Heart Lessons: What is Right Education?

Nagpur, Maharashtra, India

Heart Lessons from the Camino de Santiago: What is Right Education?

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"I think about when I used to go to the river with my father. As a child, the signfiance of the soft water flowing never crossed my mind. I later found that water has played a significant role in the the many lessons I have learned throughout my life. I think about my mother and father, and how they brought beauty into my life even before I could understand the meaning of it. I've used water to reconnect back to myself in times of internal chaos, infinite joy, and everything in between. It's tranquility, yet harshness has allowed me to mold myself, but maintain a flowing nature". - October 3, Day 20    

I woke this morning, looking beyond the security of my mosquito net to the beautiful logs that make up the one room mud house that my new friend Paridhi temporarily lives in. I turned my head right to see that Paridhi had left the back door cracked open, allowing a stream of the morning light to fill the room. The green of the trees and the vegetable garden in the back filled the frame of the door. I could hear the familiar honking from the road just beyond Kushi’s voice as she engaged in enthusiastic dialogue with Paridhi.

I walked outside around the garden to find Paridhi and Kushi working on a complex Rangoli design. Each morning, Kushi creates Rangoli, a traditional sand art, in front of her home. This is common to do in front of homes in India, especially on special occasions such as Diwali or the Indian New Year.

Kushi and Paridhi

Kushi and Paridhi

Kushi had a twinkle in her eye as she counted the dots that would allow her to create the outline of the design. Yesterday morning, I had also found them engaged in this, but today the design was much different. After we had finished yesterday, Paridhi and I discussed our observations from the morning’s design session with Kushi. She had a keen eye and developed motor skills as she filled the Rangoli design with different colored sands. She knew how to properly manage the sand and determine the methods to use to maximize the use of the sand considering the space we had left within the design. At just 6 or 7 years old she had developed practical skills and was already applying them in a variety of ways.  

This is one of the objectives of Nai Thalim School, a school based on the holistic development of a child (head, hand, and heart). I had come to learn about this school by chance when I arrived to Sevagram, an ashram created by Mahatma Gandhi. Paridhi is a volunteer doing research for her Master’s at Nai Thalim school, a school based on holistic learning. Her, along with another teacher, Preethi, welcomed me into their community at the school and around the ashram.

Kushi is a little girl who lives on the ashram grounds with her mother and grandfather. Her mother is a pre-school teacher and Kushi also attends the school. Kushi is just one example of how the students learn at this school. The children engage in activities such as gardening, sewing, dancing, cooking, and singing. Their curriculum is hands on and highly based on morals, in order to meet their main objective of creating sustainable societies with compassionate and conscious citizens. The students learn to think with their hearts, not just their minds. As I learn about holistic spaces of learning and business, I felt blessed to have stumbled upon Nai Thalim School.  

J. Krishnamurti has said that right education teaches us to hear the birds singing in the trees, to feel sensitive to things, and to be able to hear the stillness within. True education is going deeper within ourselves, uncovering what is already there, and bringing us closer to ourselves through using textbooks and institutions as tools to get there.

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My time at Nai Thalim School made me reflect on my young school days. From pre-school to second grade, I was always giving my parents, teachers, and principal a hard time. First grade was the worst year. I cried everyday, made either my mom or dad sit outside of the classroom. Some days, I even took their car keys into the classroom with me so they wouldn’t be able to go to work. They continued to be patient with me, even when my principal called my father and I into his office almost every week for a year straight. I kicked my first grade teacher in the leg and was eventually transferred classes. This made the situation a little better, but I still continued the trouble every now and then into second grade. Most people don’t believe these stories when I or my parents share them.

It wasn’t that I disliked school itself, but going to and being inside of a school felt wrong. I remember one of my most vivid memories of elementary school being when my first grade teacher (yes, the one I kicked), told me that we should all learn to get along with each other because we will spend more time together in school than at home with our parents. It wasn’t until I recently reflected on these experiences, that I realized that my behavior was coming out of a place of fear.  

I remember many days I begged not to go to school and sat on a bucket in my parents Dunkin Donuts watching my mother work in the backroom. My most significant memories were also the moments of sitting on our back deck observing nature, going on walks through the forest, discussing eastern philosophy and politics with my father, exploring my mom’s garden as she worked, or going to the river and park with my father. I had always had deep connection with my parents, as most of us do. In many ways, I felt like I had gone through so much learning from them as a child that I didn’t understand why I needed to learn math or science in school.

Since graduating from college, I’ve spent more time away from my parents, but have drew most of my life’s aspirations and goals from what I was taught in the home.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t condemn my education nor do I think it was unnecessary. The reason my parents came to the United States was for our education and it is because of this that my sisters and I have received so much opportunity and life transforming experiences. This education taught me to draw upon my own experiences and learn that morality and teaching children to be self sufficient needs to be weaved into the fibers of our educational system.

Since the end of my time in university, I’ve slowly come to embark on a journey to find ways to bring soul into our education and economies. Through digging into alternative economies, holistic education models, and the thoughts of great thinkers, I’ve only come to understand I’m embarked on a journey of unlearning and relearning.

I know the only way to get there is to walk on my own path to dig deeper into myself, uncover, and keep learning from our beautiful earth family (especially our children!).