The Conscious Classroom

Awareness & Innovation: The Wings of Tomorrow's Education

March 27, 2024 Episode 65
The Conscious Classroom
Awareness & Innovation: The Wings of Tomorrow's Education
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Unlock the synergy between mindfulness and innovation as Amy Edelstein explores the relationship between these two orientations in this episode of the Conscious Classroom. Imagine a learning environment where the air is alive with creativity, and students and teachers alike are inspired to view the world through a lens of fresh possibilities. This discussion unearths the possibilities that contemplative practice can reveal, and shows how marrying innovation and inner exploration is working.  In Inner Strength Education's pilot project with 10 student interns explore the XPRIZE Connect innovation curriculum and Inner Strength Education's tools of open awareness and paradigm shifting. Students learn to tap the inner freedom of shedding outdated paradigms, and discover how to loosen their unconscious hold onto fixed reference points. Through contemplative practice and mental habits, they learn to work with a 360-degree perspective that challenges, refines, and enhances their understanding of education and purpose, and their ability to envision a healthy and holistic world we'd all want to live in. 

Guided by Amy Edelstein, you will practice the transformative exercise of open awareness, a technique that transcends the noise of everyday distractions and brings into focus our own field of awareness. Open awareness is a tool educators can weave  seamlessly into the fabric of school life. Discover how this technique aids in academic pursuits like group work and test preparation and also enriches the teaching experience. By fostering a more conscious learning environment, we lay the groundwork for an educational future that resonates with our highest ideals—a future we can imagine and work to bring to fruition together. 

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Amy Edelstein:

Welcome to the Conscious Classroom podcast, where we're exploring tools and perspectives that support educators and anyone who works with teens to create more conscious, supportive and enriching learning environments. I'm your host, amy Edelstein, and I'll be sharing transformative insights and easy-to-implement classroom supports that are all drawn from mindful awareness and systems thinking. The themes we'll discuss are designed to improve your own joy and fulfillment in your work and increase your impact on the world we share. Let's get on with this next episode. Hello and welcome to the Conscious Classroom podcast.

Amy Edelstein:

My name is Amy Edelstein and I'm thrilled to be here today to talk with you about a subject that's near and dear to my heart, which is all about the relationship between contemplative practice and innovation of a fixed relationship to the objects that arise in our awareness and seeing them freshly, enabling us to shift the paradigm in which we interpret reality. You know, in many ways, mindfulness is about letting go of attachment, letting go of fixed relationship to the things that we see and think and contemplate or experience. It's about being able to then consciously choose to locate ourselves in a different relationship towards our experience, in those things that we see, think and believe our experience in those things that we see, think and believe Innovation, and innovation that really involves step changes in how we do things requires that we loosen our tight grip on reality as we currently interpret it, to rest our interpretation loose from fixed and assumed beliefs about how the world is ordered and allow ourselves to see and think differently, to create a step change of possibility. To observe the customary with a fresh eye. To observe the customary with a fresh eye. So really being able to shift our awareness, to be like an astronaut floating free from the tie of gravity, allows us to imagine and recreate in our mind's eye the world in a way that we would rather see it and then figure out the steps to get there.

Amy Edelstein:

We all carry dreams of an ideal world clean water, clean air, enough food for everyone, no fear, no harm, no war, no pollution, healthy selves, healthy minds, healthy hearts, healthy species, where we're free to explore and wander, and laugh and love. We carry those visions of reality as we'd like it to be and, as educators, part of our work is to inspire our students to keep their sights set high on the world as it could be and then to see how to get from point A to point B. But if we can't envision this ideal world. We'll never come up with the innovation to get there, and mindfulness is a really valuable tool to allow ourselves to settle deep into our hearts and have the faith and confidence and love to imagine the world as it could be, as the great mathematician, philosopher and creative thinker Alfred North Whitehead once said "it requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious. I love that. I love Whitehead because he was such a rigorous mathematician and yet he was such a creative systems thinker where he really lived in the time of the Great World Wars and was able to really think creatively about how all the pieces fit together and to envision a world that would work and inspire people in some of the dialogue salons that he would host at his house to come together and really explore, explore philosophically, explore creatively related to the arts, explore related to math and science and explore related to aspirations for a noble human life. So what does it take to inspire students to think that creatively and to instill in them that love of the adventure of ideas in them, that love of the adventure of ideas? In our strength education, my organization, I do that, we do that with students through the mindfulness practices and curriculum. And now also we're partnering with XPRIZE Connect.

Amy Edelstein:

XPRIZE, the great innovation organization founded by Peter Diamandis, has this outrageous mission to inspire breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, they use incentivized competitions to do that. Those are competitions that catalyze the birth of the commercial space industry. They are now competitions with monetary prizes to solve the potable water crisis, to look at how to foster better health for the aging, to build empathetic robots, to assess and be able to control extreme wildfires. They are really looking at inspiring and galvanizing the best creative minds of our times to solve problems at a big level. And now they have a youth program and we have a group of 10 interns who are getting paid to meet all day on Saturdays to practice new ways of thinking, to understand what paradigm shifting is, to question many of their current and our current beliefs and assumptions that seem intractable and to start envisioning a solution that they would like to see invented. And then they'll create a prize and compete with other XPRIZE Connect students and compete with other XPRIZE Connect students. I love the XPRIZE mission of creating step change and I love the idea of galvanizing minds and hearts to focus on an issue together and support each other in that innovation and I love with our students marrying that with contemplative arts, marrying that with a philosophical mind that looks at ways of creating space between our customary identification with the objects that arise in consciousness, with thought and feeling, to identify with the field of awareness.

Amy Edelstein:

And when we identify with the field of awareness, we can look around the objects of consciousness, the things we think and see and experience. We can look at them 360. We can examine them from a different perspective and we can disembed ourselves from customary ways of thinking. And one of the great examples of how we are so attached to beliefs and ideas and ways of seeing the world that we know aren't true is something that we usually notice every day. So every day we notice the morning and the evening. Every day we notice when day breaks and when night falls. Now, customarily we and everyone around us thinks about it as the sun rising and the sun setting. And yet we all know, as we've learned from a young age, that the sun is the center of our solar system, that it stays in place and the earth and the other planets are spinning madly on their own axes and that spinning of the earth is what causes our perception of day and our perception of night. So the sun isn't really rising, the earth is rotating and spinning towards and away. How would our world be different if we looked out and said, ah, the earth is falling towards, ah, the earth is falling away Rather than the sun is rising and the sun is setting. It sounds so odd to our ears, it sounds so incongruent, it sounds so silly. It evokes images of a world spinning and us falling forward or backwards. But it would inspire us to think more deeply about the forces of gravity that stick us to the earth. It would inspire us to think more deeply about how the world turns and different parts of the world experience light and dark at different times of the day. It might inspire us to think about the equators and the poles and their different orientation to the heat of the Sun, which might inspire us to think differently about climate change and how it's impacting areas of the world differently.

Amy Edelstein:

So when I tell my students that there's something that we usually think about every day, or assume every day, that we blatantly know isn't true, they often expect me to come up with erroneous beliefs about culture, about race, about politics. And they get ready. I can see them. They get all fired up ready for debate, and when we talk about sunrise and sunset, is that mistaken way of phrasing something we know occurs differently? I can see on their faces it dawns on them that there are many things we can question about the way we move about the world that are not necessarily antagonistic or confrontational. There's simply new ways of seeing and examining the obvious so that we can see afresh. And when we change our ways of seeing, we change what comes into view and we change what's possible.

Amy Edelstein:

Now I deeply believe that changing our beliefs in what's possible and inspiring the young people we teach to change their beliefs about what's possible is critical to our future as a planet. It impacts everything from the quality of life on earth to the richness of our relationships, to the safety of our societies, to the continuation of so many different cultures and ways of life and being and language. It impacts the health of ecosystems and creatures and it really truly impacts our ability to reach for and fulfill the higher capacities of the human mind and heart, of the human mind and heart. In much older times, religious traditions held that place and culture where they held that ideal of the awakened individual, the noble saint, the wise one, in whatever term or tradition. I don't mean to limit this to any particular culture or philosophy, but to point to a part of our culture that all around the world, in different ways, was held as so important and where that position of the wise one was revered and exalted as teachers.

Amy Edelstein:

Now, with our world so plagued by so many problems, inspiring and really providing a pathway of thinking and practice and exercises and habits and cultivation that our young people can follow to really become extraordinary expressions of innovation, creativity, love, connection, care, is something that we must hold near and dear to our hearts as educators. Mindfulness and the extended toolbox of contemplative practices and exercises, which is expanding more and more every day as new people innovate, as people mix from different traditions and customs, as people look towards elders and try to study the depth of different systems, those tools, while superficially they're often reduced to being used for stress relief and trauma remediation, health and wellness, which of course is very important and foundational, but sometimes we forget that those tools carry keys and ways of seeing that open up new potentials and capacities of awareness, interpretation, energetic response, connection, as we look towards an education for the future. An education for the future will need to cultivate the wisdom and care of human nature and ways of seeing, interpreting data, working with artificial intelligence that collaborates with those tools, that has access to knowledge and data and analysis on enormous scale and that asks the right questions to see the world afresh and to reverse engineer from that vision of the possible to find the solutions to get there. To find the solutions to get there, laying the flagstones on the path that will lead us from our dysfunctional world to a world that is truly an amazing and wondrous and beautiful and healthy and safe and collaborative place to be. One of the practices that you can bring into your classrooms and do with your students regularly, if not every day, to allow them to let go of fixed and customary ways of seeing and allow them to let go of whatever's on their minds and hearts and allow them to let go of ideas and beliefs and self-doubt, hurts and harms, things that have been said that undercut their confidence, their self-worth, their sense of place in society.

Amy Edelstein:

One of the practices that we can do every day and enable them to really let loose of that is the practice of open awareness. Open awareness is one of those very, very simple practices where we're shifting our attention from identification with and minute focus on the objects that arise in our awareness on thought, feeling, sensation, experience, observation to the sense of being aware itself, without shifting the objects in any way, without trying to control thought, without having do's and don'ts and shoulds and shouldn'ts about what can arise in awareness. In the open awareness practice, we simply adjust our lens. And when we adjust our lens to focus on the field of awareness rather than the objects that arise in awareness, we can see things differently. It's an easy practice for students. It's an easy practice at any time of day.

Amy Edelstein:

There are no specific requirements, you don't even need a particularly quiet location, which schools almost never are and doing this allows students to let their experience settle, to let disturbing thoughts fall into the background and to feel deeply connected with their own sense of awareness and unbounded field of consciousness, to connect with that part of themselves that is deeply home, that is deeply them. This is a different orientation than the dispassionate witness that sits outside of and behind one's own experience. This is connecting with our most intimate sense of knowing and being aware. So if you're driving, please don't do this. If you're walking, be sure to notice for oncoming traffic or other holes in the pathway, and if you're seated at home, you can really let yourself, enjoy and let go. So I encourage you to do this practice yourself in order to be able to bring this subtlety of shift to your students, and I encourage you to bring this into this class regularly so it becomes a habit. And maybe it becomes a habit before group work, so students are open to each other's ideas, or it becomes a habit before tests, so students can draw on their intuition. Or it becomes a habit before study sessions, so the blackboard of their minds is clean and they're able to retain and observe and absorb the material that they're learning.

Amy Edelstein:

So let's do a short practice now, allowing yourself to settle with your spine tall. Where you're comfortable and alert, where you loosen your grip on the visuals, you can rest your eyes on a beautiful color or shape or on the table in front of you, or close your eyes lightly, loosely, lightly, loosely, as you begin to settle into your own experience, noticing the sounds, thoughts, feelings, sensations moving through you. Allow all of your experience to be there just as it is, without getting lost in making order or drawing priorities or working anything out, simply letting the activity of the mind and senses be what it is and as you let everything be as it is, your whole experience, allow the aperture of your mind to open so that, almost from the edges of your mind, you're able to intuit an unbounded sense of awareness, your own sense of awareness, an open field as vast as the sky, noticing how your field of awareness can take in even the biggest objects as it thinks about them, just as the sky can hold the largest objects the planets and suns, the galaxies and still have more room, still extend back and back, and back and let your attention rest on that open space of awareness, gently holding the intimations of infinity. And you can stay here as long as you like, allowing yourself to enjoy, without grasping for any particular insight or solution, letting the weave of your mind become loose. And when you're ready, we can begin to bring our attention back onto the objects around us, pressing your feet into the floor, stretching your hands, noticing what they're touching. And as you reorient and shift your attention to the familiar objects around you, retain that sense of boundarylessness of your own awareness, the open edges of your own heart, of your own heart.

Amy Edelstein:

And we can finish the formal practice now, and I encourage you to tap back into this locus, this vantage point, as you're teaching, as you're dealing with difficulties with administration, as you're navigating the conflicts of time and space and resources in your school environment. And I encourage you to allow that sense of your own expansive awareness to fuel and fortify you and allow you to focus on a vision of the possible, of what you'd like to see. And, as you work with this exercise with your students, encourage them with some free-form journaling to also imagine the world as they'd like it to be, imagining the qualities and capacities that they will need to practice so that they become a habit, so they lay down the flagstones on the path that leads us in a nonlinear fashion, from where we are now to where we could be. Thank you for envisioning this together with me, and let's all begin to work for our greater degree of consciousness and conscience in our classrooms and for a future of education that truly matches what, as educators, we believe is possible. Thank you.

Amy Edelstein:

Thank you for listening to the Conscious Classroom. I'm your host, amy Edelstein. Please check out the show notes on www. innerstrengtheducation. org for links and more information, and if you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a review and share it with a friend and pass the love on See you next time.

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