Listening Session Paintings

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Story Like the Wind

I have had the delectable opportunity to be reading A Story Like the Wind by Laurens van der Post. It is the story of a remarkable 13-year old European boy growing up in Africa.  Van der Post uses the story for social commentary on European values as they affect local cultural life in Africa.  He begins the book by saying that he is writing it to help Africans recapture their sense of magic and belief in the unknown forces at work in the world, which years of colonization and cultural influence has erased from their memories. He states that life in modern times has taken them far from this way of being in the world.

He also uses the book for commentary about young people and about education.  I want to share one particular section with you for it gets at the heart of many young person's experiences (including our own when we were younger) and it gets at the heart of one of the things Listening Sessions are trying to accomplish.

During the story, the 13-year old boy, Francois, has just lost his father.  His father had been in a distant location in Africa seeing many European specialists when he had died.  They had not understood why he had been sick and could not fathom why he had died.

But Francois, who had grown very close to many Africans working on his father's farm, knew the reason. He had been to an African seer and healer who had divined the reason and then also told him his father had died (before the seer could perform a distance healing on his father). When Francois' mother called the next day to tell him the news, Francois, already aware of the news, became a believer in the "magic" of the Africans.

He also blamed himself for his father's death because he could not get his parents to trust the African ways, as they kept relying on the traditional healing methods that the European doctor's knew.  Had he gotten his father to see the African seer and healer, Francois believed his father would have lived.  But he had to face the fact that his parents did not trust his inner knowing.

So in a moment of reflection van der Post writes,"The pattern (of only teaching the European values and customs to the Africans and not receiving any of their knowledge and wisdom) was all the more telling because had not he himself (Francois) experienced the agony of always being at the receiving end and so rarely at the point where one was allowed to give something of oneself? This was perhaps one of the greatest burdens of being young; one was always expected to take, and so rarely thought to be in a position... to give as well.  And what one had to give, when accepted, once measured in the scales of deliberate values of the grown-up world, appeared trivial."

Francois' belief in the seer and healer had been judged by his adult parents as trivial.  In fact, in the book, van der Post wrote that there was a saying amongst the whites in Africa that Africans "are just like children really and must be treated like children." So Francois' belief in the seer and healer was just as childish as the African beliefs.

How many times do we as adults relegate our children to this same status? Does the education system in operation today act from that point of view? Are we teaching our children that their voices are not worthy or to be taken seriously? Are we teaching them that the "magic" they see and experience every day is "trivial?" What happens to young people when we tell them over and over again that their instincts cannot be trusted?

The Listening Sessions are grounded in the belief that children hold an innate wisdom and that given the chance to speak what they see to those who will listen, they have truths to share that we can learn from and which speak to something within us that as adults, we may have long forgotten.  As each Listening Session evolves, you can visibly see the changes in the students as they realize that their ideas, their heart's desires are going to be contributing a future change in education.  The idea that their voice means something, can contribute something, can give back something is very powerful. Many students have awakened to a side of themselves that has been dormant for many years during the Listening Sessions.

The first offering of young people at the end of a Listening Session is to say, "Thank you."  They always say, that despite education commanding a significnt amount of their life's hours each day, no one is asking them about their experiences or their ideas for making their learning experience more meaningful.

Yet when you sit and listen to their answers to the questions we ask and you listen to their ideas for changing education, there is much wisdom that their young hearts carry. What also comes through is that there is a deep thirst for their elders to "see" them and welcome them more fully into the circle of humanity.

When the time is right, the wisdom in their stories will travel like the wind around the country and the earth and awaken our own deep courage to help guide the co-creation of a new learning experience.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beautiful Souls from Ojai

Meg Wall who helped make the Listening Session in Ojai, CA possible sent this photo along the other day of the 7 of the 10 young people who participated.  From left to right are Aaron, Nick, Journey, Giani, Charleigh, Will, and Karla.  Not pictured, but still in our hearts are Jose, Sebastian and Emma. More pictures to come of their Listening Session! You can see their conceptual paintings a couple of entries below this one!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Beautiful Prayer for Children

Yesterday, I read a beautiful prayer by the psychologist and author, Daphne Rose Kingma.  It is deeply moving and the essence of the prayer spoke to me directly about how the vision of Imagine Learning holds young people:

On this day, we pray for tender compassion on all the little ones, whose new souls, so fresh from the light, shine in our midst with a darling adorable brightness.  

May we honor them deeply, learn from them truly, respecting the deep wisdom they carry. Make us wise in our nurturing of them, generous in our loving, unending in our compassion, expansive with our wisdom, kind with our intelligence, and graceful with our hearts. Let us give to them and receive from them, and let it be known among us that they are neither our projects or our possessions, but messengers of light, illuminations of love.
                             - Daphne Rose Kingma

While this prayer begins with young babies, is there any question that no matter what age a young person is, that this stance would create a much different life experience, as well as a learning experience for each and every one?   

Learn from them truly, respecting the deep wisdom they carry......

Thank you Daphne.

Note: The prayer was included in a wonderful little book titled A Grateful Heart, edited by M.J. Ryan (which is full of quotes, prayers and writings on being grateful).

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ojai Listening Session Beautiful

Last Thursday, Linda O'Toole and I had the great gift of being with 11 wonderful young people from the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.  What was supposed to be 8 students, grew to 11 and it was a profoundly beautiful experience.

The students came from four different schools and while they did not know each other in the beginning, you would have thought they had known each other for years at the end.  It was very gratifying to hear their answers and to see their concepts come to life in their paintings.  They all supported each other tremendously and the paintings showed their deep desire to help create change in education.

Here is a look at their paintings. Each one tells a story about the learning experience that each group would love to create. More on that later:

We want to thank Aaron, Charleigh, Emma, Giani, Jose, Journey, Karla, Nick, Sam, Sebastian,and Will for committing to this project and for being so present throughout. As soon as all of the permission slips are in, we will put up a slide show of the Listening Session.

We also want to thank Meg Wall for her hard work in coordinating and scheduling everything and for making the process go so smoothly.  She has a tremendous love of young peope and they respond to her in amazing ways.

And a special thanks to Linda, who sees the beauty of young people, stands for their voices to be heard and is such an amazing supporter of Imagine Learning.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Imagine Learning is Highlighted in a Book!

The story of Imagine Learning has been featured in a book by author Gail Larsen entitled Transformational Speaking. The subtitle is "If You Want to Change the World, Tell a Better Story."   We have been included in the book because Gail believes we are telling a better story!!

Gail's belief is that transformational speaking is about finding your voice and telling your story from a place deep within yourself. By speaking the truth, people will "hear" you in a way that engages them in your story and moves them to a different place within themselves.

She outlines six principles for this:

1) You are an original, nowhere else duplicated
2) You are a hero on a journey, and your journey defines your message
3) The world we experience, both personal and planetary, reflects and expresses who we are individually and collectively
4) We each must heed our own call
5) Use your authentic power with those who can hear you rather than the force of argument with those who can't
6) You must be personally sustainable to do the work of change. Cherish your precious, worthy self.

It is an easy read and full of wonderful stories and a practical approach that will help any of use learn to listen more within ourselves for the words that want to emerge.

We are honored to have been selected to be included and it is more fuel to help us keep moving forward with our vision. Thanks Gail!

You can read about Imagine Learning on page 161 in the book!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Meet Ahmed Rahim

Today I met a wonderful man.  His name is Ahmed Rahim and he is the co-founder of Numi Tea, one of the largest sellers of organic and fair-trade premium tea in the United States. He shared with me his vision of community, young people and education.  He is planning to introduce a new curriculum for young people grades K - 3 that is centered around art and the environment.  His vision is to launch this curriculum in the inner cities of America to begin with and later to establish free standing schools that will help many of America's children who are in underserved communities. Eventually he wants to serve young people in grades K - 12.

What made his vision so wonderful to listen to is that he is talking about offering a curriculum that is nourishment based.  By building learning around artistic endeavor and being in relationship to nature, he believes a new young person can emerge from the inner city who is more grounded and filled with his or her own voice.

A portion of the sales of Numi Tea will help to create a perpetual income stream supplemented by grants and other donations. Beautiful.

His energy, his light, his passion are evident as he talks about his vision.  He is committed, open, collaborative and pushing to learn as much as he can wherever he can about children and education.  He also is a wonderful listener as he asked many questions about what we are about and how we intend to grow our vision. 

Our lunch was a mutual exchange of ideas, energy and wonder as we shared our time together.  We are going to get together again to discuss his ideas for curriculum and to see the work of those who have pariticipated in the Listening Sessions. Thanks Ahmed for an enlightening and engaging first of what I hope will be many visits.

Monday, April 26, 2010

We're Heading to Ojai

Thanks to our friend Linda O'Toole, we learned of the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, which is doing amazing work with young people in the Ojai Valley.  After looking at what they are doing, we just had to go and do a Listening Session. 

Last week, we received board approval, thanks to our intrepid contact at the foundation - Meg Wall - who paved the way for us to come.  Meg has more energy and ideas than most anyone I have met and she loves helping kids - a dynamic combination.

So on May 27th, we will hit Southern California with a three-hour Listening Session beginning at 5 PM.  We cannot wait to meet everyone and listen to what they have to say. Many thanks to the board for making this possible.

Check out their new website - to see all of the great programs they are running. One of their newest - Blinc - has been so successful that the Board has asked that it be continued long after it was scheduled to end.

I have never been to Ojai, which is about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, but it is surrounded by mountains not far from the Pacific Ocean and is considered to be quite a unique place to live.  Ojai is derived from the Chumash word "Awahai", sounding like Ojai, meaning "Valley of the Moon”. Since Ojai is lined up with an east-west mountain range, it is one of few towns in the world to have the "Pink Moment" occur as the sun is setting. The fading sunlight creates a brilliant shade of pink on the Topatopa Bluffs that stand at the east end of the Ojai Valley. We will see you soon, Ojai.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Beautiful Quote

"Somewhere among the youth of today are minds capable of discovering ways to world peace, ways to deeper and more fulfilling lives, ways to new appreciations of beauty in art or literature or music, just as there have been minds capable of splitting the atom. Ours is the task of breaking the thought barrier which keeps our young people from realizing their creative potentiality."
                                                                          - Samuel B. Gould

Stella sent me this quote the other day and I loved it!  Young people are the seed of the future and contain everything that is necessary to recreate the world in a way far wiser than it is today. As Samuel Gould says, ours is the task of breaking through the barriers to keeping that knowledge from bearing fruit!

PS   Samuel Brookner Gould (1910-1997) was an American educator prominent for promoting access to education through non-traditional means such as educational television, college teacher-mentor systems, and universities without walls.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Listen to the Children

I think we have found a beautiful supporter of Imagine Learning - at least in spirit anyway (she has yet to meet us)! This is 12 year old Adora Svitak speaking at TED asking adults to listen to young people. Her talk is astounding on one hand and the message couldn't be more true on the other.  We hear you Adora.