Gerald Vest: Opening our Minds for Learning    
 Opening our Minds for Learning0 comments
picture15 Jan 2007 @ 14:48, by Gerald Vest

As our experience opens to wider perspectives, our senses, our bodies, and our consciousness become vibrantly alive. Patterns of craving and frustration give way to the flowing interaction with the process of living. All imbalances drop away, and whatever satisfaction or healing we need is provided naturally. This protection, this balance, this genuine self-sufficiency allows us to open to the endless possibility of each moment and to discover the richness and depth of all experience. (Tarthang Tulku, Openness Mind, p. 43)

As we begin a new academic season or semester, I think about how we can awaken our being and open our experience to learning from one another and ‘all that is.’ So often, the student is expected to focus on the teacher’s message and it matters not what else is taking place in the moment and in the classroom or internal environments. Obviously, this narrows and limits our psyche and our learning opportunities.

Learning is like health – it is a dynamic experience of wellbeing that is in relationship and interaction with our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms. Our senses, thoughts, feelings and energy are all involved in this process of learning. I have learned that we can develop the classroom and our minds as a laboratory for enriching our whole being. Our knowledge, skills, and values will come alive with enthusiasm, balance, and inspiration as we learn to open and calm our minds. It is for these reasons that I begin each class with physical exercises that include breathing and movement to generate vitality, sensory awareness, and emotional conditioning.

For example, often students arrive in class with excessively active minds and often with unbalanced emotions. As parents, especially moms, pre-school and morning routine includes having to awaken our children from deep sleep, get them dressed and their teeth brushed, find their back packs and school work, prepare their breakfast and sack lunches, get them loaded in the car, urge them to put on their seat belts and to stop fighting with one another, and escort them to the bus or drive them to their daycare or school.

Seems to me, our university students have a lot on their minds as they enter our classroom after going through these whirlwind activities. Furthermore, it’s hard enough finding a parking place, rushing to get to class on time, and trying to remember what their assignment is for this day. After all of this activity, it is no doubt that students have difficulty in focusing, learning, and enjoying their academic experiences. Thus, as teachers, we can prepare our students and our classrooms for higher learning, health and wellbeing. And, when our students enter and leave our classes, their body, mind, and spirit will be calm, aware, curious, and open.

Note: This brief article is attached to our course syllabus.

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