Contemplation, Another “C” toward Becoming Human

Maria Montessori teaches children how they can “make silence.”  Humans are all capable of “making silence.” 

“San Quentin’s yoga program is well known and revered among the inmates — there’s even a yearlong wait for the privilege of attending yoga classes.” Uploaded to YouTube by Gaia.


Making silence, calming our busy monkey brains and our action-reaction reptilian brains, is necessary for the very survival of our species as we live more and more in busy, crowded, noisy urban settings and as we are called to deal more wisely with technological inventions that, if not checked, can annihilate our species with their immense powers of violence and destruction. 

Many methods are available from wisdom traditions the world over to teach practices of calming the busy brain, of meditation and stress reduction.  Kaleo Ching, a faculty member at my University, taught “Tai Chi and Mask Making” with us and in prisons. 

A singing bowl calls meditators to center their attention on the breath. Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

After Kaleo taught a class of murderers at San Quentin, several students approached him and said: “This is the first time in my life I have experienced quiet.” 

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to introduce murderers to their capacities for quiet before they kill others?  Wouldn’t this education prove to be a marvelous investment in murder-prevention?  And prison prevention?  Studies and films are available on what happens in a prison when meditation practices like Vipassana meditation is introduced to the prison complex.  Calm displaces hyperactivity and hypertension.  Joy begins to spread.

“Your Secret Treehouse: a Guided Meditation for Children” Uploaded to YouTube by New Horizon – Meditation & Sleep Stories

Why not teach joy and calm before prison and to the culture at large?  Every human has these capacities in them but they have to be nourished and nurtured.  They have to be educed.  That is education’s job. 

Rather than feeding young people pills for so-called “hyper-activity” we ought to be showing them ways of finding peace that are internal and not by way of drug-taking. 

A person can take these ways with them their whole life long.

In inner city schools in San Francisco yoga was taught youngsters under the rubric of sports and physical fitness.  A fourth grader reports: “I feel really grumpy in the morning. Yoga makes me feel ungrumpy.” 

With yoga, students are calmer and stress is reduced.  Children find inner controls.  One teacher observes:

Yoga is similar to other sports in that it takes determination and will.  It’s different in that you compete with yourself.  When kids see themselves improving, their self-esteem improves.

As kids learn the exercises, they themselves lead the other students.  Says one student: “When you can’t focus, you do yoga and you can focus.”

Charles Burack reports that getting students to simply focus on one’s breath produces powerful results.  Such exercises provide

…a nonideological, nonauthoritarian, and non-consumerist means of self-empowerment because it puts individuals in touch with their own deep, vital self, which is the living source of strength, wisdom, and kindness.  This self is not selfish; rather, it is highly sensitive and responsive to the real needs and worth of the surrounding universe.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 108-111.

Banner Image: Students meditate in class. Photographer unknown; from Meditation and Yoga Joining Arithmetic and Reading in U.S. Classrooms on PublicPrep.org

How do you find silence and tame your reptilian brain?  And monkey brain?  How might the world change if everybody did?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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3 thoughts on “Contemplation, Another “C” toward Becoming Human”

  1. Avatar

    These are excellent observations. We can escape this busy world and our busy mind for a short time each day. Personal silence, even in the midst of noisy surroundings, has emotional, mental and physical benefits…and it costs nothing.

  2. Avatar

    Note: The terms “contemplation” or “meditation” may mean the reverse (discursive vs. nondiscursive) in Eastern versus Western faiths. Discursive is a process of reasoning.

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