16 Things to Nurture Spiritual Life National Association of Episcopal Schools November 2008
What’s new? We’re in a multi-faith world… … where issues of creed overwhelm issues of spiritual life … where all kinds of evidence tells us we need the life of the spirit … whose dominant paradigm is materialist and consumerist…
CSEE Pathmaps Project Paths toward Spiritual Life in Schools • there are at least seven facets of spiritual life that we can, and should, address in schools • these are important regardless of religious tradition or “flavor” of tradition • the spirit is the essence of who we are; it should be the essence of what we do
Pathmaps facet 1Beliefs, Values, Sense of the Sacred • A sense that there is more to life than “this” • Belief in God (or Something greater than us) • A non-physical domain, inaccessible through the tools of rational thought/scientific knowledge • Our beliefs and values shape the way we interact with the world
Pathmaps facet 2Quest for Meaning, Purpose • the quintessential quest in human life • cannot be imposed; must be internally motivated • we can foster growth
Pathmaps facet 3Interconnectedness of Life • who is my neighbor? how far do connections stretch? • connection beyond the human? (Francis of Assisi; earth stewardship) • our spiritual beliefs make our connections different
Pathmaps facet 4Intentional Action • the “spirit” with which we act • the spirit that compels us to act • the spiritual dimension CHANGES our actions • … service can lead us to the spirit (ritual) • the need for discipline: 1) all things worth learning well 2) via purgativa: continued refinement, purification • the need to close the gap between values/beliefs and actions
Pathmaps facet 5arts, music; awe & mystery • How small we are before the tremendous forces at work in the universe • How the great accomplishments of our fellow human beings can move us, inspire us, and teach us about possibilities • How the great work of the universe can catch us in inexplicable ways
Pathmaps facet 6integration of the self • With my soul grows my courage • self knowledge, self esteem • deeply in as well as expansively out • leads to increased openness to experience • allows for “detachment” … and attachment
Pathmaps facet 7Transformative experiences • Rites of passage • Entrance of new life, passing of life, team participation • Events that transform us on the physical or psychological plane usually touch us in the spiritual realm also (e.g.,being hurt by injustice)
questions for the seven • questions for students • questions for schools
preliminary work • Schools as places of “relationships of trust” • Teaching the value of silence • Tools for cutting through consumerism • Engaging in our own practice • Colleague care, colleague support
preparatory work (1)validate the domain of the sacred • Talk about it; teach that there is both a language of the sacred and ways of acting, behaving, feeling that are beyond the materialist domain we spend most of our time in • Does your school have a language of the sacred? • Teach that approaching the sacred is a skill, and that skills are acquired through discipline. Prayer, meditation, etc., are exercises we can “do” and are exercises in which we can gain proficiency through practice.
preparatory work (2)get staff on board • We need to convince teachers that this is important • we must give them time and space • we must nurture the spiritual life of staff • we must give them tools and training
preparatory work (3)help create sacred time, sacred space • allow students to experience silence • help students with the experience of cutting off chatter • do meditative exercises. Singing bowls and other such instruments may be helpful • create sacred space
Do a spiritual auditis school where we want it to be?intentional action • Mission • Trustees • Administration • Faculty / staff • Chaplain/ committee • Students and student climate • Space • Curriculum • Obstacles to progress
Be a catalyst for reflectionintegration of self & intentional action • question source for students • question source for colleague • question source for schools
Practicing Stillness & Quietintentional action • Settle the children; introduce one or two of the following activities. • Ask them to put a hand under their noses and feel the air going in and out. • Ask them to put their hands on their chests or bellies and feel the in and out motion. • Practice taking a deep breath all together. • Practice taking a deep breath and then breathing it all out. • Practice taking a deep breath and then holding it for a count of three, then five. • Practice taking three deep breaths in and out in a row.
Labyrinthsintentional action, self knowledge • As you start to trace the labyrinth, think about a problem that is bothering you. As you move toward the center concentrate on the effect of the problem on you: physically, mentally, then the effect on others. • When you reach the center ask for a "solution," meaning, just accept whatever idea comes into your mind for the moment. • As you return out of the labyrinth consider the effect of the idea/solution that came to you.
Death of a Petmaking relationships sacred, transformative experiences • Class discussion about who’s lost a pet • write obituary about pet’s life • journal reflection on pet’s growth with the family, things you did together • letter to the pet: what you learned from me, what I learned from you, what you mean to me
What makes you happy?meaning & purpose • make a list of 10 things, activities, experiences that make you happy • on a scale of 1-10, how happy does each make you • on a scale of 1-10, how long does the happiness for that item last? • (individual reflection or class discussion) Did you learn something doing this process?
Making eating sacredintentional action • reflect on the tremendous power, beauty, miracle of food: what it does for us, what it does to us • reflect on the power of the Creator that made this miracle able to happen • while eating one half of one meal per day, attempt to remain reverently conscious of the “gift” that food is
Circles of interconnectednessrelationships • place an article before the group (e.g. cup, cell phone) • how did it get here? (trace who all participated) • to whom are we indebted for it? • if it gets broken, what interconnections are then formed?
Prayer Slips at the Western Walltransformative experience, relationships • discuss Jewish experience of putting prayers in wall • teacher/chaplain offers prayer prompt • in silence, students write prayers • students fold or roll prayers, place them in prayer box • at end of semester, students decide what to do with prayers (burn, bury…) • (prompts: think about an area of your life where there is conflict; ask God to help you bring peace to the situation// write a prayer for someone else in this class who you feel needs a prayer)
Good Deeds Techniquemaking relationships sacred • focus on a relationship you have that is negative • through your attitude and actions, work to turn the relationship into one that is positive • attempt to remain unattached to the results, focusing rather on what you can do through your attitudes and actions
make the environment sacredintentional action, relationships, awe & mystery • be a model of environmental stewardship • tikkun olam—help young people learn to be healers • include social justice concerns • pick a part of the school in which to think about, and be a steward • reflect on/ discuss what that stewardship means • reflect on/discuss who might benefit from that place becoming more sacred • after time, discuss changes in the place and in the steward
Teach about other religious traditionsvalues & beliefs, relationships • worldviews expand our minds • worldviews expand our hearts • teach that the rich threads of all religious traditions are woven through all aspects of life • teach that we all share the same morality; it is in our (changing) “conventions” that we differ
Seven Components: missing pieces? • What to do about pilgrimage? • The magic of the word? (Om, Allahu-akbar…) • The power of presence
death of the spirit Pain, neglect, abuse Being overwhelmed Forced imposition
This work is flexible, as are we • there are not exactly “seven facets” of spiritual development • our language must change from tradition to tradition, from school to school • we’re all in this together, it’s not a contest to see who’s best
Seven GatewaysRachel Kessler, The Soul of Education (ASCD, 2000) • Deep connection • Silence/solitude • Meaning, purpose • Joy/delight • Creative drive • Urge for transcendence • Initiation/ rites of passage
Education Reform Act of 1988 • Beliefs (personal or religious) • Sense of awe, wonder, mystery • Experiencing feelings of transcendence • Search for meaning and purpose • Self knowledge • Relationships • Feelings & emotions (being moved by beauty or kindness, hurt by injustice…)
Allie B. Scott(psychological research on spiritual development) • Experience of connectedness/relationship • Processes leading to greater connectedness • Behavioral responses to the sacred • Systems of thought and belief • Traditional institutional structures (ritual?) • Pleasurable states of being • Beliefs in the sacred, transcendent • Existential questions
Our Tasks as Educators • spirit cannot be imposed; CAN be modeled • find developmental appropriateness • base in social/emotional learning climate • teaching within a tradition adds effectiveness • deep sensitivity to other traditions • spiritual quest of environmental action
the art of working with students & the spirit • The best path is interwoven with the rich heritage of a spiritual tradition • We must nurture the spiritual development of children of a variety of faith traditions • We must work through liberal vs conservative and other artificial (yet troublesome) dichotomies