Language, learning, and empowerment

by Kye Nelson

I'd like to take as my topic the role that language rooted in experiencing can have, in that process of empowerment which learning properly is.

We all know that learning is an essential part of what human beings do.

Little children are constantly coming up against the world being curious about it, interested, not-knowing, maybe frustrated by it and then discovering something about how things work (and how the child relates to the way things work) that becomes part of their experience.

Little children also are constantly looking for words for their experience. And once they have words, they have power. They can tell us about their experience - they can tell us about how things really are in their world. As adults we often feel cut off from this sort of fertile learning and growing and may think of it as the property of young children but anybody can learn this way.

We can sense into what we know but have no language for. We can make language work freshly for us, to say what we have discovered that is new, or new in the world of language anyway, though it is probably hauntingly familiar to all of us once said.

In finding language for what we know implicitly, or for a possibility that as yet we sense only unclearly, we make it possible to think further, explore further, to make finer distinctions.

Further, with new language that is experientially based based in our own experience - what had seemed impossible becomes possible. A new vocabulary empowers us. It re-opens possibilities that had seemed closed.

This is what learning is all about getting the power to think what we couldn't think before, to explore what we didn't clearly know existed, to do something in the world that we couldn't do before to have a way for our experience OF the world to enter INTO the world and do something there that matters to us. When we learn, we become freshly potent.

But as we grow up, often we stop learning in this way because at the heart of such learning is the place in us where things aren't clear. It's daunting to forsake the solid ground we've gained through our learning up to now, and instead go where it feels vague and where we often feel impotent or incompetent. Often it's not something we are able to do alone.

I would like to give you a taste of what it is like to have tools that extend our capacity to learn in this way and also of how it can feel to be accompanied in this process by someone who has tools to give sensitive and non-intrusive support, so that our own purposes and process are always the guide.

Kye Nelson is a collaborative consultant and process facilitator.
Contact her at 210/413-4339,, or find out more at

This material © 1999, by Kye Nelson. All rights reserved.