Consciousness-based education improves the ability of the brain to absorb knowledge and enlivens communication between different parts of the brain. In stark contrast to the narrowness of vision exhibited by a stressed student, consciousness-based education fosters holistic thinking and increased awareness of the surrounding environment.
Children begin life with an innate ability to learn. Babies are naturally curious. As soon as they can, they grab everything in reach, exploring objects by putting them in their mouths. As they grow so does their ability to access more of life around them. Crawling and walking allows them to get into cupboards, explore bench tops and see what happens when they put things in the toilet. Speech opens up a whole new realm of investigation. They can now question and understand explanations of how things work, often wearing their parents out with ‘why, why, why’. They are eager to start school and learn about everything.
However, too often it happens that somewhere in their schooling experience their natural thirst for knowledge is replaced by a dread of school and apathy for learning. The endless ‘whys’ have turned into ‘so what’.
What is it that has crushed the enthusiasm of the child’s spirit?
Broadly speaking, it is stress.
At a younger and younger age, children are experiencing stress – stress from high expectations of worried parents, stress from home life, stress from violence in the media, stress from violence in the environment, stress from bullying at schools, stress from assessments, etc.
The increase in knowledge is doubling every four years. To keep up, children are being required to cram in more information. Parents are pushing children into early learning programs with the hope that this will give their kids a head start. Ironically, the extra pressure can cause more stress, restricting both the structure and function of the brain.
In stressful situations the body responds by going into flight-or-fight mode. Our heart rate increases and our physiology goes into a state of heightened arousal. This introduces a cascade of stress hormones into the body that, over time, creates damage to our nervous systems. Stress is not conducive to making intelligent or rational decisions. In stressful times our awareness is primarily focused on how to get through the present situation and is therefore characterised by narrowness of vision, shortsighted behaviour and the experience of being highly emotional. It has been shown that, in situations of stress, the prefrontal cortex of the brain – responsible for moral reasoning, is completely bypassed, leaving the emotionally-driven limbic system to run the brain.
Stress overload can lead to severe brain dysfunction and is a precursor to many diseases of mind and body, such as anxiety disorders, depression, hypertension and obesity in teenagers. Stress can even lead to areas of deceased brain activity characterised by decreased cerebral blood flow and lower metabolic rates. The neuronal communication between different parts of the brain becomes damaged and as a result only the most primitive parts of the brain can be accessed. This leads to more impulsive, aggressive behaviour and is associated with a wide range of behavioural problems including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance abuse, anger and violence.
The education system offers little to combat the deleterious effects of stress. The increase in information only serves to aggravate the situation. Modern medicine’s solution of antidepressants and Ritalin offers a ‘bandaid’ solution to the problem of helping stressful children. But what are the long-term effects? Ritalin is an addictive narcotic for which no long-term studies have been done.
The answer to both the increasing levels of stress and exponential growth in knowledge is to improve the capacity and function of the brain itself. Instead of trying to cram more information into the brain, consciousness-based education improves the ability of the brain to absorb knowledge and enlivens communication between different parts of the brain. In stark contrast to the narrowness of vision exhibited by a stressed student, consciousness-based education fosters holistic thinking and increased awareness of the surrounding environment.
Consciousness-based education can be adopted by any school. It exists alongside the current curriculum and complements it by providing students with more receptivity and enthusiasm. It provides its students with both a means to learn with ease and enjoyment and also to cope with stress in their lives.
With increases in drug addiction, eating disorders, depression and suicide amongst teenagers there is a desperate need to provide young people with a way of both dissolving stress and feeling good about themselves. Consciousness-based education has been found to benefit students and teachers of all cultural and educational backgrounds worldwide. Hundreds of scientific research studies and educational outcomes of more than 200 consciousness-based education schools throughout the world have documented the profound benefits of this program.
Transcendental consciousness is not a hard thing to achieve. Consciousness-based education students practise the technique of Transcendental Meditation, or TM, for about ten minutes twice a day. It is a simple mental technique but the benefits are wide-ranging and accumulative. Students are found to experience clearer thinking, improved ability to concentrate, improved academic performance, increased self-esteem, enhanced creativity, better social relations and greater health and wellbeing.
Defined in the dictionary as being ‘awake and aware of one’s surroundings and identity’, consciousness is widely misunderstood in the west. Philosophers may discuss it and psychiatrists and psychologists may try to treat abnormal states of it, but without the experience of transcendental consciousness there is little hope for improving our state of consciousness. Improvement in awareness is not one of the criteria on school report cards.
Consciousness-based education developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Consciousness-based education has its own science devoted to the study of consciousness called the science of creative intelligence, or SCI. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to the West, developed SCI in response to the lack of knowledge about consciousness in the education system. Like any science, it provides both theoretical understanding and practical experience or research. Theoretical understanding comes from the study of the nature of intelligence in the individual and the universe and the connection between the two. The practical experience is gained through the technique of Transcendental Meditation.
Science, as it is typically taught at school, studies laws of nature such as gravity, electromagnetism, refraction, etc. SCI offers the same knowledge of the world around us but it also relates it to the inner experience of the student, his or her growth of consciousness, and the knowledge of the relationship between them. Instead of getting students to just learn the different physical laws of nature, SCI provides students with the understanding that ultimately all the diverse laws of nature can be integrated at the level of the unified field. This provides a context for what and why they are learning and shows how the universe functions as an intelligent whole.
Instead of grumbling about ‘Why do we have to learn French? I’m never going to France.’ or ‘I hate maths. Why can’t I just use a calculator?’, the students understand that each discipline is actually enlivening a different part of the brain. The daily practical exponent of TM also makes learning different tasks easier as more coherence develops between the different areas of the brain. The increase in interneuronal connections forged during their TM practice makes the brain more receptive to new knowledge.
From their practice of TM, students begin to see the connection or the unity between all the parts or diversity of what they are studying. Transcendental means to go beyond and meditation literally means thinking. In Transcendental Meditation the participant goes beyond the process of thinking to experience the source of thought, which is both the source of themselves and the source of the universe.
The idea that everything is connected at the source is no longer considered such an esoteric idea. Quantum physics has discovered that underlying all of life there is a unified field of all the laws of nature. The intelligence that gives rise to the motion of the planets is the same as that which governs the growth of a seed into a plant. This is illustrated in every lesson of a school offering consciousness-based education. Even the youngest students are shown how a particular principle, such as ‘opposites are found together’ or “the nature of life is to grow’, can be seen in their mathematics, science and English classes. Along with their daily practice of TM this facilitates a holistic way of thinking.
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