Metacognition, Meditation, and the Number Eight

The title of my thesis was “Using An Understanding of Metacognition and Metacognitive Strategies to Improve Early Childhood Mathematic Education”. Pretty, isn’t it?

Metacognition is one of those nice, big, round words that you can spend thousands of pounds of ink and hundreds of thousands of pages to define as “thinking about how we think”.

So, every time I see a book on Christian spirituality recommend that every last person take up lectio divina, I want to put that book through the wall.

Don’t get me wrong, lectio is as close to a global spiritual discipline as we get. Global in this case meaning it covers most of Gardner’s Intelligences.

Howard Gardner posits that all people learn differently, and that they will show aspects of all, but be strongest in one of nine ‘intelligences’. These are affected slightly by culture, and can change over time (slowly if you just let it evolve, however if you want it to go quicker, you have to WORK it. And it sucks, I’ve done it). Click here to take an inventory and find out yours.

Back to lectio. Lectio is good for linguistic, visual/spatial, and intrapersonal learners. As much of our culture is based on the first two (you’re reading this on a COMPUTER SCREEN) and intrapersonal learners are more likely to be interested in feeling out their own mental and spiritual limits, it therefore has a very broad appeal.

I, however, am a heavily kinesthetic learner, to the detriment of all the other intelligences. If I can’t get my hands on it, can’t kick it, can’t touch it, I have issues understanding it. Like the kind of issues that lead to me being unable to multiply anything by eight ‘in my head’ because the concept of the number ‘eight’ is just weird to me.

(Kinesthetic learners are more likely to be dyscalculic and dyslexic, as words and numbers are very abstract concepts. From personal observation, a lot of people with attention disorders [ADD] are also high on the kinesthetic side)

I have observed a bias in all these web pages and books that promote certain, specific, formulaic ways of Being a Better Christian™. These sites and books pretty much uniformly say, “Well, if it’s not working for you, just keep doing it until it does.”

Because if it’s not working for you, you’re obviously not working up to your potential.

 (See? See what I did there? That’s what we call ‘irony’.)

As a kinesthetic learner, all new skills and ideas must be made an integral part of my life. I cannot read a few lines of Scripture and then be quizzed on them the next day. I must have those lines of Scripture embedded in my brain, from reading them repeatedly (aloud and silently, to activate different parts of my brain), and reading each passage several times, over several weeks/months/years. And then, well, then they are a part of me, and I have no choice but to act upon what they have taught me.

But the most, most important thing for me to remember is that not everyone is a kinesthetic learner. Some people will sing songs and psalms. Some will spend time observing the natural world. Some will read the Summa Theologica, and yes, some will even do lectio divina for happy hours on end and gain great personal insight.

The number eight is just downright mistrustful. It does strange things when you start mutliplying it, turning into unbalanced numbers that can topple any equasion (56, then 64? Who thought up THAT sick joke?) I spend a lot of my precious free time being frustrated by multiplication tables that my first graders breezed through. I spent 25 years hiding this from people and got along pretty well. I’m working on increasing my Logical Intelligence because it will be neccessary for me to multiply by all those pesky numbers when I start working as a teacher.

Intrapersonal is rarely a person’s primary learning style in an industrial society. We don’t worry about whether or not our workers are good listeners and in tune with people’s needs and emotional states, just whether they can follow directions. The vocation, the job, the work of every baptized Christian demands we drop all pretense of being individuals free of outside influence. We are therefore called to develop our Interpersonal Intelligence, and reach out beyond our psychological and neurological boundaries. Which is hard, and not fun, and sometimes downright scary. So I leave you with the words of wisdom passed to me by my mother, when I would level the same complaints about my math homework and that irksome number eight:

Tough. Get to work.

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2 Comments

Filed under meditations, prayer

2 responses to “Metacognition, Meditation, and the Number Eight

  1. This is a great piece. I really enjoy reading your stuff. If I might make one tiny correction: it’s “lectio divina”, not “lecto divina”. (I know it’s picky, but if I wasn’t going to be picky, I guess I should have never become a Latin teacher.)

    pax et bonum!
    One of these days, I’ll get around to learning to spel. Thanks Clint! — Mary Sue

  2. As a fellow kinesthetic learner and a wannabe professor, I can definitely understand your frustration with “one size fits all” Christian spirituality. I was the kid that got yelled at for touching things that I wasn’t supposed to touch. I had to take everything apart and put it back together to understand how it worked. Of course now that I’m an adult, I can appreciate that every one is different and we all have different strengths and one advantage of my having to take everything apart as a kid is that I’m pretty handy with basic home repairs. I just wish the guys in lab would stop borrowing my power drill. 😉

    I think my learning style is probably why I prefer the Rosary over lectio divina. Granted they are two different styles of contemplation but I can even pray scripture verses better if I assign verses to beads. I’ve also learned a lot about jewelry repair since I am notoriously ADD and tend to tug at the chain while praying and have broken quite a few chains that way.