Stepping into possibility in our roles as educators.

One of the exquisite possibilities of engaging an integral approach in our teaching practice is that at every moment, with every subject, we have the opportunity to engage the whole universe. The ‘subject’ we teach, be it music, history, language, painting, literature or science, becomes a vehicle for deeper insights that include and embrace the intricacy and detail inherent in that discipline while at the same time transcending it and engaging higher dimensions of truth, goodness and beauty. One of the classes I teach this year is a senior seminar in botany. We have spent considerable time examining the relatedness and relationships among flowering plant families; much of that exploration was taken up in the field and garden, walking among fall blooms of autumn crocus or eating the spinach-like leaves of lambsquarters, Chenopodium alba. This week, in the middle of winter’s cold and ice, we are steeped in broccoli. After engaging an AQAL four-quadrant approach to GMOs in food, we are examining for a moment the connectedness between what we want, what we eat and what exists in the world. Part of this exercise is designed to come to a fuller understanding of the relationships between the seasonality of food crops, the globalization of food trade, and the complex pathways that might connect our purchase of an item of fresh produce in a supermarket to a Mayan farmer in Guatemala. But ultimately the time and energy invested here is also an exercise in realizing that the conditions that exist in other parts of the world, the lives, aspirations, creativity and consciousness of others on the planet, and the very fabric of being, is not separate from our own selves at this moment. When we touch broccoli, or chocolate, or a rose, or plant a seed, we can realize and appreciate this kind of connectedness. Just as I am photographing mid-winter ice crystals hanging from the edge of an 18th century millrace in Pennsylvania, my friend Sue writes us of picking and tasting raspberries in mid-summer Tasmania. Integral education increases our circles of awareness to become more inclusive, holding more of the big picture, and stepping ever outward into greater spaciousness to reflect on our own meaning making. I would love to hear about others’ experiences of engaging an integral approach with other subjects – what arises for you and your students in this undertaking? How does it change the structure or the outcomes of the learning experience? guatemalapath

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