Critiques of the 2014 HRECT handbook

This is an ongoing critiques and reflections of the Handbook of Research For Educational Communications and Technology (2014 version) . This handbook has greatly helped me reflect on my educational research and practices; yet, as the education is a system of complexity, and the field of educational technology is ever-changing, I believe it is critical to consistently think about, critique, and reflect on ideas and perspectives proposed by predecessors. Therefore, as I read this handbook, there are some critiques and reflections in this handbook I want to point out to reflect the changing attribute of our field. Right now, this critique/reflection is organized in this way – I first present the original statement from the Handbook, then propose my critiques and reflections on the statement. [I may write a journal paper in terms of this critique write-up, trying to find a way to thread these scattered ideas together] 


Orig. statement: Intensive electronic networking, and social media reflect more recent changes in society that are expected to add value through a common purpose and deliberate collaborative action in a community of learners and practitioners … This is why socio-constructivist theories and technology-supported communities of learning and practice have become dominant, at least as a frame of reference within the community of educational technologists (p. 5, Chapter 1 Bridging learning theories and technology-enhanced environments: A critical appraisal of its history).

My critique: From the philosophical perspective, human learn both through their cognitive thinking (supported by cognitive constructivism) and through interaction with others and external world (supported by sociocultural constructivism). I believe no matter how technologies change and develop, people always learn in these two ways. In the past time without social media, people finds ways to interact with and learn from each other in the face-to-face community context; nowadays, with advancement of communication technology,  people just are equipped with more network channels to communicate with each other. So I don’t think it is the development of technology (e.g., social media) that fosters relevant community theories (e.g., community of inquiry, community of practice, community of knowledge building), but it is the reverse direction that make the relationship – community learning is always one of the important ways through which people learn. It is also important to be aware that cognitive/radical constructivism and social or realist constructivism are not contradictory, they should be viewed as a dialectical interaction and functional unification (Liu & Matthews, 2005); that is, community learning and individual cognition are two ways people learn.

ref: Liu, C. H., & Matthews, R. (2005). Vygotsky’s Philosophy: Constructivism and Its Criticisms Examined. International Education Journal6(3), 386-399.

Orig. statement: Results may also be different depending on the period in which the research has been done. For example, in the 1960s sound research was done on differences in achievement motivation between boys and girls. Nowadays, these results are worthless because the feminist revolution has worked its way through society— changes in context have changed the results of the interaction under study (p. 27, Chapter 2 Research paradigms and perspectives on learning).

My critique:  I believe different paradigms/theories/methodologies can be used in an integrative, complementary way. I don’t see them as completely incompatible neither do I see prior knowledge as worthless. I would like to see every researcher as an important contributors of knowledge production in educational research. Each way of knowing (and their ways of researching) offers important but different and thus partial truths about the world, and all ways of knowing are equally legitimate and important (Taylor, Taylor, & Luitel, 2012). To capture the complexity of a phenomenon under study, it is important to understand research conducted from different research paradigms and perspectives. I also believe it is very important to help graduate student researchers (novice researchers) build up their professional identity by helping them engagement with the diversity of educational research, build open-minded thinking toward their own research and others’ research and practice, and allow new research questions, new methods and new theories emerge. However, the authors further stated at the end of this chapter that “researchers should always have an open mind for research based on competing theories and paradigms, because radically new ideas and perspectives will most likely develop at the interface between paradigms” (p. 28), which is consistent with my reflection .

ref: Taylor P.C., Taylor E., Luitel B.C. (2012) Multi-paradigmatic Transformative Research as/for Teacher Education: An Integral Perspective. In: Fraser B., Tobin K., McRobbie C. (eds) Second International Handbook of Science Education. Springer International Handbooks of Education, vol 24. Springer, Dordrecht

Diversity statement of my teaching practices

Growing up in a male-dominated family, I have been struggling with significant questions related to self-identity for many years, particularly since I started pursuing my higher education at the age of 17. Although I became one of the youngest lecturers of computer sciences in a Chinese university at the age of 23, I still struggled between the distorted, constrained self the society and my family imposed on me (being an easy, fun young lady, living with a stable job), and the real-self entrenched inside of me (which was still vague to me at that time). It is the experience of the preparation for my PhD applications, and the pursue of my PhD degree in US, that has given me a chance to critically understand the tension and contradiction, and to reflect on my fears, doubts, and hopes in my life. Through 5-year of hard working, exploring possibilities, and self-reflection during my PhD journey, I ultimately grow up with an inner peace, recognizing a significant part of my true self without self-judgment – enjoy myself, being resilient, working hard and letting things unfold naturally. I particularly thank the inclusive, supportive, non-judgmental environment my PhD program has provided that has helped me seed a spirit within myself: being myself, enjoy what I do, and do my best without expectations. Because of my experiences, I truly understand how important it is to providing a warm, inclusive, supportive environment that can empower learners to pursue learning in the way they enjoy.

In addition, the research experience on a gender analysis research of female scholars’ publications within educational technology journals has enhanced my awareness regarding inequality and difference in the field of Educational Technologies (ET). The results of this study demonstrate that although female publishing rates continue to increase over time, there remains discernible disparity in women’s representation in scholarly publishing in the ET-related journals. We concluded that women in the field also need to be more visible as a means to provide diversity of perspective and to serve as role models for female doctoral students and colleagues (Scharber, Pazurek & Ouyang, 2017). As I recalled similar experiences of invisibility when I worked as a female scholar in the field of Computer Sciences, I realized that gender disparity within technology-related fields is consistently a common topic all around the world. I, as a female minority scholar in ET, should make efforts to nurture genuine communities with the inclusivity, self-awareness, vulnerability, commitment, openness, freedom, and equality.

Acknowledging the importance of community building, I strive to experiment and develop relevant pedagogical strategies in my classes.  Informed by my research, one primary goal of my teaching during my PhD is to create interactive, collaborative, engaged learning, where students and I can become co-creators of supportive learning communities, co-constructors of knowledge, and co-facilitators of inquiry and learning. I have experimented with multiple strategies in my teaching practices. To forge a closer connection between curriculum development and student learning goals, I have used several “role-sharing” strategies, such as inviting students to co-construct syllabi and class guideline, asking students form learning facilitation groups to design and lead class sessions, and giving students the right to form and disband small groups in terms of emerging goals. In this way, students are empowered to not only take responsibility for their own personalized learning by reflecting on prior knowledge and setting new learning goals, but also take initiatives for collaborative learning by planning learning agendas, designing and facilitating group activities. In addition, to help students become more critical and reflective, I encourage them keep a “critical learning moments” journal (Brookfield, 1995) to reflect on their own learning. I asked students to reflect on questions like this: “How does learning and inquiry differ when you interact and collaborate with your peers online?”, to help them become more aware of their learning preference and style in different learning situations. Moreover, in addition to using summative assessment, I have integrated more authentic and dynamic assessment strategies, such as asking students to propose research purposes and questions and make self-assessments on research projects, using the peer-review process in a writing-intensive course and making group assessments based on students’ self-reflection of their group collaboration.

In addition, as a foreign, minority student, I understand the importance of equal participation and the difficulty students sometimes face in class participation. I strive to apply strategies to engage students from all backgrounds and encourage equal participation in face-to-face discussions. Several strategies I have learned from transformative learning books and have applied in my teaching practices are: (a) providing readings from contradictory points of view to stimulate student dialogue from different perspectives, (b) developing discourse procedure within the group at the beginning of the class, (c) asking group members to take roles of checking the direction and procedure of the discourse, and ensuring equal participation of each member, (d) avoiding dismissive statements or definitive summaries at the end of discussions, (e) encouraging quiet time for students’ self-reflection within any discussion exchange (Cranton, 2006). These attempts have helped improve students’ engagement on elaborating different perspectives, and help me keep a good balance between discussion management and nurture of inclusivity and democracy. I strive to nurture an inclusive learning environment where diverse perspectives, needs and goals from students are recognized, respected, valued, and seen as a source of strength.

In summary, I am very committed to providing an inclusive, equitable, democratic learning environment that empowers both learners and educators to pursue learning. I hope through my teaching, research and service, I can make contributions to class and school community building, helping students interact and collaborate with each other, nurture mutual empowering, and make a long-term commitment to well-being (their own, one another’s, and the group’s). I know this is a high call. I will consistently study, experiment, and develop strategies in my teaching, research, and service practices that can provide respect for and engagement with diversity in the class, foster positive learning experiences and outcomes through respecting difference in the class, and enhance diversity, openness, inclusivity in class and school communities.




Teaching philosophy

During my ten years of teaching experiences in face-to-face, blended and online contexts, there are three concepts that ground my teaching philosophy: to nurture responsibility, initiative, and agency in my students, to build diversity, democracy and openness in my classes, and to help students become self-directed, reflective, and life-long learners.


As an educator, I strive to challenge, engage, and inspire students to view themselves as “change agents” (Bandura, 2001) in learning, and view learning as a creative, reflective, and transformative process (Cranton, 2006). I hope my teaching can not only help students become familiar with all kinds of course content, skills, and knowledge, but more importantly, empower them to view themselves as individuals who can shape their fields of interest, make action to achieve their personal and professional goals, and help people in their communities to grow and develop. I see my task as creating spaces for students to experience multiple challenges, questions or perspectives, and to do so in a manner that encourages critical reflection on experiences, perspectives and goals, and fosters a deep, meaningful shift in the way students see themselves and/or the world.


To achieve these goals, I strive to build interactive, collaborative, engaging online/blended learning in my classes, where students and I can become co-creators of supportive learning communities, co-constructors of knowledge, and co-facilitators of inquiry and learning. Informed by my research, I have experimented with multiple strategies in my teaching practices. To forge a closer connection between curriculum development and student learning goals, I have used several “role-sharing” strategies, such as inviting students to co-construct syllabi and class guideline, asking students form learning facilitation groups to design and lead class sessions, and giving students the right to form and disband small groups in terms of emerging goals. In this way, students are empowered to not only take responsibility for their own learning by reflecting on prior knowledge, and setting new learning goals, but also take initiatives for collaborative learning by planning learning agendas, designing and facilitating group activities. In addition, to help students become more critical and reflective, I encourage students to keep a “critical learning moments” journal (Brookfield, 1995) to reflect on their own learning process. For example, in an online course, I asked students to reflect on this question “How does learning and inquiry differ when you interact and collaborate with your peers online?”. In addition to using summative assessment, I have integrated more authentic and dynamic assessment strategies, such as asking students to propose research purposes and questions and make self-assessments on research projects, using peer-review process in a writing-intensive course and participatory assessment in a discussion-intensive online course. Overall, the ultimate purpose of using these pedagogical strategies is to cultivate students’ critical thinking, self-reflection, and collaborative learning, and empower them apply these knowledge and experiences to help people in their communities (e.g., learning groups, friend circles, work communities) learn.


Reflecting on my attempts during the past years, I realize that on the one hand, these strategies have exerted positive influences on improving student learning experiences and building supportive communities; on the other hand, it is challenging for instructors to keep a good balance between management and democracy. These attempts have led to a promising design-based research: inviting a group of teachers to apply these strategies in different learning environments, investigating students’ learning processes, experiences, and performances, and further revising, applying, and investigating effect of these strategies. In addition, informed by my research, design and implementation of instructional tools (e.g., social network awareness, chronological visualization tools) would be helpful for students’ self-regulation and decision-making. I hope my research and teaching can continue to inform each other, with the goal to better understand how learners learn, and to help educators foster learning.

In summary, I am very committed to providing a learning environment that is supportive, critical, and democratic, one that empowers both students and teachers in pursuing learning. I believe all educators are themselves learners, and learners are the best educators for themselves. I make efforts to cultivate four characteristics in myself and in my students: life-long learning (being eager to learn), capacity (being accessible, positive, and resourceful), entrepreneurship (being critical, innovative, and open-minded), and collaboration (being trustful, supportive, and collegial). In my future teaching, mentoring, and service, I will consistently keep one goal in mind: help learners grow, learn and develop with them, and become life-long learners together.

A brief overview of a recent publication on a social network analysis study of online learning community development

Recently, I and one of my advisors Dr. Cassandra Scharber published a social network analysis (SNA) study titled “The influences of an experienced instructor’s discussion design and facilitation on an online learning community development: A social network analysis study” in The Internet and Higher Education. A short audioslide presentation of this overview can be found here. Please also read a brief introduction of SNA methods and my design of a visualization showcase app at my Github page. I have also been building up a network analytics R package to show my analysis process in this study; please find the package in my Github here.

In this study, we first characterized an effective online learning community as an environment with learners’ reciprocal interaction and continuous participation. Then, based on this philosophy, we argued that the social network analysis (SNA) method is an appropriate research method for studying online learning communities. We further proposed an integrated network analysis framework (refer to section 4.4 in this article ) using emerging network methods to analyze both one-mode and two-mode networks in online learning. This framework combined both emerging SNA measures — Opsahl’s measures (Opsahl, 2009; Opsahl, 2013; Opsahl, 2015; Opsahl, Agneessens, & Skvoretz, 2010; Opsahl & Panzarasa, 2009), with more traditional measures — Butts’ measures (Butts, 2008; Butts, 2014; Butts, Hunter, Handcock, Bender-deMoll, & Horner, 2015). The analysis process was conducted via R programming and relevant packages (i.e., tnet, and sna). In addition, Marcos-García et al.’s (2015) DESPRO method, using centrality ranges to detect participatory roles, can be combined with Opsahl’s (2015) SNA centralities to make the results more accurate.

The research purpose for this study is twofold: we aim to provide methodological implications for using emerging social network analysis in online learning community research; and to provide practical implications for designing and facilitating discussions that can foster online learning communities.

SNA results showed the students gradually formed an interactive, cohesive and equally-distributed learning community duing class-level and group-level discussionsThe instructor, overall, played a facilitator role in this community; yet her participatory roles varied within different discussions during different time frames. Her participatory role evolved from a guide in the first class-level discussion, to varying roles, i.e., a facilitator, an observer, and a collaborator within different group discussions at the middle stages of the course, and to an observer in the course’s later stages.

Two important implications of this study are: (1) practical implications for designing and facilitating discussions that can foster online learning communities were proposed. Strategies include: design of a structural interweaving of class-level and group-level discussions; use of base groups at the early stage of an online course; integration of opportunistic collaboration groups with “fixed” group configuration; the instructor’s leadership role in the early stage, role changes in terms of different group situations, and relinquishment of authority in the middle and late stages.

(2) methodological implications for studying online learning communities were proposed. An integrated social network analysis framework for one-mode and two-mode network analysis as well as adapted instructors’ participatory role examination were proposed. Particularly, specific suggestions of using SNA measures in online community research that stress both interaction and participation were included in this framework. It is worth mention that Opsahl’s network measures combining both the effect of the number of ties and the effect of tie weights can offer a more robust method to analyze online learning communities. In addition, Butts et al. and his colleagues (2014, 2015)’ measures on reciprocity, transitivity, centralization are also important measures. Basic statistics, such as student-student, student-instructor, and instructor-student interaction frequency are simple yet useful measures.

This study is a part of my dissertation research. For a more fun (and short) introduction of my dissertation study, please refer to my 3MT presentation. I hope you will find this SNA study interesting and useful for your own research. Feel free to contact me at for further questions or details.


Butts, C. T. (2008). Social network analysis: A methodological introduction. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 11(1), 13-41. doi:10.1111/j.1467-839X.2007.00241.x

Butts, C. T. (2014). sna: Tools for social network analysis (version 2.3-2) [R package]. Retrieved from

Butts, C. T., Hunter, D., Handcock, M., Bender-deMoll, S., & Horner, J. (2015). network: Classes for relational data (version 1.13.0) [R package]. Retrieved from

Marcos-García, J. A., Martínez-Monés, A., & Dimitriadis, Y. (2015). DESPRO: A method based on roles to provide collaboration analysis support adapted to the participants in CSCL situations. Computers & Education, 82, 335-353. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.10.027

Opsahl, T. (2009). Structure and evolution of weighted networks (Doctoral dissertation, University of London). Retrieved from

Opsahl, T. (2013). Triadic closure in two-mode networks: Redefining the global and local clustering coefficients. Social Networks, 35(2), 159-167. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2011.07.001

Opsahl, T. (2015). tnet: Software for analysis of weighted, two-mode, and longitudinal networks (version 3.0.14) [R package]. Retrieved from

Opsahl, T., Agneessens, F., & Skvoretz, J. (2010). Node centrality in weighted networks: Generalizing degree and shortest paths. Social Networks, 32(3), 245–251. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2010.03.006

Opsahl, T., & Panzarasa, P. (2009). Clustering in weighted networks. Social Networks, 31(2), 155-163. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2009.02.002

Writing science notes

My co-advisor Dr. Bodong Chen recommended me this book last year: Writing science – how to write papers that get cited and proposal that get funded, by Joshua Schimel. I got it and put in my shelf for several months. Everytime I opened this book, I could find something else to do instead. Recently, facing a big dissertation fellowship proposal, I am eager to improve my change to get funded. So I opened this book again. I really hoped I could read it before I submitted all my manuscripts so far. Sorry editors and reviewers. I will get them better very soon. What a learning and unlearning process.

chapter 1 scientist is a professional writer: core writing principle is: it is the author’s job to make the reader’s job easy.

chapter 2 science writing as storytelling: draw simple story out of your data, let the story grow from data, don’t impose story on data; overinterpret your data widely, explore all possibilities, then find the simple core, don’t be afraid to abandon your first story.

chapter 3 making a story sticky: SUCCES principle (simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, story). Simple: find the core of the problem, propose a simple idea; unexpected: find knowledge gap not matter how small it is, make it clear, highlight the novel and new element; concrete: use specific examples and languages; credible: avoid buzzy words, make them concrete; emotional: ask a novel question, engage readers, trigger their curiosity; story: think about internal structure, make small units into a coherence.

chapter 4 story structure: four kinds of structures: OCAR, ABDCE, LD, LDR. OCAR: open with setting the stage, no argument or leading point -> frame questions -> what you did -> what are results, conclusions; ABDCE: open with a challenge -> introduce background -> develop climax (what you did, what is the result) -> ending resolution/ conclusion; LD: open with opening, challenge and resolution (strong at opening) -> develop; LDR: open with argument and challenge -> develop -> end with resolution/synthesis (strong at both opening and ending).

chapter 5 opening (O): three goals: identify problems, introduce characters, target audiences. most you can use OCAR or ABDCE/LDR. using OCAR: two-step strategy (engage audience with a broader topic/question -> transition to a specific question; using ABDCE/LDR, open with challenge and problem, or action.

chapter 6 funnel, connecting O and C: opening a large problem – tunnel – challenge (a specific question). define a specific/concrete problem, identify a small knowledge gap, don’t dump info (don’t tell everything you know), make logic connection between info and knowledge, don’t sell a solution before you identify a problem.

chapter 7 challenge (C): to do X, we did Y, do not reverse the two. (1) explicitly state knowledge gap you want to gain, clearly pose the question, must come first, must be clear, clean and straightforward; (2) tell us how you approach it, what data you collected, what method you use

chapter 8 action (A): method, result, discussion. Let the story guide you, don’t just present data/info, your goal is to present knowledge/understanding. every section (method, result, discussion) is a mini-story, choose one structure for each section. method: LD; result: LD; discussion: LDR or OCAR.

chapter 9 resolution (R): can use a step-backward structure of OCAR. overall conclusion/accomplishment -> results -> expanding/widening to a big picture, general application -> close the circle or pose a new question. ending is a powerful position, end strong and positive, don’t tell us what you don’t achieve at the end, don’t introduce new info, show how the starting point moved, how you explicitly answer/widen the questions.

chapter 10 internal structure: create flow and arc, arcless writings 1) lack thematic coherence, 2) story is unclear, 3) put down every thoughts, no logics. how to fix them? go over paragraph by paragraph and section by section and ask these questions: 1) does each unit make a single clear point? 2) when several paragraphs together form a section, are the linkage among them clear? 3) has every extraneous thought that breaks the serial arc structure been removed? 4) when you introduce a topic, do you resolve that discussion before introducing a new topic? 5) is every major unit of the work defined by either a subhead or clear opening text?

chapter 11 paragraphs: a paragraph is a unit of composition when it tells a complete story with a coherent structure, a story that fits into and contributes to the larger work; paragraphs usually use topic sentence-development (TS-D) structure (like LD structure; point-first structure); or you can use point-last structure, that is LDR or OCAR. a paper usually has 70% point-first paragraphs and 30% point-last paragraphs. short is better than long. three-step strategy to fix long and rambling paragraphs: 1) identify the real story, 2) decide whether this needs a point-first or point-last structure, 3) pull apart different threads of the story to clarify their relationships.

chapter 12 sentences: a sentence = a subject (opening: “topic”) + verb (challenge/action) + object (resolution: “stress”);weighting of words in a sentence follows an order: the stress carries the greatest emphasis, the topic is the next, the middle carries the least (2-3-1 principle). it follows OCAR structure, open with subject topic, action should immediately follow the subject, key message comes at the end as stress, add nuance if needed. if it is a long sentence, use sub-clauses, the ending of each clause is a minor stress position.  how to fix bad sentences: 1) find the topic, make it the subject, move it toward the beginning, 2) find the action verb and connect it closely to the subject, 3)find the stress and move it to the end of the main clause. if you have additional material to add, move it to the right so that it modifies rather than intrudes in the main story

chapter 13 flow: make a relay: sentence 2’s topic is sentence 1’s stress, don’t introduce new info/topic and break the arc; this principle is the same for flow between two paragraphs. so core is to identify topic and stress. by linking stress and topic, resolution and opening, you can tie together sentences and paragraphs and make the sweep of your arguments compelling.

chapter 14 energizing writing: principles: 1) most of the time, use active voice over passive voice, 2) find the action and use clear and concrete action verb, show what happened not just something happened, put verb early in the sentence, 3) don’t transfer concrete verb or adj into noun. why nominalizations are not good? 1) lose the power of using verbs, 2) a nomialization can easily become a jargon. when to use passive voice: 1) make the acted-on the subject of the sentence, 2) avoid mentioning the actor’s names

chapter 15 words: three principles: 1) avoid jargon (undefined terms, nouns), if you can use a plain and simple language equivalent, use it, don’t use the jargon! you can use 2-3-1 rule here: open with something people are familiar with + technical terms + explain of the technical terms in more details 2) use common words, instead of unnecessary technical words, this can increase clear understanding and engage a stronger schema 3) pay attention to prepositional phrases, don’t use noun train!

chapter 16 condensing: avoid 1) redundancies: use several words where one does all the work that needs doing, 2) obvious: obvious ideas are well known or implied and so don’t need to be said anywhere, e.g., “there is evidence that …” 3) modifiers: don’t use unnecessary adj, and adv when you can use clear and concrete noun and verb 4) metadiscourse e.g., “we found, we argue, the data may indicate, to conclude..” 5) verbosity: show authors’ mental processes from the story they are trying to tell

chapter 17 putting it all together: 1) structure: get the structure of the story into shape, 2) clarity: ensure that your idea are clear and concrete 3) flow: make the idea flow, linking one thought to the next, 4) language: make it sound good

chapter 18 dealing with limitations: principle: but, yes. open about limits and highlight strength/resolution/conclusion. 1) introduction: many problems arise not from inherent limitation but from a mismatch between the question and methods. go back to introduction, find the knowledge gap and what is your research question? what the story is? 2) methods: discuss limitation of analytical methods immediately to lay any concerns to rest, you are much better off if you can address readers’ concerns as soon as they arise, if you avoid mentioning the negatives, readers will find them and criticize you for them 3) discussion: limitations affect how you interpret data, you should avoid the power positions of the discussion’s opening and resolution, early in the body of the discussion to discuss the work’s limitation and constraint.

chapter 19 writing global science, data-info-knowledge-understanding-applicaiton, we are offering knowledge/understanding/application, not just present data and info

chapter 20 writing for the public: A and B: issue and audience -> problem? -> so what? -> solution -? benefits

chapter 21 resolution: I prefer to focus on success strategies instead of survival strategies; you don’t succeed by getting papers published but by getting them cited; quality ultimately trumps quantity and it will stand out in a crowded scientific universe; simply remember who your real peers are;

No Boundary

No boundary was written by one of my favorite philosopher Ken Wilber, it is an amazing book to understand different levels of human consciousness. I made a concept map to capture the core ideas of chapter 7 8 9 in this book.

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 1.56.40 PM.png

Here is the spectrum of consciousness proposed by Wilber in this book. It is interesting to think about how we see ourselves and human beings from different levels, and what could be changed as we move from the top level to the bottom level (from narrower to wider spectrum, as shown in this figure)


Wilber, K. (2001). No boundary: Eastern and Western approaches to personal growth. Shambhala Publications.

Love at first touch

Advance manual storytelling 04: Love at first touch

Treya’s life is full of risk. When she was young, when girls were talking about what kinds of boys they found attractive, Treya got interested in a totally different topic: why we are here, what is the purpose of human’s life?

A bicycle trip took Treya to a 3-year spiritual living in Scotland. During that period, Treya read lots of books written by a leading theorist in transpersonal psychology, named Ken Wilber. She always remembers liking the picture on the back of one book, it showed an elegant looking, shaving-headed man with glasses – an intense, concentrated look, the background is a solid wall of books. She would never imagine how her life would lay out for her in the next few years.

Treya went back to Colorado after 3-year truth seeking journey in Scotland. In the summer of 1983, Treya went to the annual transpersonal psychology conference and heard that Ken was there. Treya saw Ken from a distance for a few times, it was very hard to miss a six-foot-four and bald slim guy, surrounded by fans.  Another time, Treya saw Ken sprawled by himself on a couch, looking lonely. Treya did not talk to ken in the conference. She didn’t think much for having a connection with Ken, actually, she thought she would never get married in her life. Because in Treya’s past dating experiences with men, the sweet ones weren’t brilliant and the brilliant ones were definitely not sweet. She always wants both.

Some weeks later, a friend called her and invited she to have a dinner with Ken. This first meeting is unusual. They two barely had a chance to say hello, when two of their common friends began to bring up some very deep problems in their relationship. Ken was asked to be therapist for the night. The next three hours were spent dealing with their issues. Treya could tell that this wasn’t exactly how Ken had wanted to spend the night. But he stayed present on working with the deep and difficult issues in their relationship.

During the therapy process, Treya didn’t get a chance to talk to Ken. most of the time, Treya tried to get used to his shaved head, which was very distracting to most of people. Treya loved the way he looked from the front, but the side view…well that would take some getting used to. At one point during the break, they all went into the kitchen for some tea. They just said hi to each other, without even had a formal conversation, Ken, surprisingly, put his arm around Treya. Treya felt a little uncomfortable since she hardly knew him, but magically, a strong power made Treya slowly put her arm around him. and something moved Treya closed her eyes. Something indescribable happened at that moment – A warmth, a kind of merging, a sense of fitting together, of blending, of being completely one. Treya did not know how long the hug lasted, but when she opened her eyes, her girl friend was looking straight at her with a mystical smile.

What had just happened? Treya asked herself. She felt that she belonged in some almost transcendental sense in Ken’s arms. It had nothing to do with how many words they two had shared. When Treya finally left at 4 am, Ken held her again before she got in her car. “I was surprised. I felt like he never wanted to let you go.” That was just how Treya felt. But she did not respond to Ken’s words. Just to make sure it is clear, they had not slept together. They had not even talked beyond five words, they had simply put their arms around each other. Treya got back home and lay in bed, she could still feel subtle energy currents running through her body. That is love at first touch.


After the first touch, Treya convinced herself not to put too much expectations on Ken. Treya and Ken didn’t see each other for a week. He went to LA and when he came back, they had our first real date. They never once talked about marriage, it seemed unnecessary to either of them. It seems to both of them, they were already married. And all that was required was to let people know about it. It was simply going to be. Two weeks of that first meeting, Ken asked Treya to marry him. Treya said “yes, and if you don’t ask me, I am gonna ask you”. They got married.

That evening they went for some quiet time alone to a little cabin in the forest. The cabin blends so naturally into its surroundings. They stayed alone in front of the fire place. Fire blazing against the cool night, the electricity in the house was not working. “Right there, in your right shoulder” Treya said, “can you see it?” “see what?” “Death, it’s right there, on your right shoulder. But I don’t know what it means.”

A few months later, right before they scheduled their honeymoon trip, Treya was diagnosed breast cancer. She would never know she only had five year life living with Ken. This couple spent the next five years fighting against Treya’s cancer. In the winter of 1988, Treya decided to die peacefully. At her last night, Ken hugged her and told her “If it is time to go, then it’s time to go. Don’t worry. I found you before, I promise I will find you again”.

“Punishment is not a punishment, death is not a failure, life is not a reward.”- Treya

Please refer to Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber, by Ken Wilber.