Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Put a bit of Zen in your life or teaching!

Learning to enjoy what is around you.
Educating the senses
We live in a world of haste, stress, and instant everything that filters out many of our daily sensations. The twentieth century has been the most visually stimulated the world has ever known and this stimulation will no doubt continue to increase. This has resulted in people who look but do not see and in turn miss out in appreciating the wonders the world presents to them.
Holidays are a time to recharge our batteries, to take the time to just enjoy our experience for their own sake and, in the process, develop our depleted sensory capabilities.
It was interesting to read that even at business conferences members were asked to take the time before breakfast ( the conference is set in a wilderness areas) to go outdoors and find a suitable place to sit alone for an hour or so and to reflect on what they can see and what it makes them think about. Members were asked to choose whatever aspect of nature that appeals to them - a tree, a stream, stones, waves, seagulls. All they were asked to do was to engage in a 'internal dialogue' with whatever was chosen and then to jot a few thoughts to share with others.
To our modern minds, conditioned by scientific rationalism, this might seem to many as a waste of time but throughout history experiences of spending time alone in the wilderness has proved insight to 'wise' individuals.
The secret to gaining such insight is to focus totally on the aspect of the experience you have chosen so as to become more sensually aware of it and to allow for connections and thoughts to emerge. It is important to just let impressions enter the mind naturally through the senses as we are all conditioned by our previous experiences.
By sitting quietly a deeper consciousness develops and our imagination allows us to develop ideas we might never have been aware that we were possible of thinking. To capture such insights making a few notes or drawing assists - a digital camera is ideal to capture aspects that attract your attention.
Most people who experience such focused observation report an intensity of feeling , of a sense of time standing still.
To be 'mindful' of the environment it is useful to focus on the various senses; creative teachers have aways made use of such sensory 'education' . Focus on what you can see - not so much things but qualities such as, moments, shapes, forms,textures, and colours; and think of metaphors or phrases that try to capture poetically what you are thinking.
Seeing is simply a matter of keeping your mind and attention open long enough to observe what is around you. Such focusing turns your mind away from other things that all to often pre occupy us. Shut your eyes and listen to sounds far away and close up. Feel with your hands - and, on holiday, bare feet. Smells , it seems, are powerful means to tie experiences to our minds.
Such activities are valuable not only just for their own sake, as an antidote to our normal busy distracted lives, but they are also the sources of individual creativity.
Many creative ideas have been developed by people who have practiced such sensory reflection and observation - Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind.
Give thought about how you can tap into your students experiences when you return back to your class. Your students' experiences are too important to be ignored but, worse still, if we don't focus on acknowledging them these sensory facilities and associated creativity will be lost to them. Creativity is the process by which new unique patterns are conceived and expressed. Any one can be creative but only if an openness to experiences is valued.
So use the holidays to to tone down your rationale minds and let some new ideas enter. And keep applying the lessons learnt in your day today work or wherever you are. It will make a world of difference. And when stressed find time to be alone in nature - sitting, walking , fishing, unwinding. Maybe by doing this you will feel less stressed and even think of new ideas but, most importantly, you might become aware of the need to protect and celebrate our environment.


Anonymous said...

Good advice. In my opinion not enough use of the immediate environment goes on in primary schools these days - it used to be a feature of many creative teachers. As a result the use of the senses is not capitalized on.

Bruce said...

I reckon that for every hour in front of a computer screen children need an hour siting by a river, stream , or a tree to compensate for it!

Anonymous said...

We all benefit from having time away in the 'wilderness' - even if it is just sitting at the beach letting your mind do the walking.