Comments by Copthorne Macdonald about John P. Miller's book
for Wisdom and Compassion
for Wisdom and Compassion
In this remarkable book, University of Toronto Professor John P. Miller makes the case for meditation as a powerful facilitator of the educational process. Miller notes that "education can consist of both timeless and time-bound [transmission-oriented] learning" but argues that "we have given little or no space for the timeless." He maintains that "it is in timeless moments when powerful learning occurs."
What characterizes the timeless moment? Perhaps oversimplifying a bit, it is being fully attentive to what is happening in the present moment with a fresh and open mind, free of concepts and models. A "beginner's mind."
Miller does an excellent job of convincing the reader that when teachers and students spend time in this timeless space, new and highly-important kinds of learning can take place. He identifies the key characteristics of timeless learning as "holistic/intuitive, embodied, connected, soulful, transformative, flow, participatory, nondualistic, mysterious and unexplainable, and immeasurable." He discusses each of these, and in the course of the book gives examples of how they arise in timeless learning situations.
In Part II of the book Miller discusses the Perennial Philosophy underpinnings of meditative practices, and presents the reader with both general approaches and a wide variety of specific practices. Part III is titled "Timeless Learning: Perspectives, Examples, and Outcomes. Here he presents us with educational situations in which timeless learning is (or was) commonplace rather than exceptional. He sites Transcendental Education in the manner of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. Holistic education. Slow education. The Krishnamurti Schools. Waldorf Education. Montessori Education. He also devotes an engaging and inspiring section of Part III to "Creating Conditions for Timeless Learning in Public Schools."
Miller ends the book with a discussion of the fruits and ultimate outcomes of timeless learning. He identifies these outcomes as wisdom and compassion, joy ("the singing soul"), awe and wonder, wholeness, and a sense of purpose. One of the points that arises many times throughout the book is how teachers who practice meditation become much more effective teachers. Their ability to be attentively in the moment with each child increases, as does their level of caring and compassion. Quite understandably, student response is favorable.
Like Miller, I have been practicing meditation in various forms for 30 years. This book rings true to me, and I have no doubt that if teachers adopt meditation themselves and, in one form or another, introduce their students to timeless moments, there will be major benefits.
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