A child’s need to belong directly parallels an adult’s need for meaning. If we don’t give children access and warmth to the myriad ways they can belong successfully, they will surely seek their own ways of belonging, like a plant bending around obstacles and reaching for the sun.
Over the next couple of years, and as a part of honoring Alaya Preschool’s 40th anniversary (!), we will be exploring our Principles of Practice. These are 15 different expressions of what happens here at Alaya; they provide a direction and purpose to our work, and perhaps even to our lives altogether.
With Thanksgiving and the holidays afoot, I find myself considering how to make time and space for more of what really matters. This time of year invites me to go inwards, to create more space for reflection, and to find time to connect more deeply. Its a time for creating or continuing traditions – and for celebrations rooted in what really matters: sharing, gratitude, creativity and joy.
One of the virtues and powers of contemplative education as it is practiced at Alaya is the opportunity given to our teachers to use different methods and techniques based on their own merits–discerned from direct experience–rather than being limited to a particular ideology or plan. I am experiencing this firsthand with Montessori principles and techniques at Alaya as I help out in the Garuda classroom this year.
A recent community night at Rowan’s preschool (which was founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master and lineage holder), reminded me how lucky I am to send my son to a school honoring the tradition of Shambhala Buddhism (the teachings of which are grounded in the premise that there is a basic human wisdom inherent in human experience, where bravery and fearlessness are cultivated and a ‘basic goodness’ in ourselves and one another is celebrated).
Genuine relationships are what inspires many parents to have their children here at Alaya, many teachers and staff to teach and work here, and is a guiding principle for many people. But what is it? What is the experience of being genuine? How is genuineness cultivated in ourselves and how is it taught, if it even can be taught?