I'm Andrew Kutt. Let's engage in a conversation about education, the earth, peace, being human and how it all ties together.
Andrew Kutt's Blog
Tag Archives: children
March 11, 2018Posted by on
I turned my gaze upward to behold a most clear star-lit sky. I felt as if he were looking out into the farthest reaches of the Milky Way. I saw planets, moons and stars up close – as if I could reach up and touch them. There were swirling nebula, shooting stars and comets, waves of light with colors unlike any on earth. Everything was filled with a deeply peaceful, dynamic energy. I felt all that I was seeing was part of a vast whole. I heard ethereal tones echoing, filling my entire being and more beautiful than any song I would ever hear.
I was filled with an immeasurable joy. I felt that I was of the same substance as the entire universe: that there was no real barrier between it and me. I realized that I was something very big and unlimited. Normal time and space did not exist. I outstretched my arms and realized I was in an open channel and could fly as high or as deep as I wished. I did not worry about falling or finding my way back.
The celestial sky looked familiar to me and I felt like I had come home. Everything was welcoming me and there was a conscious presence of the deepest love, sanctuary and joy. It was like the entire universe was alive, and that its breath and mine were one and the same. The realization dawned: This is where I’ve come from; this is who I am.
This childhood dream impacted the trajectory of my life. Perhaps deep inside each one of us there is a memory of a dream that was very special to us – that conveyed an important message to us and that carried with it feelings that would affect how we see the world. Those dreams in which we touch the core of life are like celestial emissaries – singing the song of our souls – which can become like beacons when we get lost in the trials and tribulations of the world. In my case this dream has always reminded me of what is important in my life – and what is important is often hidden from normal sight, yet not far away at all
Beyond all of our to do’s, our tasks, our goals and the plans, there is no more important thing that this very moment we are in. This moment we are in will never come again. And while this moment may be challenging or filled with pain, loss or frustration, it is a moment that belongs to us. To push it away or look past it to a “better time” might miss the message or gift that this moment brings. Trying to be present to the moment we are in is not just healthy for ourselves; it is ultimately the best way to nurture our children and to reap the greatest benefits of being parents and teachers.
The human mind is not very accustomed to being present to each moment, however. It is programmed to proceed in a linear fashion from one thought to the next, and in like fashion we move from one task to the next. Our culture is accomplishment driven, and we are measured by what we produce and get done. Our lives are geared toward getting results. And each result we get drives us on toward the next bottom line, the next goal. We know this string of activity is the nature of the world we live in, but we also know it is not the ultimate meaning of life.
In our ordinary workday consciousness, the spaces in between tasks, like the spaces in between thoughts, are not that valuable to us. They are the interludes between what we are doing now and what we need to do next. But in the realm of spiritual awareness and growth, it is those very spaces that take on significance. They become a refuge, a gateway to new levels of awareness about ourselves and about our lives. Inside those spaces is where we are reminded of who we really are where we hold what is most important to us. In order for us not to live out the movie “Groundhog Day”, where we are mindlessly repeating the same tasks day after day, week after week and year after year, we need to intentionally shift from our “normal operating system” to our “pause in awareness mode”.
To stay in touch with the core of who we are, we must try to be cognizant that we are moving from a space in which thoughts are important and necessary to a mode of being where thoughts are like the tips of waves. It is what lies in the depths beneath the waves that we want to reach when we are practicing awareness. For those brief periods of time when we are pausing in awareness, our normal thoughts are no longer that important to us. We shouldn’t try to push them away, but just recognize that there is a level of experience deeper than our thoughts – and that deeper level of experience is what we are aiming for.
To try and find our own inner child, we need time to ourselves. This is not being selfish. It is being wise and practical. Ultimately spending more time with our own “inner child” will only help us to be more patient, loving, and inspiring caregivers. If our intentions are aimed at the healthy and balanced growth and development of our children, then we must nurture ourselves first. Just like they say on the airplane – “put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then put on your child’s mask.”
From spiritual calm and centeredness come emotional calm and mental clarity. If we are giving ourselves the soul-nourishment we need whenever we have the opportunity, then everything else will work itself out. Raising healthy and happy children takes energy. The batteries of our personal energy are located within – especially in our quiet spaces of inner awareness.
Practice One: Creating time and space for yourself:
Consciously trying to create a time and a space for our own personal reflection can be an important step in expanding the possibilities for growth and empowerment in our lives. Create a special area in the house that is especially intended for your own personal reflection. In this special place, you can set up a shelf, a small table, a rug or a cushion. You can include items such as inspiring pictures, a candle, flowers or other items that will help foster a peaceful atmosphere. Regardless of how small the place, the most important thing is take a few minutes each day to tune out of our ordinary mind and tune into a higher and deeper level of awareness. After a short while of regular practice, we will feel the benefits: greater peace, poise, and patience, as well as greater contentment.
Practice Two: Reflecting on our dreams:
You may have had a dream in your childhood that was special to you. If you cannot remember any special childhood dreams, stay attuned when you first awake and see if you can remember a dream from the previous night. All dreams “bad” or “good” may have some meaning or value to us, but the dreams that that leave us with a positive, energizing and inspiring feeling can provide us with “soul nourishment” that we can bring with us into our daily lives. Take time to sit in your personal reflection space and write or draw the images, feelings or insights that come from the dream you had. Pause and close your eyes and sit with that awareness for a few moments. Take a deep breath or two. Are dreams not simply another realm of experience where we relate to a different, deeper part of ourselves?
Reflection Quote: “That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.” -Maria Montessori
Postscript: Later when I was about 12, I remember hearing my parents talking in hushed tones late one night about how little money they had. How would they afford rent? Groceries? School supplies? Listening to the concern and despair in their voices I was filled with worry and helplessness. I started to wonder what would happen if we had to move out of our house? What if we really didn’t have enough to eat and we would all go hungry? As I lay in bed and my mind was spinning anxiously in this way, out of nowhere a wave of calm came over me. A vivid memory of my dream came back to me. I heard a message from within me, saying – “Do not worry about anything. Remember the source you came from. It will always provide for you.”
January 31, 2011Posted by on
December 8th is the birthday of my dear brother Joe – the second oldest of five. December 8th also happens to be the anniversary of the death of one of my heroes, John Lennon. Last December was the 30th anniversary of his tragic passing.
I admired John Lennon for his commitment to world harmony and peace, which never wavered throughout his life. Lennon said that the songs that were most meaningful to him were the ones he wrote that directly expressed his sentiments on life and the problems of the world. He said, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
There two other touchstones of John Lennon’s life and work that have been particularly important in shaping my own educational philosophy– his belief in the power of the imagination and his trust that children had great wisdom and insight to offer the adult world.
When I founded the Oneness-Family School, I wanted to create an inspiring and fun environment for children that would stimulate their imaginations. From the design of the classrooms to the methods of instruction, I wanted to foster the natural awe with which children are born. I also wanted to create a place where children could be children and be happy and safe.
Perhaps no creation of John Lennon epitomizes his believe in the generative power of the imagination than his song “Imagine.”
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.
It turns out that what Lennon intuitively knew about the value of imagination is now being borne out by modern research. In his bestselling book, “A Whole New Mind,” Daniel Pink talks about how “right brain” thinking is becoming more and more important in our quickly changing and interconnected world. In fact, the subtitle of the Pink’s book is “Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.”
Pink says, “R-Directed (right brain) thinking is suddenly grabbing the wheel, stepping on the gas, and determining where we’re going and how we’ll get there. L-Directed (left brain) aptitudes – the sorts of things measured by the SAT and deployed by CPA’s – are still necessary. But they’re no longer sufficient. Instead, the R-Directed aptitudes so often disdained and dismissed – artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursing the transcendent – will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles. It’s a dizzying – but ultimately inspiring – change.”
In designing the curriculum at the Oneness-Family School, my vision is to create a learning framework that encourages students to make connections across subject areas and to ask natural and important questions. I also designed a direct and constant link between the arts and academics – between the creative/right- and logical/left-parts of the brain.
Pink sites a plethora of research and documented trends to back up his conclusions. What John Lennon sang about, social thinkers like Daniel Pink are articulating as a major, cultural shift taking place right before our eyes.
There is one other aspect of John Lennon’s legacy that has pollinated my own thinking – his childlike approach to life and his appreciation for the gifts of children. He said, “When I was 5-years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Children don’t have to define happiness; they live it. They know what happiness is when they feel it. For children, happiness is it’s own definition, but as they get older they get told that happiness is conditional – dependent on something else – money, status or other rewards. This is where we adults can often get off track.
According to Maria Montessori, “All other methods of education have taken the work of certain adults as their point of departure and have sought to educate or teach the child according to programs dictated by adults. For my part, I believe that the child himself must be the pivot of his own education – not the child as people ordinarily think of him but rather his innermost soul.”
John Lennon’s commitment to peace and harmony, his belief in and practice of imagination, and his childlike approach to life have helped lead me down a path of following my own heart and of helping children follow theirs. The threads linking John Lennon, Maria Montessori, Daniel Pink – and me – are like the fibers of a finely crafted web that I am now beginning see more clearly – as if in the light of a new day.
OK – one more John Lennon quote for the road:
Reality leaves a lot to the imagination