The Conscious Classroom

Tech + Teens: Part 3 in dialogue with XPrize semifinalist Anthony Holland

December 09, 2021 Episode 49
The Conscious Classroom
Tech + Teens: Part 3 in dialogue with XPrize semifinalist Anthony Holland
Show Notes Transcript

Can technology empower rather than divide? Can we train robots to exhibit the empathy of their operators in humanitarian situations? How is Inner Strength looking ahead and the possibilities for supporting youth wellness through technology? Join Amy Edelstein in dialogue with XPrize semi-finalist and Inner Strength Board Member Anthony Holland.

In this final installment, Tony and Amy answer audience questions about their own search for meaning and purpose and the potential they see in creating a positive culture for all to benefit from. 

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Welcome back. All right, so I'm going to share some of our attendees questions with you both. Are you ready? We're ready. Okay. So the first one is, can you each speak to your own mindfulness practice and how it's helped you see or access your own transformative potential?


Sure. I'll start. So I have a practice of really naming my mood every day, three times a day, and it helps me to name the mood. So when I wake up in the morning, I just ask myself. Yeah. Am I in a mood of anxiety or cynicism or, or am I a mood of, inquiry or gratitude? When I find myself in a mood that's restrictive, I reflect on it and try to think about what are the assessments that I'm holding that has me in that mood.


And just that awareness helped me to recognize that they're just assessments and I can begin to embrace a more expansive mood of serenity or wonder. And that is a practice that I do throughout the day. And I actually have an app for it to remind me what is my mood. And that triggers me taking a breath, reflecting on what mood am I in?


What assessments am I holding? And this, this moves serving me well. So I practice it all the time. So it becomes a habit.


I love that. That's great. I think my, my favorite go to and something I do every day is I spend time and silent meditation, letting everything be, as it is letting go and just being still and just accessing that field of awareness, you know, it's just slipping beneath the ripples on the surface of being it's my enjoyment.


It's it's like that, that time of just pure enjoyment, just to let go, just to be just to sit  it's, this is pure  enjoyment, and, and it also just also always reminds me of that presence of the, that well of being and that well of goodness, doesn't go anywhere. Even when I walk out on the streets and, you know, see signs of suffering and decay and concern, and that.


Well of goodness is, is also present. And so that, that gives me, it gives me strength. It gives me fortitude. And it also in some way, gives me a positive buffer because when you are around a lot of suffering, we, we need to keep fueling ourselves otherwise. Otherwise we're not going to be much help.


You know, people need hope and optimism. That's authentic. So the letting go for me is, is that's also what has always pulled me. But I don't do as much. I only, I only said about. Half an hour a day. A lot of my day is sort of reflective and I have touchpoints when I go out and walk and I'll just look at the clouds as I'm walking, you know, just to have some space.


And so I don't need, I don't, I don't have the luxury of having a lot of time, but fortunately when, I spent years of my life where I did have a lot of time to devote to practice. So I feel like it's always there. But I was, I was fortunate and compelled. I didn't really have a choice. I kept trying to do other things, but I always ended up going back and doing longer traits.


So that's, that's always there as a touch point from. And I encourage people. I think people should, should give themselves the luxury of, of spending time in contemplation, whatever form of contemplation you like, but, but really creating the space for it. And sometimes it means going away from our usual environment because we're so habituated, even when we don't need to be busy, where habituated to being, filling our time.


And I really do encourage people to dedicate some time to inquiry. Amy, do you have any one minute practices, like just breathing and noticing your tension and when you don't have time that, I mean, for most people I do recommend using the breath. I think it's a great anchor. And focusing on the exhalation a slightly longer exhalation can, can create a sense of release grounding with the body.


Noticing just where your hands have contact, where your feet have contact, noticing your weight on the chair, those, those tactile touch points and just resting in the sensation that can really help bring stability. So like if you're on stage having stage fright, the best thing to do is notice you press your toes into the state.


And just notice just like the small movements of your feet and, and allow your breath to deepen in your, your belly to soften. But just notice you're standing on the ground, gravity's holding you down. Gravity is this huge force you're stuck to the earth. You're okay. You're solid. You're there. Those are, those are a couple of good ones.




Amazing. Thanks for sharing both of you. So we have a few different questions for Tony and I think they're pretty related. So I'm going to just list them off together. What first drew you to inner strengths? What do you see inner strength doing particularly well? And what are you hoping to catalyze through your involvement?


What first drew me to inner strength was just listening to Amy stories. And I had the opportunity just a few years ago to hear Amy talked about, what inner strength was trying to do. And at that stage it was, it was still growing. It was smaller in scope than it is today. But already she was sharing how, a lot of the issues that teens are facing, like depression and anxiety, were being addressed.


And that really resonated with me especially because I have a heart for the urban community and it's an African-American, I'm very aware of. The challenges in inner cities and that practice just resonated with me and I wanted to help. And I'm also an active coach on staff at Villanova. And I felt that I could help bring other mentors, student athletes that the high school students could look up to, that they could relate to, and they could help each other to develop practices of mindfulness, as well as the staff and administration at Villanova.


We're trying to create a now a program which we're calling and Villanova on purpose and its purpose is to adopt the inner city through Andrew. And begin to look at comparative effectiveness studies that Amy hasn't had a chance to do describe and bring health, mental health professionals from our college of nursing and technology professionals from our college of engineering and innovation, thinking to the same conversation so that we could help, which is part of Villanova's Unitas Veritas, Caritas goals and objectives.


So it resonated on many levels and, we're, we're, we're partnering.


Great. The next question that we have is for you, Amy what are some tangible goals that you have for inner strength this year and what are you most focused on? I'm most focused on really reaching the kids that we're working with. And,


but at the same time and yes, and I'm most focused on that. And I'm also very urgent about, reaching a lot more schools and working with the teachers and introducing them to the app. And we have these beautiful Explorer and restore slide decks, which are designed for teachers, classroom teachers, without mindfulness experience to use with the students.


They come with audio, some have videos. So I. Actually was just in touch with the school district yesterday. They reached out and they said, we feel that your tools are under utilized. And so I'm working with them to, be a, we're creating an outreach program for all of the schools right now. So we're doing some, a series of videos.


I'm probably going to do a series of in-person trainings in the schools. So right now I'm very focused on individual classrooms. I've getting beautiful responses. I usually teach I don't know, around seven or eight classes a week, but this semester I'm only teaching one, which is, but I'm involved with the other 70 and our instructors and sitting in on their classes.


But my one class they're doing amazing and their teacher makes them do homework every week for the class, which so I get to read their essays every week. And the one student after two classes, just to was talking about the difference between that the homework assignment was what's the difference between thoughts and awareness.


And this is not something I taught them in class, but she said when she was observing, she felt like thoughts come and go. And they're not reading. Because they arise and pass away and you can change what you think, but awareness for her. This is what she said. It's not what I told her. She said that awareness is real because it's a constant, we're always aware.


So if a high school student, after 2 45 minute classes can be talking about the subtlety of the arising and passing away of thought and some quality of human consciousness that's present throughout that that's really mindblowing. And the same class, one of her classmates wrote to me for his homework assignment the first week was what's what's on your, you know, where is, where does thought get you trip you up?


And he wrote to me, he said, Earlier the week before his friend got shot walking home from school because he was hanging out with the wrong kids and he's had three surgeries. And, he opened his eyes that day for the first time. And he said, I'm very distressed. And my thoughts are really bothering me.


This is one classroom, two classes. You have this vast chasm of polar opposite experience of the distress. That no adult can deal with, well, let alone a teenager. And then you have this capacity for subtle inquiry into the nature of human thought and consciousness all going on in this north Philly high school.


And, you know, when I was reading the homework and writing comments to them, I thought, you know, I just felt so urgent to be reaching as many kids as possible and communicating with them and supporting them and getting them to be able to access resources, think about pursue, you know, pursue positive strength because.


You know, both, both extremes so that one classroom both need that same type of encouragement to go deep. So I feel very urgent about that. And at the same time, I feel very urgent about spreading the tools that we've already created that are digital to all the schools because they're there and the teachers are struggling.


And I'm also very excited about the future, you know, and, and taking the next step. So what we were talking about earlier of really leaning into what can be a real culture changer, because when I started this, I wanted to change the culture of Philadelphia. I wanted to improve outcomes over time. I thought, okay, in 10 years, if we reach a significant percentage of students every year in 10 years, we should be seeing a different now.


Better entry-level managers, better employees, better spouses, better parents, you know, but if we can teach these, teach the, the positive aspects of community building in a, at a larger scale with technology and using technology, but using these human skills, we could do even more. So I'm a little bit overwhelmed and a little excited.


So those are the three things I feel very urgent about this year. Great. I think we might only have time for one more question. And so I wanted to make sure we get to this one. Is there something that each of you can share with everyone about what keeps you feeling inspired every day?


 I'll start just because it's a simple answer care. And I w with a quote from Martin Luther king, where he said in, where do we go from here that love it's the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.


And that inspires me that if we can begin to love each other care for each other and be mindful, the possibilities are endless.


Well, I would absolutely echo that. I feel the same. That it's the, the sense of the goodness. The profound love, the deep love. That is it, that I feel is part of the fabric of life. And so that gives me joy and it gives me capacity and inspiration. And, and the sense of rootedness so that I would echo what Tony said.


Well, thank you both so much. This was an incredible conversation and thank you to everyone who tuned in. We'll see you next time. We'll be having more events like this coming up, and these are some ways that you can stay involved until then. Amy, do you want to have any closing? No. Thank you. Thank you for hosting Madison and Tony.


Thank you always. I'm more inspired and excited about what's possible and very moved. So thank you. And for all our, supporters, I consider you part of the family. So we have a big extended inner strength family, and you're always welcome to connect and stay in touch, offer suggestions.  So don't be a stranger.


I feel the same. I'm grateful for this conversation. So thank you.