There are four different spaces that make up the canvas of our lives:
- personal, when we are alone;
- interpersonal when we are in relationship with another;
- community when we are part of a group with a shared purpose;
- spiritual which can exist within each of the other three spaces or all of them combined.
On the coldest day of the year, or so it felt to me, I ventured into the warm and beautiful Kadampa Meditation Center in New York City, a spiritual space and refuge for those of us who wish to explore Buddhism and meditation. As part of my ongoing commitment to the practice of conscientious engagement, my purpose is always twofold: to experience and to study the phenomena of that experience. This is in a nutshell the nature and nurture of my own consciousness, as well as the pathway I have chosen to better understand how to develop consciousness in the world.
Unlike my other posts, this one will be brief. I wanted to take a moment to quickly share what I learned on my visit, which included approximately forty minutes of guided meditation in a room with about fifteen participants.
The first thing that was revealed to me was just how important it is that we engage in all four spaces that make up our human experience if we are to experience wholeness and well-being—in other words, balance.
Second, this experience revealed the enormous impact of how we design our spaces, via architecture or process structures such as when we design a school building or even a learning experience divided into modules, protocols and time.
Each detail of a space (the external and the internal elements) communicates value of purpose. For example, if we work in a place where the only common area is the size of a cubicle, what does that say about how our company culture values interpersonal relationships? Similarly, if we omit access to one of the four spaces entirely (as we often do in education) then how are we to experience holism and well-being? An example of this is designing a school entirely centered on personalized learning at the expense of community building. Or, creating schools in which no space is allotted for teachers and students to explore philosophy, ethics, the nature of our existence or the spiritual dimensions of consciousness and its impact on cognition.
There was something very beautiful and uplifting about sitting in meditation with other human beings as compared to sitting alone in my living room. Not to mention the open, simplicity of the architecture of the space, the room was large and spacious, with crystal clear windows and natural light and we were not cramped on top of each other. The voice of the instructor was soothing sending energetic frequencies into the space, and I knew we also transmitted energy to one another in our meditation. The space transcended the space itself.
I need to do this, I thought. And more often. I also left wanting to share these insights with my education colleagues who spend so much time cramming teachers into tight spaces teaching from curriculum and instruction designs that lack careful attention to the mind-body-spirit balance and the three spaces we need to communicate a value for the whole person. All of this refers to education spaces that meet the needs of the whole child. No wonder we we struggle with innovating public education!
As such, I decided this experience deserves greater exploration. Some of the questions I will be thinking about over the next week are:
- Do all four spaces require an equal amount of time for well-being? Is this the same for each person, or does it vary?
- What is the difference between experiencing spirit alone as compared to being in a group?
- Are we optimizing our energy/learning/well-being when we engage in experiences that integrate all four spaces or domains?
- How has modern day living and technology coopted our access to space and what has been the impact on our consciousness?