Knowledge: teaching the mind, heart and body.
When we are discussing the nature of education and what is valuable about education, we do not have to leave out a spiritual dimension to the practice of it.
After listening to a discussion about incorporating Islamic education into the West by scholar Tariq Ramadan, I was moved to reconsider my own purpose as an educator and as an artist. I would like to transcribe his ideas to text and share them with you in more general terms so that we can all benefit from his disciplined arguments. Although Ramadan’s talk was directed towards
a religious group, I am certain that even if we have absolved our participation in organized religion, we can still live a life that is wholly, or in part, a spiritual one.
The first concept to tackle is to decide what exactly are the objectives of education?
What are the principles, the framework and the system of an educative practice?
From there, it is important to see that education is not a means to conform or to integrate into the society in which we find ourselves. A more valuable idea is to want to contribute in order to reform the system for the better once we have had an education. In this way, no matter the context of where we live, we can develop a philosophic and spiritual approach to the process of learning.
In discussing the principles of education, Ramadan lays out three guides to consider:
1. Knowing the oneness of God.
If we are to accept the spiritual concept of an all-knowing, omnipresent force or power, then it follows that that’s
our most certain source of knowledge. It is what will, as an educator, take us onto the road of truth—move us from the place we are now to the place we can be. In this connection, it is crucial to see the many levels of knowledge available to us. There is the knowledge we get in the process of learning, but of this getting, what do we actually understand? In the dimension of deep knowledge, a level of knowing rests where we next understand how to implement basic knowledge into our place and time, and therefore into a specific context.
2. Knowing with the heart.
Understanding and education are capacities of the mind and of the heart, and deep knowledge resides in both of these aspects of ourselves. Also, there is always a better knowledge when the learner loves the teacher. The heart that is capable of opening to love leads to a mind that opens to respect. This is a key component of the lineage of many educational traditions.
3. The body can also be taught.
Modern day behaviorists and psychologists have confirmed that the body can also learn. We gain knowledge through the ways we use our body. If we respect our body, examine how we treat ourselves, how we treat others and how we physically approach our life, we have learned an essential step towards spiritual instruction.
It is only by connecting the mind with the heart and the body
that education becomes a holistic practice.
Teaching with these principles allows a person to develop autonomy. At some point in our lives, we will all face God, or a challenge, or the world—completely alone.
The teacher needs to be able to teach the student to be able to think, but even more importantly, to be able think without the teacher. We must be equipped to face our reality independently. By becoming autonomous we can make the right decision and be strong enough to face life’s challenges.
The knowledge we have must become a deep knowing that we can implement in the context of our own location, time and culture.
Lauren Trimble is a Montreal based artist and graphic designer and is an organizing member of the Montreal Healing Arts Community. She can be reached at [email protected] and her work is presented in all forms at www.laurentrimble.com.
Editor: Jessica DeLoy