I quoted last time from Dr. Rendon’s wonderful book Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy and as I read further into the book I was excited to see how she blends spiritual elements into her pedagogy to help her students learn not only the content but the ability to be good citizens in their communities.
She goes on to say ”The spiritual elements in Sentipensante Pedagogy include the use of diverse forms of contemplative practice, which may do two things: (a) quiet the mind to allow for the cultivation of deep insights and personal awareness, and (b) activate the senses as learners engage in social activism and self-transformation (page 141).”
Let’s not forget that regardless of our age, education, or time spent in school we are all learners! We are learning something each and every day. Maybe you read a newspaper, magazine, or book and discovered something that you did not know before. It could be as simple as a new way to cook all the squash you’ve got growing in your backyard garden to a more beautiful route that you can take to the grocery store. But learning you are!
Most of us would love to be able to quiet our minds, as Dr. Rendon says, to be able to go deep within ourselves to discover who we “really” are, to find out what our potential is, to discover how we can make our schools, towns, states and our country a better place for everyone to grow and blossom in. For some it may be through social activism and for others it may come through self-transformation or maybe it is through both.
Even my 92-year-old mother has said to me many times, “I need a job. I’ve got to be doing something.” It is not that easy to explain to her that no one is going to hire a 92-year-old woman with dementia so I try to find some thing that she is doing daily that is kind of like a job and is helping others. It can be as simple as being kind and helpful at the Alzheimer’s Daycare Center with the other people who attend there, or when she tells a story to the staff that makes them laugh and lightens up their day. When that sinks in she is excited to get on the bus to what she calls “school or work” the next morning.
Dr. Rendon goes on to write, “Consequently, contemplative practice is two-dimensional. Contemplation may involve stillness and quieting the mind. Yet it may also involve stirring the soul, shaking up the learner’s belief system, fostering a social justice consciousness, developing wisdom, and in the end transforming the self (page 141).”
I sat this morning at Zen contemplating a Koan that I am working on and came upon an interesting thought that when things are “broken” they are not always fixable for whatever reason. Sometimes the problems are too large and maybe I just need to look at them from a different vantage point. Maybe I need to give them more time, or be more creative in my thinking about the situation. Maybe I just need to leave it alone until such time as the answer appears on its own. Maybe I need to not force an answer, solution, or idea.
Imagine what a great tool it would be for our students if we taught them how to use contemplation and meditation tools to help them engage with problem solving, decision making, and more. To use these tools to help them quiet down the “monkey mind” that rages in their heads all day and sometimes all night long.
The school of life is daunting, beautiful, fantastic, challenging, and unpredictable. Spending time in quiet meditation and contemplation can help us and our students get our lives together and find a simple and peaceful way of living. We can get off the playground where all the “kids” are running and jumping, and yelling and fighting and kicking, and go to the playground where the people are laughing and smiling and sharing and enjoying each others company in peaceful conversations and discussions.
Which playground are you on today?