I recently completed an independent study course about mindfulness (this is a link a psychological understanding) and began to consider its connections to education. Five months of reading, writing journal entries, and creating an annotated bibliography and a paper, encouraged me to reflect personally and professionally on my lived practice. I want this learning to resonate through the length of my life, not just become a temporary fix.
Although mindful practices usually come with specific religious and spiritual connotations, Eleanor Rosch (in press) suggested that “embedded in most of the world’s spiritual traditions is some version of beginner’s mind/primordial wisdom teachings” (p. 1). Mindfulness and the teachings gleaned through the meditation or contemplation practices associated with it are not the sole property of one culture, religion, or ethnic group.
Rosch, a University of California Berkley psychologist, advised “what we want is an educational system that enables people to access aspects of their minds capable of making creative and wise decisions in an increasingly complex … environment” (p. 17). She suggested a burgeoning contemplative education movement can add ingredients to the educational experience of children and adults. Matthieu Ricard (2011) used scientific research, data, and conclusions to support his claim that “certain, practical elements of meditative training could be valuably incorporated into the education of children and help adults to achieve a better quality of life” (p. 134).
Ellen Langer (2011), a Harvard psychologist, argued humans “cling to the illusion of stability to … mindlessly hold [the world] still [and] the educational system forgoes [the] more nuanced approach in favor of stability … we educate ourselves into mindlessness [and] the stable, consistent world we accept isn’t the one we live in” (pp. 124-125).
The questions to be asked begin with what and who as opposed to how or why. The latter words lead us into circular and technical debates that focus on blame, defensive stances, and binary answers of right/wrong, good/bad, and me/you. The words who and what invite the many and the one to the table for a personal conversation. What needs to be attended to in any educational setting to affect transformation? What changes do we want to effect? What changes are personal? What changes are more in the domain of the collective? What does my inner teacher, wisdom, and experience tell me? I can see that it will take much more reading, studying, writing, and meditative practice to move towards any understanding fo what changes will lead us closer to mindfulness in our educational systems, both for our students and for us as teachers