Education that Awakens the Senses
As we have all been told, “all answers lie within”. Discovering our own truth is really a matter of access. However, accessing the centres of our being requires silence of the mind and of the heart and this is an art we are not taught as children.
For many of us educated in the West, we are familiar with the emphasis placed on concentration of the mind, competition and aggression to decode life’s mysteries with pure intellect. As children, we were taught to cram information in from external sources versus drawing knowledge out from within.
My travels in India have led me back to school — elementary school, actually. This school is called APV, located in a rural Himalayan mountain village in Uttarakhand, India. APV is no ordinary place. The school is run by a spiritual community of 8 teachers (with whom I have had the privilege to stay) who live, work and wake up at 4 am every morning to mediate together. They teach core subjects to their 65 students through mindfulness practices, meditation and whole-brain learning methods, helping students expand their self awareness and the non-thinking mind.
When I attended morning assembly at the school for the first time, I was swept into an atmosphere of musical mediation, surrounded by Hindu, Muslim and Nepalese children singing and learning to be aware of the different sound frequencies vibrating through their bodies. The sense of oneness was palpable; the environment cured any illusion of separation. It was a whole brain experience.
APV is no longer an experiment of success. 97% of its students pass the government board exam versus the 5% of all other children in the state. Anand Dwivedi, who originally conceived of the idea for APV school 10 years ago, felt that education should prioritize evolution of the mind and empower children to know what is conducive to their own inner evolution and what is not. Anand’s methodology is closely aligned with the concept of neuroplasticity — that thinking, learning and acting can turn genes on or off, thus shaping the brain’s anatomy and behaviour.
The children’s selfless and community oriented attitude at the school originates from the teachers’ inner wholeness. Like the children, they have small definitions of themselves. They subtly empower the children to learn that they, themselves, are their greatest teachers. Inner liberation means beings free from external factors. I have found myself considering, how often do I ignore my inner knowing? How often do I give my power away? Most importantly, why are we taught to give our power away?
It is ironic that as children, we already possess the qualities we strive to realize on the spiritual path as adults: “we are one” and “be here now”. Children, in their raw purity and presence, are already closer to what is real than our education typically allows us to be. The revolution is really for everyone to be like a small child, to maintain an innocent quality of consciousness, untethered to a belief system or even his/her own opinion. Then no experience is the same, however seemingly similar. Every experience is an opportunity for growth, to be guided by our raw intuition and imagination.
As Anand suggests in his book, Dance of the Bee,
“To see an illusion we have to first learn to see.”
This ‘seeing’ is learning how to perceive with the senses, directly, and not though the filter of thought or ego. In this way we are able to access our deepest knowledge — of the world and of ourselves. What if, like APV school, this was the foundation of all early education? Perhaps then, we would always know how to light our own candles in darkness. As Carl Young wrote after travelling in India:
“The key is not accepting from others what you cannot attain on your own.”