which I had been striving for since dropping out of high school in 1994. I went underground between the years 1994 and 1998 to discover the parts of our society that are deemed too cool for school and to find the reasons which people fail and begin struggling after dropping out of the secondary school environment. I had made it my mission to understand the trials that were created as a part of the culture of Jefferson County, Colorado; and to then achieve success by describing those trials to educators as a means of solving the problems I discovered and evaluated. In 1999 I returned to high school at a democratic school called Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colorado. I was 20 and 21 years of age at the time, having attended class and earned some teaching experience by offering classes on computer repair as a part of my high school program. Then I began the arduous trek through the state programs, colleges, and universities and I had discovered that these programs also have their inherent trials that are related to the culture of honor in the context of Colorado. I have attended college for many things, case management, and for computer networks and internets, and also all of my general education coursework was met, before I began to focus on motivational psychology. In 2013 I began working more closely with educators in the international context and also in Jefferson County, Colorado as a part of the 2013 International Democratic Education Conference shortly before my degree had been conferred. I found that many educators are seeking the knowledge that my experiences from the outside of education looking in are comprised of, and the lessons that I can teach about education and motivation.

     This writing also serves to describe a journey that illuminates a process of reform and of behavior change through a process that I describe with the lens of humanistic psychology. My core learning principles are constructivist, and I view learning as a social process that involves an individual’s whole being or Gestalt. Some of the foregoing chapters describe the processes of individual and social learning in great detail, through the use of storytelling that can help elucidate the process of transpersonal reform and community engagement. My stories come from my experience as a student and from my youth, and I strive to highlight the details of the rites of passage I experienced, and the moments which contributed to my sense of communion with the larger transpersonal life-context.

     In the context of motivation and behavior change research, there is a great discussion taking place around what is called the intention-behavior gap, as far as understanding the dynamics that exist between a person’s intentions and the resultant behaviors that exist in social space.

     Schwarzer (2008), describes a stage-theory of behavior change for behavior modification that deals with health-risk behaviors that are considered to be antisocial. Velicer & Prochaska (2008), comment on the work of Schwarzer and contend that the stage theory ought to be more inclusive of an individuals initial pre-contemplation and contemplation of intentionally changing a behavior, as well as for the maintenance of volitionally modified behavior patterns. Many people are curious as to what motivates behavior change and the internalization of desired behaviors, and in the context of motivational psychology this discussion is taking place according to the attribution theory of motivation. Attribution theory describes motivation by describing the value that an individual may place on the attainment of a goal, and when considering the risk of failure, a person may become motivationally engaged or decide that the risk of failure is too great; the value of meaning is still sought after in attribution theory as a way of understanding why some people are more apt to take risks successfully even as individuals who can be characterized as failure-avoidant (Weiner, 2010).

     McClelland’s hypothesis is an equation that begins with an individual’s desired achievement potential, applied to an internal assessment of available cognitive skills as with the sense of ability to succeed, and an evaluation of affective goals related to the incentive affects or sensations of affiliation, when a person chooses to work in a group (McClelland, 1985). The role of affects, sensations and feelings is discussed as a part of McClelland’s hypothesis, in a way that helps to further elucidate the methodological concern that motivational psychologists have labelled the intention-behavior gap (Mohiyeddini, Pauli & Bauer, 2009).

     Often, meaningful experience and affect are overlooked parts of human motivation theories, while self-actualization in the later revised form focuses on the connection between the larger community and life-context as becoming meaningful experience and recognized social rites begin to become visible as a source of intrinsically motivated creativity. My gift to you the reader, is to provide stories that help to communicate the source of meaning, and the feelings which can bridge the intention-behavior gap when it comes to the motivation of young and adult learners; each story also serves as an experiential anchor for understanding current research in education and motivation.

Chapter I. Expectations and Outcomes

Expectations are something that could hinder or manipulate living processes. Learning itself, as a process, starts with the sensation and expectation that there is some new experience or knowledge to attain (Zinker, 1977). The very process of science is creating a hypothesis which is in a way an expectation, and then testing it against operationalized data. But expectations will occlude science if the expectation is held to a higher standard of proof than the data reveals. A person cannot create data to suit a hypothesis and still do meaningful work. Much like this, a person cannot create expectations in life that will always be fulfilled the way she or he might think they are. I can think of one exception, for the examination of life’s expectations.

To the reader, this chapter introduces the framework for the foregoing writing and presents a novel story about planned behavior and expectation, followed with data that exists in current research that is repeatable. A novel study or a conclusive qualitative story is something that I consider imperative to your experience as a reader, but repeatable and reliable facts are necessary when conducting research or practicing as an educator. In education research validity and replication are often overlooked in favor of novel experience, and educators concluded that repeatable and valid research is an imperative when it comes to teaching and learning about education (Makel & Plucker, 2014).

The Experience

This story takes place in around the early spring of the year 1995; I was a teenager, slightly more impulsive, and fully within the grit of teenage experience as someone who had struggled with high school education. As a group, our rites were those of the recognition of skill, and especially the recognition of skills that were applicable in the context of our former military affiliations and training with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which is a United States Air Force auxiliary. The CAP was a preparatory academy for military service, and as friends we all grew up around the notion of service, and honored the skills that would best suit the profession; such as marksmanship, and expert driving, and the mental readiness to take calculated risks.

It had already been a crazy weekend. I had crashed my car once already getting to a location in the mountains where Chris was having a party. That experience left Cooper dangling out of the passenger side door in my 1976 Honda hatchback. It had a five speed transmission and that was useful and all, but in the related story my learning curve and skill related to driving things with smaller transmissions caused the accident. After a brief detour into a hardcore punk party (where people were running in a circle violently creating a “mosh pit”) and trying to find someone with a truck, we eventually pulled the car back off of the cliff before wind, snow or water could cause it to roll the 500 feet or so to the bottom. After that, I was driving back down into town with Chase in the canyon. Chase and I used to do time trials in this canyon, part of an ongoing series of mutual rites and recognition that surrounded our skills as a group. Anyhow, having pulled the car off the cliff the night previous had damaged the suspension, because the owner of the pickup had hooked the car improperly.

I think it’s peculiar to note that on the way down through the canyon the next morning we picked up a hitchhiker who worked for a racing company, which I connected to my sense of the larger life context as a part of this peak experience. After we dropped him off my new and unintentional suspension modifications caused a spin in the stretch at the bottom of the canyon. I remember standing there having gotten out of the car to look into the creek below, and wonder if it had been worth it. That was the day following the events trying to get to Chris’ party. Anyway the car started again as I had stalled it correcting the loss of control. So, Chase and I got back underway. When I got home I realized my wallet was missing, the only conclusion was that it was back up at Chris’ place. I drove up the mountain again to find out. 

In the meantime I should probably mention that I had done all of the work on this car previous, I used to do “pre-flight” and idle checks before driving it, something I learned from flying small airplanes at Centennial Airport (KAPA) in Colorado. At some point, I had even set up a shopping-cart slalom in a K-mart shopping center for driving practice, which the local policeman had pulled me over in, to mention that he did not like the idea. It was a humble car, it was also a lot of fun. Without really knowing it, I had expected that the car would perform under any very exceptional circumstances.

Back at Chris’ residence, as he’s talking to me and I am finding out that nobody has any idea where my wallet could be, I concluded that it must have been stolen. I remember wondering if Chris was a part of that. But, we decided to go meet some friends at the top of sharp’s ridge anyhow. We waited at the bottom of the road to smoke tobacco, and we were sitting in the car to the right of a stop sign at the main intersection with the highway in the grass. A State Patrolman arrived in a truck to check us out. “Well,” I explained to the patrolman, “I’d just had my wallet stolen, but I have my state ID here in the ashtray.”. Why I chose to leave the state ID in the car I may never know, but it served as further evidence of a connection with the larger universe I had inhabited at the time, which was meaningful to me. The officer read the number off of the ID and confirmed that it was also a valid driver’s license number. Finding no citable offenses he left.

So, Chris and I drove up the curvy paved road, it’s marked with signs that indicate 15 M.P.H. and 10 M.P.H. suggested speeds for all the oncoming curves. I didn’t think anything of it, the paved road was also completely covered with gravel, a road treatment from a previous snowfall which had melted. We pulled to the top of the residential area on a mountain and waited. Chris’ friends arrived with pot and we just thought that was wonderful, I didn’t really enjoy smoking any very much because I was contemplating how to get back down to the bottom of Sharp’s Ridge anxiously. Chris decided to ride with his other friends, I found that strange as their vehicle wasn’t in as good a condition as mine, or so I had thought. I remember I had to slow initially to put on my safety belt, which was an intuitive part of this experience that I have gratitude for to this day, and another moment that upon reflection allows me to commune with the larger universal life-context meaningfully.

At the top of the road I was approaching 65 M.P.H. and decided to downshift into fourth gear for oncoming curves slowing to about 45 M.P.H. and one curve caught me by surprise. I took third gear in the outside of that curve to have the torque necessary to stay on the road in the curve and I was completely ignoring road markings using the entire width of the road. The maneuver was successful, a long screeching slide to the right, but the car was no longer happy. Having rounded the curve there was the little red Toyota with Chris aboard ahead of me going all of about 20 M.P.H. and I just touched the brakes… In a viciously rapid shudder, my suspension came apart, the car was now completely out of control, and the only way I could get it back was by recalibrating where I thought the wheels were turned. By the time I recovered control of the car, which I was steering to the left to go straight, I assessed my situation. I was headed off of the road, of course. I turned the wheels all the way left and gave the car all the throttle it had in second gear. The car lurched, started to recover but I was still going to inevitably crash. I looked at my options internally. There was a yucca plant in the way, but apparently some distance between trees in which I might be able to slow, if I jumped off of the road. Thinking yucca plants don’t slow things down much I opted for the controlled crash. This was instead of a sideways roll that would have occurred if I had chosen to attempt to stay aligned with the road. It then occurred to me, that my Honda doesn’t have wings. I had no expectations left, my car had failed, but somehow after landing from a considerable mid-air descent I missed all the trees. There was what I thought to be a small rock in the way and then, a tree. I was going to hit something, and I think the speedometer had gone back down to 40. Rapidly the small rock lodged itself into the car’s front sub-frame, and the velocity of the car turned it out of the ground. It turned out to be a very large boulder, which I was clawing and ripping out of the earth, as it rolled down the hill with me. The resulting resistance from the weight of the boulder stopped the car, and had lifted it off the ground and balanced it almost precisely on the car’s lifting points, as though it were at a service shop on a lift. Ok, so everything was ok but the car which is on top of a very large rock about a foot away from any of three or four trees, one which it was bumper-to-bark with. I climbed out of the window because the weight of the car on the body of it would not allow the doors to open. Chris returned to see what happened, I asked, but they would not let me get a ride with them to go to the town to use a payphone. Reluctantly, I approached the house nearby, which had a front yard that I just renovated with a new boulder.

The Research

Attitude plays an important role in the outcomes of choices. Group membership also plays an important role in the moderation of decision making processes. I am not an author who will tell you that rational decision making always leads to optimal outcomes. Firstly, affect serves as a rapid means of classifying choices, and moderates cognition (Bjornebekk, 2008). Secondly, the roles that we fit in society in terms of social class can be said to influence attitudes and in some ways predict behavior, especially when it comes to visible participation in social or political groups (Acock & Scott, 1980). Our family and social spaces can influence our attitudes about values in social space, and influence whether or not we participate in certain activities. McClelland’s Hypothesis states that the incentive created by the perception of satisfaction with the process engaged to achieve goals in social space can also be a factor that influences motivation to achieve in the larger life context, which can be compared by an individual in a relativistic way to the personally contrived perception of skill and the expected possibility of attainment success in terms of achievement goals (McClelland, 1985). 

The internally contrived impressions that we have about whether something would be a good experience to do, and whether success is externally expected to be possible given our existing skill sets, can influence our choices about engaging in activities. However, confidence plays a role in the selection of tasks and information. Social groups tend to process information in a homogenous way, and when groups have already decided on a desired outcome for the search of information, a confirmation bias exists so long as the group members are confident that the information processed is credible (Kerscreiter, Schulz-Hardt, Mojzisch & Frey, 2008). Highly confident groups tend only to find information that supports the pre-existing attitudes about a decision, while groups that are not as confident tend to support the confirmation bias less (Kerscreiter, Schulz-Hardt, Mojzisch & Frey, 2008). This kind of confirmation bias is therefore reinforced by confidence in existing epistemologies and skill sets for the attainment of knowledge or the execution of an applicable skill in social space, which can influence the expectation of success or the attainment of an available outcome. Attitudes, norms, internal and external expectations about the control of behaviors, and internally contrived intentions related to the outcome of behaviors can create a model for predicting behaviors that may be considered prosocial within groups, but antisocial between-groups in the larger life context (Hutching, Lac & LaBrie, 2008). Affects, or emotions; can also play a role in mitigating the bridge between intentions about behavior, decisions about the commitments to behavior, and the resulting social behavioral outcomes (Mohiyeddini, Pauli & Bauer, 2009). Affect is a moderator in terms of the selection of achievement tasks that can be sought after, and feelings help to narrow the search in the field of choices for individuals who are deciding about achievements and motivations toward expected outcomes (Bjørnebekk, 2008). Affect can represent incentive in the context of McClelland’s hypothesis, and the impression about whether activity creates a positive affect can moderate choices about achievement and behavior. Emotions about affiliation within social groups, and expected power within social space is thought to moderate the engagement of decision making processes and the motivation to achieve (Zurbriggan & Sturman, 2002).

One of the most positive affects that can be present in any experience comes from the expectation of nature-relatedness and the feeling of being connected. People who feel that their attitudes, behaviors, intentions, and behavioral outcomes are aligned with natural rhythms can be shown to have more positive affective expectations about experience and happiness in life (Zelenski & Nisbet, 2012). People who believe that they fit into social group ecologies and have considerable efficacy within the social group are more likely to motivate themselves due to influences arising from affective arousal, cognitive patterns, and internal beliefs about self-efficacy and skill (Bandura, 1989). Social rites and social recognition were thought to be contributing reasons in terms of explaining sometimes antisocial behavior among youth in a qualitative analysis, and acculturative stress was thought to contribute to some antisocial behaviors among Mexican-American youth (Holleran & Jung, 2005). Socially recognized rites of passage have been evaluated and deemed a necessary part of youth experience, in terms of recognizing and honoring youth transitions from childhood to adulthood, several recognized rites exist in ethnically diverse populations; however much thought is needed in terms of including socially recognized rites as a part of education in general and as a part of mainstream culture for therapeutic reasons (Delaney, 1995). The feeling of connectedness within the larger life context also arises from what are called peak experiences, as described by Abraham Maslow, peak experiences are momentary reflective crises that demonstrate our actions and outcomes as inextricably and transpersonally related to the larger external world (Maslow, 1974).

The Lesson

What I had learned in the story, was that when I was doing all of the work on the car and checking the belts before running it and doing run-ups like pre-flight for a small plane, is that I was really building a sense of overconfidence and for all practical doing a pre-flight that would lead to a flight (in a car). The expectations that I had were not realistic, I was overconfident, and my actions were manifesting thought patterns that would later cause this crash. Chase, Chris and I all believed ourselves to be very capable race drivers, which influenced our decisions about driving techniques and the speeds at which we were travelling. 

What had happened to the car in reality was the left-rear suspension fork was damaged when it was pulled off of the cliff, and the hard left curve on the third day popped the left half-shaft out of the car’s transmission. But it was as though I had expected it all along, and rapidly became a communion with the larger life context as a meaningful peak experience. My friends and I would tell this story in groups for many years to come. I can’t really say any of these experiences were smart in an academic way, but they were exciting, and maybe my other culturally imbued attitudes led to the catastrophe.

So, this in a way is what I think about expectations, they influence your actions. And in all situations, especially relationships, which are later in this writing; expectations are not always certain. You see the real expectation is in faithfully doing and not in expecting. That is where all actions come from and feelings, are the reflective experience along the way that guide us. What is truly real about this experience is that the small rock that ended up being a boulder was there, and the situation was happening with total synchronicity in the course of my life as a peak experience. I was safe, and it was for unpredictable reasons that were outside of my control.  As this book may show you, how some of us in any Jefferson County school survived is just a matter of being at the right place at the only time, which is now. Peak experience is not as readily attainable as a single student in a classroom, but may be tenable when operating in social space as a member of a student group society while participating in a community of inquiry.

     As educators, it’s important to think of the expectations that are held for students. If the research reveals something about externally imbued values affecting behavior that’s good, but if the research tells a story of ordinary people who are expected to be extraordinary and connect with a motivating universal experience, that’s more than great. Sometimes, the synchronicities within peak experience that keep people moving forward seem to be random and causal parts of the experience, and sometimes those causalities are the only intervening reason for success. Students live and navigate in a world of expected values and outcomes, but a love of learning comes from an experience that is synchronistic and that demonstrates the importance of the learning in the larger groups and universal contexts that students inhabit. Those road signs that seem to be encouraging and yet completely external to the volitional agencies of individual students, external because they are unexpected or extraordinary, tend to foster a deeper connection with the larger world and community. If the experience is important to the social group and a personal social identity it can be very motivating, if the experience is meaningful in the larger community and life-context, it can begin to forge intrinsic motivation. In secondary education, it is a valuable trait to expect the formation of intrinsically motivated learning, as this can become the manifest outcome. Predefined expectations in a cultural sense can very tangibly become the resultant outcomes, even in extraordinary circumstances.

     Publicly recognizing achievement as a part of a young person’s developing experience can help to foster community engagement and self-efficacy, and the development of socially recognized rites of passage as a part of education has been mentioned as a needed exploration in both education research and research in the context of criminal justice reform.

Chapter II. The Cycle of Experience

     This section in Chapter 2 contains two stories that illuminate a lifelong pattern. One near-death experience occurred very early in life, when I was 17 or 18. The second cycle elaborated itself recently, and I’m now 37. The purpose of telling two stories in parallel is to examine how patterns form at very young ages, and later elaborate themselves again only in larger more complex and elaborate ways, which contain more specialized experience. This is setting the little life in the circle of the greater life, as life continues to grow and empower itself within the patterns that we create for it in the beginning. This is an enumeration of the Gestalt Cycle of Experience that will be described in the research section of this chapter.

The Experience

     Story one happens in what must have been 1996.

     I was trying to go back to school at Lakewood High School after a short period of working at a car wash. There was a synchronicity that happened, as after I had stopped working at the car wash, a few days later a young man had gotten himself electrocuted while using the equipment that was needed for the job I had just left. I had only shortly before that decided that working at the car wash was not meant for me, and I saw that as a roadsign which had indicated I was living in the right direction.

     I had been taking classes at Lakewood High School for about a quarter of a semester. I often felt judged at the high school, and I had already dealt with having been assaulted once before the following assault from the people in the red car took place. I had just gotten a new leather backpack as a present from my grandparents, and as the red Honda rolled up I remember thinking that I would have to leave it in the parking lot at a gas station that I was crossing, and I set it down. A very large young Asian man rolled down his window, and looked at me, while the driver of the car instructed him to get out and fight me. This was a rather brutal engagement, by the end of the fight I had decided that the other young man’s punches had very little impact or could cause not much more injury. I was able to defend myself for long enough that he gave up, exhausted, and got back in the car as the car drove away.

     I was confused, bloodied, I had a broken nose that I took my t-shirt off to try and stop the bleeding, it was enough for me to figure out how to get to the bus stop and I had left my leather backpack behind. On the bus, I remember feeling ineffective, and although I was in a most vulnerable place as I cried I could still feel judging eyes instead of caring ones. Although, in retrospect it was probably a sight to see, a young man very bloody and trying to treat his own wounds while riding the bus to get home.

     As I was healing from these injuries, an entire group of friends arrived at my house to go on a “space cruise”. It was called this because one of the cars that belonged to Chase and his parents was a 90’s model Subaru, we thought it looked like a space egg. So, we all piled in and took a drive from Lakewood, Colorado to the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. I was feeling ill, and disoriented, and I was contemplating the thought that maybe a lot of God’s consciousness is embodied in a star like our yellow dwarf sun. After I was feeling so sick and dizzy, I remember being embarrassed and I switched places into the back of the car. At the park, I suffered an experience where I lost control of my nerves and my movement, I could no longer move my body. I was still breathing as everyone left the car to go and hang out by the rocks.

     Cooper asked me if I was coming I told him with all the strength I had left that I couldn’t move at all. “Oh, okay.” He said simply, and he left. I held on after my breathing stopped, long enough to notice my heart was no longer beating. I lost consciousness for what felt like a very brief period, and during that period I remember thinking that I wished I could have it all to do over, I’d tell God that I wanted nothing more than to learn about everything, about life, about love, about whether god is a star in the sky, about teaching, about learning, about anything, about everything. I was broken, and in this field of blue sky I felt at home but I felt like I had not accomplished what I had wanted to in life.

     I awoke to find myself still in the back of the Subaru. I got out, scaled up a rock cliff while celebrating what it felt like to be alive and living in a way that let me move and scale the walls of rock around me. I got to the top, urinated on a tree, and started playing hide and seek with the people who had left me in the car. I suppose it was at this point that I realized I needed to change my cohort, I felt abandoned and I was hurt by the betrayal of needing help and being left alone to experience something very close to death. Though it was fun at the time as I was celebrating life, and I realized that some of my friends were after all looking for me, and so I would let them find me later in the night before we drove home.

     The second exception, also a near death experience, is much like the initial cycle or pattern only it is larger and contains more elaborate experience. Though the second story is a parallel with the first, it is an example of an outwardly developed pattern of peak experience. It begins again as I was fighting to earn an education and to improve education in Jefferson County, Colorado.

     I had been working with a former mentor, a friend, who had written a book about the Jefferson County Open School (JCOS). I became the treasurer for a group called the Friends of the Open School, and after some successes in the international context at the 2013 International Democratic Education Conference, the group followed up on my idea about crowdsourcing some of the costs of attendance at Open School. Our crowdsourcing initiative found immediate success, and brought thousands of dollars of charitably donated funds to the pool of funding for a number of JCOS extended trips. Extended travel experiences and trips are a part of learning at JCOS because they provide the experiential and community engagement aspects of learning that allows students to more fully engage learning and community life.

     Our successes in funding were noticed, and the school came under attack. In emergency management circles using the Incident Command System (ICS) we refer to this kind of event as a CBRNE event or a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosive emergency. As this writing continues, the investigation seeking the perpetrators of the attack is still underway. The attack itself consisted of a hazardous material that was planted in the playgrounds at JCOS which is a K-12 environment. Emergency personnel responded and washed all of the children who were exposed, and measured the effects of exposure which was visible throughout the school’s population. 

     Previous to this event, I was having a great difficulty with one of the consultants that the group was working with, because she did not approve of the way that we were financing the school and not bringing resources directly into the Friends of the Open School (FOTOS) organization. I had as a result begun investigating earlier treasury files, and checks made to her organization, and discovered that over thirty thousand dollars of money had been donated and spent through this organization previous; and that hardly any of those resources had ever directly benefitted the school. I was resentful and tallied up the costs of the development for an otherwise cost-free Google-based website, and presented my findings to the board during one of our final meetings, stating that the costs were outrageous and that we needed to begin capitalizing on our other fundraising resources.

     The consultant who I had mentioned became angry and had been threatening me previous, telling me that my mentor would not support the organization if he were not the only donor. In the e-mails and conversations that followed, that mentor was insouciant and disrespectful, and stated that if FOTOS were to dissolve that would be his intention. This was a betrayal and abandonment from someone who I’d considered a friend and it felt much like the abandonment that I had experienced at the Garden of the Gods in my previous story.

     During this near-final board meeting I was also asked to engage FOTOS in the controversy surrounding high-stakes standardized testing, and to get into the political fight with the county surrounding the issue; the board approved that action. I had written a letter to The President of the United States asking for assistance surrounding the issues that were presented by Mr. Alex Kacsh at the first-ever Colorado State of the Student Address at the Colorado State Capitol. This message was crafted as a part of a campaign against high-stakes testing that had begun when Mr. Kacsh held the rally in Denver, Colorado on March 3rd of 2014 (CBS Local, 2014a). I received the following response on May 22nd 2014.

Figure 1. Letter from the President of the United States, May 22nd, 2014. 

    Additionally, what follows here is an actual e-mail containing the approved action that had been sent to the Jefferson County Schools administration prior to other political action on the grounds of the school:

Gmail - Mon, May 19, 2014 at 7:27 PM




In 1994 I dropped out of high school due to intense social expectations. I knew very well that there was a huge problem at the state level. I knew this because the lives of all of the people that I had cared about changed in those few days. Your district made a financial decision, to expel all of my friends. I have videos of all of these people from when they were teens, most of these people are either in prison, or fighting very dearly trying to earn a paycheck, some are in other systems. To make matters worse, I myself was placed in the school to prison pipeline that your district had created. I spent 20 years trying to earn my first bachelor's degree, after attending high school at Jefferson County Open School while in my early twenties. This is the only thing that the division of vocational rehabilitation had ever helped me improve. I was told that I was severely mentally ill. For a very long time I would cry to sleep at night, wondering why there was nobody helping me. I am an athlete, at that time I weighed over 260 pounds, and I currently have scars over much of my body due to medication side effects. I have other symptoms that will never heal, as the result of medication. I have been on I believe, every atypical antipsychotic drug that had been available prior to 2010. I was told that I would not ever be able to be in a position in any company, or earn my own paycheck for the rest of my life. Most of my friends also had believed what these mental health professionals and school teachers had said about me, and I have been assaulted many, many times. Sometimes, by people I had considered my dearest friends. While in the Fort Logan hospital, I was asked to give up all of my constitutional rights, including my right to bear arms and my right to respect my own religion. If I had described my religious beliefs, or if I had wanted to be a part of reporting any crime I would have been told that I was imagining things, and that I needed different medications. I would like your district to think very seriously about what high­ stakes testing really means to our young people, give them the respect that they deserve, and listen very carefully to their needs. Accountability is not about finances, it is about understanding the best way to educate young human beings who deserve to be in the very best roles within society that they believe is possible and strive to achieve. I've kept very detailed records of my journey. I have since been declared healthy and fit, in every possible way. I had never had the disability that I was diagnosed with. I can work for the State of Colorado and help solve the problems in every major social system that I have been processed in. The following is a communication that I had shared with a number of education organizations, and attached are two pictures. One of myself in 1994, and one of myself in 2001 after being processed at Fort Logan.

Figure 2. The photos presented to the Jefferson County Schools board during the Stand Up For Students campaign.

I have thoroughly documented my early experiences from within the school-­to­prison pipeline in the context of the Jefferson County Schools administration. I have a lot of old video footage, every document I had ever written, and some outstanding letters of reference from Jefferson County Open School that refer to integrity. I'm here to help solve our problem based on my experience, and also the associated problems in the mental health, disability, and vocational rehabilitation systems. My original high school transcripts are posted here: usp=sharing

Since 1994, it has been my mission to understand the harm caused by the pipeline, and social expectations that can lead to violence and other larger social problems. Here is some of my original research and other references that apply to the solutions for our collective social problems.

Somehow, I also kept track of every other assignment I wrote at every other university, including the state ones. I have since been found to be healthy in all respects. I'm going to stand up for the students today. You can join us.

With Gratitude, ­­

            Corey Hixson



Source: “Jefferson County Schools” e-mail sent May 19, 2014


      This e-mail was an additional part of the State of the Student rally. During the rally, Mr. Kacsh addressed the reality that the standardized system was effectively a form of institutionalized racism and that it was increasing inequality in society. The board of Friends of the Open School thereafter voted to engage the county on this issue, and the resulting campaign became much more complex than I’d originally imagined it could. On April 7th, 2014 amid our success in fund-raising and the development of social capital surrounding the Stand up for Students protests against standardized testing in Jefferson County, a weaponized form of what was said to be habanero peppers was placed on the playground at Jefferson County Open School resulting in multiple injuries and exposure throughout the population of the K-12 school (CBS Local, 2014b).

      Non-state mass-fear tactics had become a part of the campaigns surrounding the conflict between students and teachers, and the county. Finally, an event the following week known as the Stand Up For Students rally at 10th and Wadsworth in May of 2014, was a successful rally, but it also had represented another attempted mass fear-evoking attack. I wasn’t aware of the scope and nature of this event until I had spotted and geotagged a device around the protest area, which I assumed would be harmless if other individuals could be kept away from it. I received a call, which I thought was odd that it came in from Maryland, and we talked about my involvement and quest for employment in the area. I spent most of the protest shepherding the children and adults away from the area that I suspected might have been trapped. At one point one of the instructors from the school was intentionally and recklessly running about the area of the device, and I remember taking a deep breath and asking God for assistance. In an instant and what I thought was a flash of light perhaps a laser of some kind, the trap had been triggered by the reckless man but nothing had happened, as I waited for a response to the event and none came. After that some of the young people had been watching the behavior of the adults who were running in and out of traffic, they climbed the barricades in what was a construction area, and were holding signs screaming “We’re gonna die!”. After I was able to convince the young people that everything was okay and to come off of the barricade wall, I served notice to the volunteer adults about their behavior. Some of the protesters were cited for this reckless behavior but no alarms were raised about the device which was still in the area. I saw one of the instructors from the school driving by, a person I knew from the non-profit organization Friends of the Open School, and she was crying heavily. The protest time drew to a close, the signs were collected, and a peaceful nonviolent demonstration was successful. As I left the area, I spotted a remote detonator on the ground at the corner of 10th and Wadsworth, approximately 10 feet west of the pole holding the traffic signals. I remember being too astonished and frightened of this to take a photo or inspect the object further, and I had figured that I was not the only one responding to the trap and left the area. No response ever came, and I found myself in a place where I realized that the children could be in danger and it was a danger which could come from law enforcement and other individuals in positions of trust within the Jefferson County administration. I needed to choose my battles well from this point forward. I was afraid, but not so much for me, I was afraid for the students who were pitted in a conflict against the well-armed and equipped law enforcement agencies in Jefferson County.

     Somewhere along the way in the study of social change and human motivation, I’d learned that the best way to counter an injustice is by raising public awareness, and in the larger life-context the grave human injustices that had been taking place would be realized and deemed intolerable. My task therefore, was to raise awareness of the corruption and the dangers present in the community through non-violent action. I had done such, and the ensuing investigation at the state and federal levels has implicated a large number of allegedly corrupt law enforcement and administrative personnel who are a part of the larger problem in the context of Jefferson County Schools. The foregoing recollection of the second near-death experience that I can articulate, is given to demonstrate the nature of experience, and the way that strong patterns in life often repeat themselves in greater and more elaborate events and experiences.

     It was time for one of the young people to graduate, and I was present at his graduation support ceremony, where I remember feeling quite strange after being tapped in the arm while I was eating the strawberries at the event. Graduation was coming soon, and I knew that the political tensions would escalate out of control around this young man who was graduating, he had raised awareness of the practice of institutionalized racism in the State of Colorado according to the standardized tests that we now know are likely lacking construct validity. The mean reading scores and the mean writing scores in the State of Colorado for the entire testing period of more than a decade are not related at all, with a Pearson r=0.0016 (Hixson, 2015a). And so we were in a very tense political situation.

     The following days were quite the blur, as I remember being fearful of more attacks coming that would be related to the political issue, and I found out that one of my mentors was likely involved in the attacks. As a matter of fact, the people who had the strongest motives to execute the attacks were the founders of the Friends of the Open School organization, financially this would increase public awareness of the school and sell many of Dr. Posner’s books.

     Frantically, I thought of a way out of the situation, but it wasn’t going to be easy. First, I fire-safed my entire apartment and stowed away the items that I needed to have in the closet, packed tightly so that if an arson occurred I’d likely still have all of my valuable belongings. I created an escape route in case something occurred while I was still in the apartment, I went around the buildings making sure that all fire extinguishers were accessible, one was inside a box that was not breakable even with a heavy framing hammer, I managed to get it open after several tries and left the fire extinguisher but not the armored box. I turned off the gas pumps at the nearby gas station and I was aware that other attempts on my life would soon be coming. Quickly, I put everything I needed that was pertinent to the issue with the devices and the terrorism into my car, I put on layered clothing and headed out. My car was out of fuel, and I knew it would not make it far, but it would be impounded and keep the evidence safe while I was striving to make some peace with my mind in the time of turmoil.

      I abandoned the car, doing my best to disguise any valuables in it by putting trash from the highway into the trunk. I was on foot from here on out, and I hadn’t brought any food or water. I walked into the area of North Table Mesa Open Space in Golden, Colorado where I thought I would be safe. On my way through the creek beds in the Open Space area, I encountered a man who was heavily armed in a camouflage suit with various branches sticking out of it, he was carrying a rifle. He made some kinds of ghoulish sounds knowing he had been detected at close range, but I imagine he thought that I was a ghostly spirit of some kind as I silently moved through the creek and through a hedgerow. I must have lost him because there were no rounds fired in my direction as I moved into a nearby neighborhood to try and find help. I knocked on many doors, scouted through the neighborhood as best I could, I even tried to gain attention by stripping down into my thermal underwear. No response came. I moved west into some private property likely owned by a Native American woman and the sun was beginning to rise. I remember feeling the need to be vulnerable, so at this point while far from the homestead west, I removed my remaining clothes and my shoes.

      I had found it. I had found peace with the world while squishing mud between my toes, eating aspirin plants from the rocks, swimming in a creek and napping in a deer bed as the sun came up. At this point I could not go back to where I was, and my best hope was to get some assistance somehow, I climbed over the rock ridge west after passing through a few barbed wire fences. On the descent of the rock ridge, I stepped down onto a rock to be bitten by a rattlesnake, which I couldn’t see because I had removed my glasses. This I suppose is where my truly harmonious experience ended and became an emergency. I had no choice but to descend onto private property and not into White Ranch Park. During my descent I also had been bitten by one more rattlesnake and a nest of black widows, but I made it to the horse corral where I assumed someone would be nearby. The sky was growing an awful kind of bright, and as I climbed out of the horse corral I ended up losing consciousness briefly in an old RV trailer. I knew that I could not sleep though because doing so meant I could die, so I jumped up and exited the trailer. I was greeted by a loud and stiff burst of wind and the sky was incredibly luminously bright, I assumed the worst that one of the devices the terrorists had must have detonated and I got on the ground and curled up as best I could. No shock wave had ever come and I assumed I was just dealing with the effects of rattlesnake venom. No help ever came either, and so I moved as best I could into White Ranch Open Space.

      While the students of Jefferson County Open School were holding their 2014 graduation ceremony, I was dragging myself up the trail, I was exhausted and I had been hiking for hours overnight; and all I could think to myself was to keep walking because walking kept me conscious. It was incredibly painful, I moved as well as I could with the snake bites in my left foot, and the spiders on the right, and I was approached by a Sherriff’s deputy. This man was for some reason unable to inform me that I was under arrest, and I told him that I had to keep walking, the man up the trail with him was wearing a different uniform and I informed him that I needed to keep walking and he said “If you keep walking that way I’m going to HIT you with THIS!” and produced a collapsible ASP baton. I responded by saying “You will do whatever you think you have to do but I have to keep walking.”. After that he struck me with the baton in the left arm, I remember thinking it likely broke that arm, but I was in so much pain it didn’t matter anymore. The officer behind me grabbed me by the shoulder as I nursed my new injury with my right hand and said “I’m going to taze you now.” I responded “Okay…” and prepared myself for the tazer blast. The deputy fired his tazer and I caught two of the needles with my right palm and two of the needles in my right chest, my vision blurred slightly for a moment, and then I regained my vision. I asked the deputy “Would you quit that?!” as I backed away and removed the needles from my chest and my hand. I remember grumbling, “You guys sure are a couple of assholes, man.”. Unsatisfied, the deputy charged me, attempting to knock me down and then rapidly assaulting and brawling with punches. I blocked all of his punches, one with an accidental counterstrike that occurred because I was catching his fist with my left arm. I put my hands in the air, held them parallel, and asked him to stop. He complied. I turned around and I saw another deputy there, and I put my hands in front of me open and parallel, and asked “Please stop hurting me, please stop hurting me, please stop hurting me.”. At this point I was beaten from behind with the ASP baton as another deputy struck the back of my knees. I was being continuously tazed from multiple directions. The ASP had broken my ribs and was very close to my spine, the batons at my knees forced me to drop to the ground. Aware of my Jiu-Jutsu training and that the deputies had refused to comply with my request that they stop beating me, I attempted to roll away behind the deputy who was standing, as several other deputies arrived and collided with my back. I was cut on the left wrist and began to bleed profusely, I rolled over onto my back and was kicked in the head several times, my bleeding wrist in one side of a set of handcuffs. I attempted to roll away farther in order to escape but one of the deputies was able to grab my other hand. I was kicked more, and I was bleeding, photos were being taken on an old camera phone and I bled out and lost consciousness.

     The deputies had assaulted me. I woke chained to a hospital bed after midnight with an individual saying “I’m giving you saline, it’s all I can give you.” I was paraded through an emergency department, given several CAT scans, and I remember that I was unable to urinate volitionally. I had to be catheterized even though I did have to urinate I couldn’t activate those muscles for some reason. The following day, an individual from the scene approached me and I was terrified. I held my breath, I did not respond to that man, I did my best to appear dead for fear that he would harm me. He did several checks for life, a chest rub, and flashlights in my eyes; he assumed I was dead and struck me on the head several times before leaving the area while I glanced at another technician pleading for help with my eyes.

     The man left and I could breathe again. This is the end of the assault which occurred, and during this visit to the hospital I had more than a few brushes with death, it wasn’t until after the incident being beaten in my hospital bed that a technician found the rattlesnake bites and the spider bite. I was given a lot of blood over the next day and began regaining consciousness and lucidity. I had a peak experience having to do with my beliefs about god at the time, I was at the foot of a Jacob’s ladder having drifted into and out of the world of the living watching the greater universe and the decisions about who would accept their lives and who would be judged in time, I remember wondering why I couldn’t just float out of my dead body. I thought of my relationship partner mostly and the other realistic reasons I needed to stay even though I tried several times to climb out of my body in spite of those thoughts. I felt as if the rules of the universe had been explained to me, and braced myself as I felt god recreating the universe, and recreating my life. This was the end, this was ground zero.

     This was the culmination of another, universally parallel near death experience, a story which was repeated much along the same lines as my first near death experience, only there was so much more to be aware of and to be cognizant of during my second visit with death. I have learned a great deal about the nature of the cosmos during this experience that I will elaborate later, the lesson the reader should take from this is, experience starts in a pattern and moves concentrically outward like the rings of a tree or drops of water that resonate through a pond; experience follows that pattern and grows in complexity outward through learning and the passage of time and the cognizant acceptance of the experience. The peak experiences help us translate ourselves from beings of deficiency who seek to fill needs, to beings who are fully present to life and the cosmos and strive to become a more fully engaged and mutually benevolent part of it (Maslow, 1974). This was where I was to begin changing the world.

     I was discharged into a crisis intervention facility where I cared for my wounds, from which I was discharged and walked on foot with my boots that someone had brought me back to my shattered home. When I was in the crisis intervention facility I had been informed that my apartment had also been burglarized, my family had tossed the place and rearranged all of my belongings, most of which were missing; the strategy worked though, most of my valuable belongings were still in a tightly wound pile in the closet. Jefferson County soon arrested me later, I was released on a personal recognizance bond with just a signature a day later. They had charged me with two counts of felony assault on a peace officer, and a count of public nudity, after a long struggle in which I communicated directly with the District Attorney (DA); I pled to two counts of misdemeanor resisting arrest, and public nudity. I was facing up to 30 years of prison time but the reason the deal was reached was because the reports were false,  and no trial date had been set within the 90 days allowed by Colorado State law, and so there could be no trial and the DA was trying to have some accountability for  the deputies who had created falsified reports of assault. I discharged the case #2014-CR-1719 in Jefferson County, Colorado with a sentence of one year probation. I directly demanded an internal affairs investigation and a resultant federal investigation into the attacks that is ongoing, and I’ve worked directly with the investigators.

     The trauma is over, but the lesson about transitioning from a person who needs to fill a deficiency to a person who needs to be a part of the cosmos and experience had also been completed, and the political struggle continued on.

    The President, during the ensuing civil action, advised the National Education Association (NEA) to support increased equality in public schools and public school funding. During the campaign, associations had been formed to support teacher's unions; a funding base which had come down from the NEA to help students, parents, and teachers succeed in recalling the sitting school board at the county level.

     As of this writing, the entire Jefferson County school board has been recalled and replaced during the November, 2015 coordinated election in Jefferson County; no harms were ever able to be manifest for the young people protesting in the streets and they had won a political victory. There is an entirely new school board installed in Jefferson County, Colorado, the voices of the children had been heard; I’d succeeded.

The Research

     In the context of motivation and experience, Abraham Maslow and Viktor Frankl had created a theory of motivation which they called the transpersonal theory, and they had founded a research journal dedicated to the study called The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). Over time and through his observations of people he dubbed transcendent because they seemed to value the needs of the larger life context more than any deficiency needs they might have, Abraham Maslow in his later research slowly started to concede that there was an additional kind of human self-actualization that was different than the original model, this he called being-cognition (Maslow, 1974). Viktor Frankl had survived internment during World War Two as a prisoner, and he had dedicated himself to understanding how some people survived and were able to harmoniously exist, while some people seemed to wither under the harsh circumstances of The Holocaust (Frankl, 1984). Maslow’s relatively undiscovered later writing brought his perceptions of self-actualization as more in line with Frankl’s earlier discovery of transpersonal meaning, and the Abraham Maslow you may have read in textbooks differs greatly from his culmination of life’s work (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). Transpersonal theory holds that people can be motivated to heal through the meaningful peak experiences and a connection with the larger life contexts and forces that exist in concert with the larger life circle in the circle of personal space. Maslow (1974) stipulated different ways to achieve meaningful experience, which in many ways resemble the practice of mindfulness and an awakened awareness of personal importance in the larger life, the shift between deficiency-need cognition and being-cognition is one of communion with the larger living world. The stories I had presented earlier in this writing are a kind of peak experience, but not all peak experiences are like this. True that some peak experience happens to soldiers in the field during combat, or for anyone who experiences a close and awkward brush with death that leaves questions as to the possibilities that had to exist in order to facilitate survival, this experience leaves it up to the larger life context to determine our existence. Other kinds of peak experience exist, which I had explored in a cultural context, that are no so closely ordered with casualties of violence or near death experiences (Hixson, 2013). Meaning seems to be the causal thread in peak experiences. Bernard Weiner (2010), is a scientist who researches what is called the attribution theory of human motivation, or the way in which people assign value to accomplishments and weight that value against the personal risk of failure and perception of inefficacy; Weiner conceded later in his work that for failure-avoidant individuals who seldom take risks, a sense of personal meaning may be an undiscovered factor that influences decision making and motivation.

      My body intuitively knew that the direction toward happiness was in communion with nature and the larger life-context. Along several indicators of personal well-being as assessed using a series of Likert-scale instruments designed to measure personal, physiological, and psychological well-being, as well as one instrument designed to measure depression; having a subjective sense of connection and continuity with nature increases human happiness (Zelinski & Nisbet, 2014). Positive affect in general influences health and well-being even in the psychosocial context where benevolent connections to society are measured as indicating and contributing to positive affect and physiological well-being (Steptoe, O’Donnell, Marmot & Wardle, 2008). Cognizance of being, nature connectedness, positive affect, and mindfulness are all factors which improve the benevolent presence of self. Mindfulness physiologically changes the brain, modifies our personalities in a way that helps to build skills for emotional regulation, and can be used as a part of therapeutic measures for stress reduction and cognitive therapy interventions (Hill & Updegraff, 2012; Hölzel et. al, 2008; Florback, Arendt, Ørnbøl, Fink & Walach, 2011).

      This demonstrates that many perceptions of transpersonal well-being have been evaluated in research, each focusing on the human drive for connectedness, efficacy, and meaning in the larger life-context. But, what about the way that these experiences of connectedness develop and become more organized and complex over time?

      The Gestalt Cycle of Experience was a foundational viewpoint from German Gestalt or whole thing psychology that elaborated the peak moments of connection between the subjective need to understand or to connect and the objective connection in the three dimensional world which yields the lesson of the experience. Joseph Zinker (1977), developed the cycle of experience by stratifying a set of phases that a human being might go through during the processing of experience, in which Zinker used human metabolism as an analogy for learning. The cycle of experience starts with the sensation that some new experience does not currently fit all existing schemas, and the human mind chews or begins breaking down the experience and finds a way to accommodate the experience by connecting the sensation with perceptions of experience in the external world, the moment of realization is known as contact and the awareness that learning has occurred is known as resolution (Zinker, 1977). Many psychologists understood this method of evaluating experience as a part of human growth and metabolism, and as we are with those things which nourish us and help us to grow physiologically so the same we are as human beings who architect our current and future experiences based on learnings from past moments of contact. My experiences demonstrated the moments of contact with life itself, and understanding the dynamics between being and not being, of self and other, and of internal processes and external ones. Each experience helped to shape my personality and taught me about coping with my external environments, but the transpersonal meaning of each experience brought me closer to the being of my self and understanding ego as a vehicle for connecting to divinely inspired experience.

      Along the way it is necessary to create epistemologies individually for processing experience, something which creates an optimally-distinctive personal learning environment even in social spaces that rely on socially congruent thinking for the development of a communally agreed upon epistemology, the social framework for epistemic engagement is called connectivism or constructivism meaning that the structures of knowledge are both socially agreed upon and personally contrived experiences; which facilitate self-directedness (Conradie, 2014). Overall, our sense of being and autonomous direction contribute to our psychological health, and the transposition of motivation from extrinsic or external motivations to intrinsic and internally desired ones, learning self-directed behavior contributes to well-being (Deci & Ryan, 2007). Factors which promote psychological health combine both connectedness and autonomy, in a way that is mutually benevolent, and that accrues in the personal learning space over time a set of skills for maintaining and cultivating autonomous epistemic connectedness within the larger life-context. My earlier choices to be among nature and to be a vulnerable and willing part of natural evolution, during an experience that facilitated my deeper awareness of being in the larger life-context, had created and sustained a mutually benevolent connection with the divine as well as with society at large. Through this experience I became more open to and aware of connection to the larger life-context and use this as a source of personal motivation and creativity, this is much as Maslow (1974) originally described being-cognition.

      To compare and contrast a self-directed and epistemically engaged self with a deficiency-need driven learning orientation, would be much like comparing transpersonal theory with cognitive behavioral theory, such as with the attribution theory of motivation described previously. The reader should be aware, that our current system for academics is entirely based on attribution theory, which has admittedly left out any sense of personal or communal meaning. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), create a textbook for standards-based teaching that is designed for common-core teaching, and the system of knowledge that the book contains is based on attribution theory. Previously in this chapter the concepts of self-direction, autonomy, and connectivism were mentioned as alternative routes toward self-directed and transpersonally aware learning termed being-cognition; but as of this writing our system for teaching and learning does not incorporate this awareness. The exception is called communities of inquiry, in communities of inquiry the social and cognitive presence of the instructor facilitates the social and cognitive presence of the students in a way that facilitates a socially constructed epistemology among learning groups who are said to be in a state of epistemic engagement (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010). I’ve created a resource online which explains this in the context of the Goodwin & Hubbell (2013) work, (Hixson, 2015b).

      One of the things that is necessary to do in order to derive meaning from an experience, and likewise to recognize patterns as they develop within the context of personal space, is self-evaluate. The only correlations available when people are able to accurately self-evaluate are a positive correlation with high intelligence, higher perceived achievement status, and internal locus of control or self-directed motivation; accurate self-evaluation as an instrument seems to only appear when these other indicators of efficacy are present but, the direction of the Pearson r correlations is unknown (Mabe & West, 1982). This could mean that either a positive reflection and the connections with personal meaning and perceptions of personal social and intellectual connectedness during evaluation may foster these elements of self-efficacy, as people learn to accurately self-evaluate, or it could mean that as an instrument self-evaluation measures are most accurate when people have attained a sense of efficacy and internal motivation. Sometimes with the Pearson r the answer as to whether the correlation works one way or the other the answer is “yes.”, meaning the correlation is only present in both conditions. In the author’s experience, establishing personal social and intellectual relevance for learning experiences had always helped to create deep learning, self-evaluation and journaling does not necessarily need to be accurate for it to be beneficial, the process of self-reflection establishes the sense of personal identity in the larger life-context in places where it is not demonstrated from the larger community as human motivations become more intrinsic and internalized.

The Lesson

       I had always chosen the path of learning. When I asked myself what it was I needed to accomplish the most during my first near death experience, my answer was to learn and to strive to understand the world. Near death experiences, regardless of their phenomenology or cultural context, are strongly associated with positive changes in beliefs, attitudes, compassion, appreciation and gratitude for life, greater spiritual connectedness, and a decreased fear of death (Greyson, 2015). Near death experiences are similar cross-culturally but the process of describing, appreciating and sharing the experience may differ across cultures, the experience seems to have the same effect and phenomenological description but the understanding of the experience may differ cross-culturally according to differences in language and social context (Belanti, Perera & Jagadheesan, 2008). Near death experiences may foster the changes in behavior or attitude that promote positive connectedness with the larger life context, but these experiences are not the only way to arrive at that conclusion. In the story related to this research, an initial experience which led to a change in attitudes and behavior, changed my attitudes and ability to accept the vulnerability inherent within transpersonal experience and to be open to peak experiences and greater spiritual awareness throughout my journey, and as a part of this acceptance of peak experience even in troubled times the context of transpersonal meaning helped to alleviate the suffering which was caused by the crisis. Additionally, past experiences formed a pattern much like the cycle of experience. Zinker (1977), stipulates phases in the cycle of personal development and creative process as starting with the sensation that something new is to be learned, awareness of the experiences which may elaborate the schema, mobilization to attain the experiential awareness that is congruent with the sensation, contact between the sense of needed experience and the elaborative experience which occurs, and the resolution of the experience as it is understood by the whole person in her or his context. This cycle persistently develops concentrically outward as personal resolution and prior learning develops the scaffolding for future learning and experience, and as learning develops attitudes and behaviors those attitudes and behaviors are applied to future experience. In the story it was necessary to connect with nature and the larger life-context to cope with and appreciate the nature of the crisis, and to be present to the experience and mindful enough to be unafraid of the present moment and to successfully survive the experience. Mindfulness, self-awareness, positive affect, and a positive overall relationship with nature and the larger life-context are characteristics and behaviors that can be learned through intentional practice and self-directed awareness; these attributes do not need to be earned through close-to-death experiences, trauma, or crisis. Overall a greater appreciation for the common good is a factor in becoming a being-person (Maslow, 1974). And the results of near death experiences such as with the greater appreciation for life and gratitude for the experience can be cultivated around any learning experience which may need to develop.

       Emerson (1950), writes of leadership and heroism in a way that demonstrates in order for a social leader to succeed or for a hero to exist the society must also have a need for actions of social good, which are not at first understood by society at large and are contrary to the more selfish drives of individual autonomy, but that are catalyzed by the need of society which later resolves the experience and extols the virtue of heroism. So you see there are both internal and external characteristics to stories such as these, which will persist throughout this writing, where there is both a social need for change and individuals who are willing to make counter-intuitive sacrifices to develop the positive social change that the need for is voiced first by society. Being-cognition is derived from a sense of greater transpersonal good through community engagement and positive reflection from the larger life-context, and this part of self-directed and intrinsically motivated creativity as a part of greater transpersonal engagement can be earned in ways that do not require a crisis or really a critical social need, but instead through mindful appreciation for experience and the cultivation of self-evaluated meaning through positive attitudes and perceptions about learning and greater social experience in the larger milieu.  Learning does not necessarily occur through persistent rote memorization and standardized assessment, learning occurs through meaningful connection with experience and positive awareness of experience.

Chapter III. Social Groups, Judgability, and Group Thinking.

·        Social Groups

·        Intergroup Differentiation

·        Communities of Inquiry

·        Social Identity Theory

·        Group Bias

·        Groupthink

·        Social Stigma

·        Judgability


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