The power of compassion

I wanted to share with you a direct experience I had of the power of compassion.  This week we acknowledged Vesak – The birth, life and enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha, with our annual Buddha Day celebration.

I had experienced a particularly challenging morning as most parents do from time to time with trying to get children out the door to school.  I was consumed with self cherishing and that all too familiar “why me?” dialogue in my head to the point that it was all consuming.

I arrived at school much later than I had hoped and was really struggling to shake off the mornings experience, to the point where I wasn’t sure if I could participate.  But the show must go on…

As part of the celebration I was to lead those gathered in 108 recitations of the Buddha of Compassion’s mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”.  Part of my instruction to the group before me was to try to generate loving, compassionate thoughts and send them to others as we chanted the mantra.  Little did I know that this instruction was also for myself.

As I began to recite the mantra an overwhelming energetic shift came over me that I found hard to stay with.  As I fought back the waves of emotion and tears and continued to recite the mantra, I felt my emotions transform from grumpy and self cherishing to peaceful, buoyant and free.  An overwhelming relief as if a large black cloud had lifted leaving a warm fuzzy feeling.

I remember Jack Kornfield relaying a story of one of his students who wrote to him to say “Hey this loving-kindness stuff really works”.  I can say from direct experience this week I wholeheartedly agree.  Give it a try you won’t be disappointed.

How are we educating our boys

In a fast paced world with an increased trend in violence it is important to reflect on what are we doing that is contributing to the problems that are in the forefront of our minds.

AFL has always been a physical game and I remember as a schoolboy firmly being part of it. Whether it be in the school team or just playing kick to kick with other boys at lunchtime. The aim of the game was to physically out manoeuvre your opponents to get the ball using whatever means necessary. So where does this need to dominate physically come from, is it simply a primal caveman era inheritance or is it something that we modelled from a very young age?

Boys as young as 1 or 2 are taught to high-five rather than hug when greeting or saying goodbye. So barely our of nappies boys are being modelled direct physical contact without direct connection in a more aggressive, physical form.

At primary school kids are taught foundational skills that set them up to how they interact with the physical world. Development of fine and gross motor skills through physical education and movement programs. It is here at this foundational level that the fundamental approach to bodily interactions are developed and a framework setup for the future.

So the questions we should be asking ourselves are around what are we modelling to young boys? How do we educate them to deal with conflict? How do we develop their interaction skills both physically and socially?

Language plays such an important part, the messages that we send in terms of appropriateness of certain actions lays imprints to how boys see themselves and starts to shape the men they will become. We must also raise awareness and explain to boys what is happening in their bodies and provide them with outlets that allow for the physicality to be expressed but in a way that does not harm others. These discussions are not limited to boys but why is it that girls manage to navigate their physical changes without resorting to physical violence or aggression? What lessons can we learn for how we teach girls that can help inform us in our education of boys.

A growing boys need to express himself physically and to develop an awareness of his changing body. What is needed is more discussion, education and communication with boys as to what changes are occurring and how to become more aware of their actions and reactions. The neural pathways are so ripe and malleable at a young age and it is here that patterns are formed for dealing with situations in the future.

Are we educating the boys of today to be the type of men we want to see in the future?

Federal Budget 2016 neglects Creativity

With the proposal to introduce standardised assessment of reading, phonics and numeracy at Grade 1, linking teacher salary progression to demonstrated competency and achievement and provision of annual reports to parents that identify literacy and numeracy attainment against national standards focusses education on outcome based methodologies in a fairly narrow target area such as STEM subjects. This simply builds on creating an economically efficient and measurable education system, that will maybe create more economically efficient people – but will this enable future generations to think laterally and solve critical issues that are effecting us such as climate change, family violence, gender disparity, poverty and disadvantage?

This obsessive focus on purely outcome based achievement levels neglects and negates the development of creative thinking, the ability to connect through meaningful relationships using the creative arts and the development of people based skills including Emotional Intelligence, self and social awareness. It is vital that we balance our education system needs with emotional and humanistic subjects that teach the ability to develop healthy and positive relationships, to resolve conflict peacefully, self and social awareness.

Daylesford Dharma School is a regionally based primary school with a low socio-economic population and consequent low fee base the Gonski funding has certainly enabled us to provide better programs in all areas. The Federal Budget 2016 fails to match the final two years of funding and is likely to adversely affect our capacity to deliver the programs we currently have. On top of this the extra accountability, recording and reporting requirements that are likely to come out of the proposed conditions will only serve to put more pressure and the need for greater resources in administration which takes away from our core business of educating children in all facets of life not just literacy and numeracy.

Our communities need a generation of creative, innovative problem solvers that can really tackle the world with which we are leaving them. Not just inventing technological and medical breakthroughs, but who will break down emotional barriers and social fears, understand the consequences of their actions and be able to truly connect with one another with kindness and compassion.