|There are many surprises that came with this new chapter in my life, when I moved from living in New York City to an Ecovilla in the mountains, some of which I anticipated, and others which hit me over the head as if from nowhere. I always loved nature, but I never lived in nature. I always worked in community, but I never lived in community. I always talked about sustainability, but I have never lived in a sustainably-minded community. These are all changes of my new life I had anticipated, but then there were those that came that were the most surprising, the ones that I did not see coming because you never really know exactly what will happen when you choose something new and different.|
One of these was the discovery of a new approach to education. Some parents of the Eco Village where I live created Casa Sulà a school unlike any other I had ever seen. Sulà, in the native Costa Rican language Bri Bri, means Guardian of the Seed Spirit. The basic tenets of Sula are rooted in notions of non-directive education, a complex notion that has been challenging me and inspiring me, all the more so since I suffered all my life with dyslexia, and so often felt ostracized by the education system. Still, this new concept is very new to me.
My daughter Micaela spent a few months at Casa Sulà as an intern learning about their philosophy and methodology before continuing to get her master’s degree in education at NYU. Since my passion at this moment in my life is about healing through mindfulness, this is very much a mindful approach to education and I am therefore very drawn to it. I asked her a few questions, and this is the dialogue between us.
Marcelo: Micaela, when you were inCasa Sulà, you called me one day almost in tears because you were so moved that something like this could exist. What did you mean?
Micaela: Before I arrived in Casa Sulà, I had spent some years studying and reading about alternative and progressive approaches to education, and was always attracted by the idea that another way was possible. I connected so strongly to notions of democratic education, to an education that was guided by each individual child rather than by some standard decided by administrators and government officials. I always believed in my core that education should not be standardized, and that this standardization marginalizes many students. When I stumbled on writings by Jon Dewey, Ken Robinson, and Claudio Naranjo, I was relieved to uncover language that captured my feelings. But I was also keenly aware of the differences between theory and practice, and was skeptical about the application of these progressive pedagogies. I had worked in classrooms before and so had an intimate understanding of the unique challenges found within education, and I wondered whether this non-directive, alternative approach of education could actually be applied. I got my answer within my first week at Casa Sulà. It can.
Marcelo: So what was the thing that surprised you the most?
Micaela: I was in awe of the way in which the teachers respected and fully trusted each child. This was evident not only in the way they talked to me about the kids, but in the way they interacted with them. They had so much respect for the internal guide within each child, and fully trusted the inner teacher each one had. This was a fundamental principle of their education; to love, to trust, and to respect that internal, most authentic being within each child and let that shape the kind of teaching that took place in the school. This also means accepting that each child will learn at her or his rhythm and time.
Marcelo: What does non-directive education really mean?
Micaela: I can answer based on what I saw at Casa Sulà, though I’m sure there are various interpretations. Non-directive education means non-interference. It means letting go to let come of what is true and authentic. It means that there is no blueprint for what kids should learn or how they should learn it. As we let the seed grow in the way it needs to and wants to, so too we let children grow, develop, and learn in a way that is most natural to each and every one without putting our expectations or desires onto them. Let them unfold as they will, as adults and teachers mindfully accompany their process with patience and love.
Marcelo: One of my passions in this moment is the ability to create an environment for people to be able to listen to their “kol demamah daka,” the still small voice of the soul, which we seldom hear because of shoulds, musts, rush, next, noise, fast, impositions, patterns, pain, unresolved issues, etc.. In many ways, what I hear you say is that this type of education is one that helps kids discover and listen to their higher spiritual self, to understand that their greatest teacher is within them and that there is wisdom that we need help accessing, and that this requires a paradigm based on love and trust. This could be applied not only to education, but to families, couples, friendships, communities, and society as a whole. And this is a big part of mindful work as well; to stop and pay attention to the paradigms in which our realities are based, and then to question, re-imagine, and change what needs to be changed.
I am moved beyond words when places like Casa Sulà embody elevated concepts, such as Guardians of the Seed Spirit, and then put them into practice. In the Jewish Mystical tradition we speak of the Shoresh Ha Neshama, the root of the soul; but to have access to it, to tend to it, to be in it, requires commitment and practice. To be Guardians Of The Seed Spirit is a sacred task, for all of us. It is a way to show up in the world.
By: Marcelo Bronstein – Mentor
Fotos by: Marcelo Bronstein