Re-searching spirituality and cultural identity: Transformative learning and unfolding wisdom in the lives of participants and the researcher

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This chapter explores the process and the findings of studies exploring the intersection of spirituality and culture and their connection to wisdom and transformative learning in the lives of participants, and its effects on the researcher. I have been doing research on the relationship between spirituality and cultural identity for more than 12 years, initially with 31 adult educators of different cultural groups in the US, and then more recently with 19 participants in Ireland.1 Listening to participant narrators share stories of deep spiritual experiences, many of them transformative learning experiences, related to their cultural and religious history has the effect of helping both the teller and the listener unfold their own inner wisdom; as the teller relates and shares powerful memory of spiritual experiences it evokes memory in the listener, and potentially leads to greater wisdom for each. As I've discussed elsewhere, for the teller, this process of significant spiritual experience, is not simply a recalling process: tellers usually re-member such formative spiritual experiences in light of their cultural background and identity in new ways.2 As Frederick Buechner notes: 'Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still'.3 As narrative researchers and adult educators, Carolyn Clark and Marsha Rossiter observe, the process of narrating experience leads to the further development of identity.4 It also to some extent effects change in the listener/researcher. But it does so not only for the narrator/participant in doing narrative research; it can also have a similar effect in the narrative researcher. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss both the process of conducting these studies and the findings related to spirituality and cultural identity, and their connection to transformative learning and unfolding wisdom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpirituality
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Praxis and Pedagogy
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9781848880917
StatePublished - Apr 28 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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