The Conscious Classroom

Mindfulness Is Not A Pill, It's a Perspective

February 18, 2024 Episode 63
The Conscious Classroom
Mindfulness Is Not A Pill, It's a Perspective
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Discover the keys to unlocking our children's potential in an era where education is at a crossroads and technology's influence is undeniable. This enlightening journey through the world of learning reveals how an evolved mindset, coupled with a transformative educational system, is essential for nurturing the curiosity, purpose, wisdom, and respect desperately needed today. Amy delves into the challenges presented by outdated institutions, and the pressures faced by both students and educators as they navigate the fragmented structures of modern society. While mindfulness is a tool, and a valuable one, what it reveals is our choice over how to relate to our own minds, showing us that mindfulness is not another pill but rather a perspective and tool that enriches our experience and gives us a greater sense of autonomy over our lives. This is invaluable for students today and their teachers. 

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ISE Experiential Tools Retreat 2024.02.10

[00:00:00] Amy: In order to reflect on how mindfulness can benefit students, we have to really think about what's happening in these times and what are the opportunities of these times. It's really easy to talk about the difficulties of these times. I like to talk about the difficulties in relationship to the opportunities.

[00:00:21] It's a time of real fragmentation. It's a time of disintegration of a lot of structures. That a haven't been kept up both social and cultural structures as well as infrastructure. And if you live in Philly, I give the way here was blocked off because I don't know, there's some big street collapse or something, which happens all the time.

[00:00:45] You're like, oh, there's a big pot hole the size of a car. So there's disintegration, but it's not just through lack of. input. It's also because our world has changed so fast that our big institutions have not been able to change as quickly. And our big institutions include our mindsets. What's our cultural mindset?

[00:01:09] What's our national mindset? What's our personal mindset? What's our spiritual mindset? This is a time where the way we've been going about things clearly just doesn't work. The environment is at a tipping point. Students are not attending school. The lack of attendance and the lack of graduation is at an all time high.

[00:01:41] At the same time, we have so much input with the internet we can access different methodologies. You can watch, you can watch a animated version of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras from a thousand years ago that was created now. You can imagine that you're getting that wisdom in two minutes and 51 seconds and then move on to what are the 10 best places to retire to in the world, and get some 35 year old and their drone taking you around the world.

[00:02:14] And that's our culture, is these little micro bits that make us feel like we're jumping times, geographic locations, and that we've got it, when all we've done is absorb a tiny bit of information. We haven't engaged in depth. We have this interesting phenomena of access and superficiality. And that access also creates A desensitization to what's possible.

[00:02:49] How do we bring curiosity back? How do we bring purpose back? How do we bring wisdom and respect? Back into our cultural framework. It's not just students in school. We can talk about what students in schools need, but I'll tell you, our elected officials definitely need it. And it's not just the younger ones, we need a sense of meaning and purpose and care and optimism and vision.

[00:03:23] Another, cultural global moment that we're at right now is we're at a time where our world is going to change faster than almost any other time in history, or perhaps any other time with the adoption of new forms of technology, we call it AI for short artificial intelligence that to me is a catch all for all the new technologies.

[00:03:51] And it's happened overnight. They've been working on these technologies for a while as soon as they got released. We are using them. We're using them in the classroom. We're using the workplace. We're using them in the home. We don't know what it means. We don't know what it's going to do to our sense of engagement and our sense of discovery.

[00:04:12] If we can ask, Dall-E to make a picture for us, are we ever going to learn how to paint? Are we going to take the time to do it all? It's not going to look as good. Dall-E can do it better. We're in an interesting moment. There are amazing possibilities. Those are some of the difficulties that we're engaged with now.

[00:04:34] The opportunity is we're in a moment where there's so many fractures, it means there's room for opening. When everything's working well, it's very hard to create change. Everything's just locked down. It's locked down. There's no room. It's working. Don't touch it. Ain't broke. Don't fix it. Things aren't locked down right now.

[00:04:59] And in the education world, we have the opportunity to finally take a system that was modeled by the early industrialists. The capitalists to promote factory work, efficient, fragmented. Compartmentalized work where you learned how to do a task. You only did that task. You did not question how it related to the whole and you did it in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.

[00:05:34] That's how our education system was designed, and it was designed for that purpose. That's why we have three minute bell changes who can get from the fourth floor to the first floor and go to the bathroom in three minutes. It's ridiculous. Let alone talk to your friend, get your homework from your locker that you forgot.

[00:05:56] Have a meltdown because your teacher yelled at you and it was unfair. Or the teacher, have a meltdown because your students wouldn't do anything and you couldn't get through. Or one kid stopped and told you about some crisis when they walked out of class and ran to their other class and you're sitting there and you've got 30 new students there. And your heart is with that kid who just told you they need help. All of our kids, whether they're suburban or inner city, are often dealing with real adult issues. Parent addiction. Homelessness. I've taught classes where several of my students lived in different shelters every night, and still showed up to ninth grade.

[00:06:41] They didn't show up very well, but they did show up. When you're a teacher ministering that and then ministering to, the first gen high school student who has to attend doctor's appointments with his parents because his parents don't even speak enough English to ask for a translator . And that kid's a genius. How do you deal with that?

[00:07:06] We're dealing with a system that's challenging. Not to mention how poorly paid our teachers are and the attrition rate of teachers, everyone recognizes when COVID hit, the kids had to stay home. It was like, Oh my God, get them back at school. I can't cope. And then you had teachers teaching with their students doing online school in the background. And they were supposed to do it all.

[00:07:40] The opportunity of our times now is to really make a system that works. It's not working. We're not going to create some incremental change and increase our teacher salaries by, 25 percent and make this go away. We're not going to throw a couple of social workers into school and think that's going to solve it.

[00:08:01] The whole model. Of who we educate, who does the educating, how we educate can change in part because of technology. We have the opportunity to let large language models, chat GPT and other things like that, redesign curriculum. Culturally relevant. One person who does research on back end educational tools was saying that they did some experimentation with about 30, 000 kids.

[00:08:33] They took a large language model, retooled math questions. This was in a primarily Latinx community. 30, 000 kids. That's not a small sample size. They retooled the exact same math problems, but they changed the names of the kids to be the same names that were found in those schools, which they can do because they could read the rosters and problems that would be set in their neighborhood.

[00:09:03] All of a sudden, these kids who were not good at math jumped 17%. 17 percent simply by changing the name and changing the question, but not the math involved. How many kids are we stigmatizing and leaving behind simply because we're not speaking to them, because our textbooks were designed by someone with a different cultural background for students with a different cultural background.

[00:09:31] So we can do that now. We can actually do that almost instantly. Of course, that would have been impossible before. you can see that all of a sudden, we actually have the potential to think with care and empathy, cultural relevance, and curiosity, and see what's possible.

[00:09:56] Mental health is a huge issue. I don't think that it helps that much with all the constant barrage that, Oh, kids are more depressed than ever before. We also really weren't studying kids in the same way. I know, the schools are hard now, but it's a different time, and that's just more on the forefront.

[00:10:15] We need to support our kids mental health. We need to deal with systemic trauma. We need to deal with personal traumas, and that needs to be just part of our mental hygiene. When you're in first grade, you learn all about brushing your teeth, and you learn about washing your hands, and washing your face, and combing your hair.

[00:10:38] By first grade, you really need to master those things. Your mom will do it for you while you're in nursery school, even though you're still learning. But by first grade, you're going to master those things you're going to learn in school. By the time you're in middle school, you need to start learning about mental health and mental health hygiene.

[00:10:56] What The inner strength work does is it works on curiosity, exploration, and mental health hygiene. And it's a heart centered approach. It's just because we're going to use technology doesn't mean that we are inhuman and I've been thinking about this a lot. When I was recently I did some traveling and I found, I came across a group of scientists and meditators who are studying the question of.

[00:11:30] Consciousness in AI, and they're studying the question of marrying the Buddhist principle of unlimited compassion, the Bodhisattva principle, where you try to, you aspire to be cut to care about everything and everyone so much that your whole being is serving. All sentience, all life forms from single celled organisms all the way up in this galaxy and everywhere else, the 10 directions.

[00:11:58] And so they said if AI is unlimited and it's learning potential, maybe it's unlimited in its potential for compassion. So is that really me? And I thought that was a really interesting question. I also thought that the way we relate to artificial intelligence. Set how we relate to each other moving forward, and this is really connected to education as well, is how are, 'cause you know when you're in a bad mood and you yell at the chat bots, , the customer service, you get those robocalls and you yell, you don't feel that good afterwards.

[00:12:39] So how we relate to inanimate objects. Or animate objects is really it's cultivating our demeanor. And if we intend to create a culture of care and humanity and curiosity, then we want to relate to our technology, not as something for us, but as something we're co involved with. We're curious. We're sensitive.

[00:13:14] We're respectful. If we had that attitude, we wouldn't have treated our world that way. We wouldn't have treated our environment, our water, our air, our trees, our animals and our other people that way. We have this new question of how are we going to relate to emergent. AI. And everyone's worried is AI sentient or not?

[00:13:36] Who cares if it's sentient? Who cares what our definition is? How are we related to it? Is this a tool for me? Or does this have beauty and delicacy and grace in its own right? It's a lovely chair. , I can stick my feet on it. I can tip it over. I could break it. I could smash it. What kind of attitude is that?

[00:13:57] Maybe the chair feels, maybe it doesn't. Let's assume it doesn't. So it wouldn't mind if I smashed it. You're taking a thing of beauty and grace and function, and you're treating it with disrespect. We can really shift. If we start really shifting our orientation and bringing in the tools of compassion and care, we can change a lot.

[00:14:22] So these are just some of the really interesting things of our time. 

[00:14:26] the first thing that we want to do if we want to be curious, we want to be innovative. We want to be flexible in our thought is to look at our relationship to thought because if you just look at the thought itself, okay, I'm worried. I need to stop being worried. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this breathing exercise and not worry.

[00:14:44] Okay. It's a little bit like taking an aspirin for a headache. It's good, but maybe you have a headache because you don't drink enough water, or you didn't have lunch. once you drink some water and have lunch, then you won't get a headache, then you won't need the aspirin. Changing our relationship to thought

[00:14:59] it's one of the first things we teach the students, and it's one of the things that all contemplative practice is really good at. We do not learn how to relate to thought at all in our American culture. We're all in America right now. We just try to change our thought or distract ourselves or have better thoughts.

[00:15:22] I want everyone to do this experientially. take your glasses off if you have glasses. Your hand loosely represents thought. We do this with all the kids. I want you to take your hand and I want you to cover your eyes. Cover your eyes so that you really can't, it's really tight. And this is not a trick question.

[00:15:43] This is our customary relationship to thought, where all we see is the thought. What do you see? It's not a trick question. Anyone can say virtually or virtually. You don't have to look to unmute yourself. So you see blackness. Darkness, . Darkness. Anything else? Do you know what's covering your eyes?

[00:16:09] Splatters of light. Okay, splatters of light. If you didn't know, if you couldn't feel your hand, would you know it's your hand?

[00:16:22] Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. Not really. And just separate it so that you're the top of your hand still touching your forehead, but your fingers are stretched out. So you can let in a little bit of light. Now, what do you see? What do you see? A partial view. A partial view. And what's in that partial view? 

[00:16:47] Now take your hand and stretch it as far from your eyes as you can. Again, this is not a trick question. What do you see? Everything around me. Okay, everything around you, which means what, where you are, the people you're with context.

[00:17:10] Okay, can let your hand go. This exercise, our normal relationship to thought is like this, or a little bit there. Sometimes we know it's a thought, when we're able to get space from our thought or objectivity on thought, it means we have a choice. If this is a repetitive thought that we're ruminating on, it's completely undermining and unuseful, put it over there.

[00:17:36] I don't have to look at that thought. I didn't cut it off, like when you have a bad thought like this, you just want to cut it off. If you cut it off, you realize, oh, I'm going to lose my hand. I actually need this, . I don't want to lose this. I don't want to lose the functionality. So thoughts can, even if they're hard or painful, they can bring insight only when we have choice over it. Maybe we want to look at that thought up close. Yes. Okay, these are fingers, they're five fingers, there's an opposable thumb, that's what makes humans so unique.

[00:18:06] Amy: We can do so many things, got lines on it, I've got two sides. Oh, isn't that interesting? I have two perspectives on that thought. I can look at it close, I can look at it far. All of a sudden, instead of being stuck with what's on our mind, we realize that we can do things, we can practice, we can have strategies.

[00:18:31] to move away from the thought. Not so we erase it, but so we choose how we want to engage with it. Now, mostly when we want to get space from thought, we do things that make us unconscious. So we watch TV, we scroll through social media, we binge on, YouTube, or TikTok, or we eat, or we exercise, which exercise is not bad, food is not bad, but often times our choice for those things is to binge,

[00:19:10] be unconscious. When we practice mindfulness, the choice is to recognize the nature of thought that thought is. Our brain is mechanical, it's constantly going to generate thought, unless we really do tons of practice, so we can be quiet thought which can happen but generally the mind is a machine and its job is to generate thought.

[00:19:36] So how do we relate to it. Mindfulness is not a healthier form of Valium. It's not just to get you to feel no thought. It's to get you to have choice and agency. over your relationship. And that's what we feel. Especially teens, because in that age of teens, they're feeling a lack of agency that they can't do what they want.

[00:20:06] It's no everywhere. It's structures that they have to conform to. Having some agency over their own relationship to thought is hugely liberating. 


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