In this episode, Amy shares a brief look at how our awareness of large scale systems that we can intuit through our mindfulness practice and through exploring the interconnected systems we see in nature and in the structure of the cosmos can reveal new solutions to our very entrenched problems. For teens who are discouraged and feeling defeated by the issues of the world and in their lives, this way of seeing can ignite optimism, interest, and passion to make the world a better place.Support the show
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The Conscious Classroom Podcast
Mycelium, Evolution & Our Teens - How Evolution & Systems Thinking Reveal New Solutions
with Amy Edelstein
Hello and welcome to the conscious classroom podcast. My name is Amy Edelstein. I'm the founder of inner strength education, which brings teen mindfulness programs into the public school system. The mindfulness programs that we bring include a whole Systems’ perspective so students begin to see how their responses and reactions arise in a larger context, historical technological, and even biological is related to evolution and evolutionary development of the brain.
I like to teach in a context and I like to unpack large scale systems. in order for us to better understand our own personal individual experience, what it means, how to define our purpose and relationship to these larger unfoldings and how to also Intuit new possibilities, new developments, new openings, new solutions to our very complex problem.
a couple of weeks ago. I had the honor and delight of being able to speak at Chautauqua institution, which is 150-year-old summer lecture series symposium. But it's not just lectures. It's like a whole village where on any given day in the summer, there are about 8,000 people all living in this little town on lake Chautauqua, which is dropped dead beautiful in upstate New York.
And they're there to explore the arts, music, theater, dance, religion. There are multiple different houses, dedicated to different denominations, all running, small discussion groups, inquiry groups in the afternoon, a lecture series on current events, including some of the brightest, minds of our times.
And there's this series run by the department of Religion, which I was invited to speak at because of my work on evolutionary unfolding meditation and exploration of our deeper purpose. And so I was the final talk in the series on the evolution of being, first of all, it's not a small topic to address. And second of all, being the final speaker of a theme-based series means.
It's important to pull together all the specific threads in a way that creates a sense of coherence. Now, I wasn't exactly sure what the other speakers were going to talk about as I worked on my talk, but I knew that when it came to as large a topic as the evolution of being, I wanted to bring together.
scientific understandings of developmental theory, theological understandings of what wholeness or be the nature of being is from different perspectives, a psychological sense of self wholeness and health of the self. As, as it presents in the world. as well as practical applications, because our understanding of our purpose and place in the world and how that relates to the essence of the net of life.
The quality of living consciousness is ultimately very practical. Now working in the schools with teenagers, I deal with all of these elements. and they're all interwoven into our inner strength curriculum. So I had a lot to say because I very much believe that how we think about things, what lens we're interpreting, we're looking through to make sense of the world around us will influence whether we feel that life.
Positive, whether we feel there's possibility and optimism, even in the midst of great difficulty and struggle. The lens we look through will either help us integrate our experience in life. The practical reality as it reveals itself to us, whether that's COVID. And the huge amount of suffering, the grief and economic hardship it's left behind, gun violence and the scourge of aggression
that is a plague in American public discourse, as well as on the streets in American cities.
so those problems are very real. Our view or, existential understanding of reality will not change those facts, but it will change how we relate to them. And whether we feel we have some unknown. factor by unknown. I mean, not yet revealed to us, not yet apparent that could help us achieve what's called punctuated evolution.
so rather, rather than just in a linear way, trying to remediate climate change, trying to remediate, the impact of early childhood trauma, trying to remediate intergenerational poverty, trying to remediate mass refugee displacement, trying to remediate, , the, the extreme weather from climate change.
trying to remediate species extinction
in a linear way. We can point that. Should we expand or shift the way we see we would be open to new solutions that remained hidden from our view.
and of course there is the famous, I'm not sure where it comes from. Well, I think it comes from sophism, but it may come from, any other, area of the world or tradition where This, the story goes that, a king had an elephant and he brought it into a village of blind people and asked them, and each of the, non sighted people went and touched a different part of the. in order to figure out what it was. And one touched the legs and said, it's a large pillar, strong to hold up an edifice. And one touched the tail and said, oh, it's a wiry brush to clean out narrow cups. One touched its trunk and said, oh, it's a hollow pipe to, pour water.
One touched its ear and said, oh, it's a flat, fabric to make great fans. And all of them were true within their own sphere, but none of them were able to see the elephant as a whole and what the elephant might be able to do. And it's living beingness. So in that simple. example, if we think that an elephant is just its ear, we're certainly not going to relate to it in all its capacities and possibilities.
If we think that the is some of the issues that I described can only be solved by the factors that we can see. Now we may not be seeing, we certainly aren't seeing the.
If we expand our context out and to include more in that hole that we're trying to see. So in my exploration of the evolution of being and where it meets our practical issues, particularly around since we're on the conscious classroom podcast, particularly around how they relate to youth in a public school system, under resource schools, building degradation, lack of safety of build, and the health and buildings with lead and asbestos and deterioration at dangerous levels.
A lack of aesthetic beauty in these old buildings. So that one is not inspired and uplifted and motivated to learn when we're starting and can rest our eyes on something beautiful, a beautiful shape, beautiful light cleanliness order in our surroundings, it helps. Think it helps us focus in this soft and easy way so that we can really allow new information to come in. Aesthetics and learning are not two different things. They mutually reinforce each other.
So, as I was saying, I want to keep the, our discussion about the topic as large as the evolution of being also grounded in the reality for educators, youth service providers, those who are working on a better. education system in order to, support and shape and prepare our next generation of leaders.
So the first thing in thinking about the evolution of being is we want to think about what is being, what does that mean? And when, when I. speak about it in this context. What I'm really speaking about is whatever you call that dimension of our experience, that is the most basic to life. So a sense of awareness, knowingness, this being conscious.
now there are those who believe that consciousness awareness is only, afforded to human beings where homo sapien, sapiens, the doubly wise humans who can self-reflect. We know that we are reflecting on ourselves. Now it may be, or it may not be that other species can do. , I'm certainly not here to explore the biology and, and neuroscience of other species.
But what I'd like to invite you to consider is a fabric of knowing that seems to exist at very, very basic levels of being. even as some believe at the atomic level of being where there are mirror particles, that twin each other, even though the, in the, even though they're separated by great distances
where light will appear as a particle or a wave depending. The expectation of the observer and the famous double slit experiments. There seems to be some sense of whether it's the energy of electrons that coherence that field that's created around a nucleus to be an atom that holds them together.
There seems to be a coherence or some very fundamental form of knowingness awareness. Connection. And if we can expand our framework of thinking to see in such large systems, we start seeing the world very differently.
there was a beautiful documentary, that came out a couple of years ago called fantastic fungi, which was all about, mushrooms and fungi and the mycelium, the network of it's a root system, which is a communication system. And that documentary illuminated. Is how my cell will transmit information about drought, about disease coming about change in climate about insect invasion or shift in soil.
And it will transmit that information from. , across these vast distances because their network of roots or mycelium are interconnected. It will also transmit that information to the roots of trees and other plants that it interacts with. So there's this large scale knowing and communication system at a very basic level of life that is happening all around.
Now if we can begin to expand our, relationship to consciousness. So it's not just my consciousness or what I can see and know, it's not just what I feel or what I can do. but there is a knowingness and awareness, which is included some believe in the internet because now there's this vast interconnected, technological web of information or in this living system of my cell at the roots or in the cosmos itself where you see these mirror neurons, where you see, very interesting phenomena.
At a cosmological level that we don't understand yet, but we can observe
a seemingly bending space of seemingly co-related large-scale events. So it's all very interesting. I don't necessarily know enough about it to be able to give you examples in the mathematics and physics behind. but the fact that there are people studying this large-scale interrelationship means that there's a way of thinking about our world, our cosmological surroundings and our human that are both more that hold more complexity.
but from a place of simplicity and when we can hold that complexity from a place of simplicity, then we are potentially able to realize or intuit or feel into insights that, that collective reveal. so sometimes, , there are those games where there's a, there's a drawing and you can look at it two ways.
So you can see, a profile of two faces looking at each other, or you can focus on the space between them and see a V. And depending on how you shift your attention, you see different things. So this way of re feeling into. our larger sense of knowing our larger scale systems in order to see things differently, I feel holds the potential for true punctuated innovation or evolution, very new solutions to what seem to be intractable issues right now to reveal themselves.
now, as I said, I work in the public schools with teenagers. So I work with the very real impact of grief, violence, trauma, self-doubt, race. These are not small issues and they leave their mark on the individual. So the philosophical considerations that I'm talking about are motivated by the urgency of the lives that need support, that need optimism.
That need to have a sense that life can be better for them than it has been, and that they can realize a level of. Personal sustainability, joy, happiness, purpose service to others, contribution to the community that makes the future worthwhile because sadly, I do work with some students who don't feel that the future is worthwhile.
So our need to expand the way we think about things is very urgent. It's very real.
Now when we sit in meditation, when we really practice mindfulness and allow ourselves to be with the breath, allow ourselves to be just with open awareness, allow ourselves to focus on the shifting sensations in our bodies. We come in touch. With that experience of being present, being present, not distracted by our thoughts, not distracted by the past, not distracted by, what's behind us.
And when we're present, as some people say in the now when we're experiencing that acceptance. Of experience just as it is. And we're focusing on the very particulars of experience just as it is. It brings a sense of centeredness, calm, love, compassion for self, and for others, it brings that sense of expand.
and possibility and care and gentleness.
So I really do believe, and it's my experience, both working with teens and having been a practitioner of mindfulness-based techniques since 1978. So it's a long time ago.
Our willingness to spend time allowing our chatter of the mind to fall away, allowing ourselves to be easy with our experience, as it is allowing ourselves to explore that quality of knowing
That will reveal to us. It will give us intonations of this broader connectivity, this broader knowing so that we can be like those mycelium, feeling and intuiting the shifts and changes around us in a way that will allow us to respond. with an open heart and a motivation to relieve the world of suffering and bring the sense of joy and happiness and meaning and purpose and harmony instability to those in our spheres.
So let's allow ourselves to. just take these final minutes in meditation, letting yourself sit back into yourself, let your eyes close. If you're in a place that you can do that, take a slightly longer inhalation. and a slightly longer exhalation
and release the attention on the breath
and we'll just allow your attention to rest on that quality of being awake and.
not aware of any objects in particular, just awake and aware of your surroundings,
awake and aware of that current of being.
and just notice and we'll stay here for a few moments.
Now you can begin to bring your focus back to my voice, to your surroundings, without losing touch, without expansion. That sense of the poorness of your boundaries. And in your meditation, your mindfulness practice this week, whatever contemplative practice you do really pay attention, make the effort to use your practice, to really focus on that quality of expansion of large systems of knowing of that sense of being aware.
centered, always at the center point of the circle
so that you begin to feel and intuit different ways of knowing that include more. and yet have a vast and organic simplicity to them. Now, as you do that, see how your experience during the week starts to change. See how your relationship to others changes and see how you're able to weather emotional or practical storms more easily.
have more compassion, intuition, and lightness of being with the youth that you work with
and see how you can feel your own self beginning to strengthen.
Thanks so much for listening.