Principles of Practice

After writing the post on Lessons from a Buddhist Preschool, I’ve been thinking about how the intention, flow and order of Rowan’s school days could also apply to a (my) personal spiritual practice. Last Fall his teachers handed out a sheet of paper with the words Principles of Practice at the top, Adopted from the Vidya School Aims as a sub-header (vidya meaning knowledge/clarity/brightness). I tucked the piece of paper in my calendar and keep shuffling into it while at work. Finally, I unfolded it and took a closer look. Yes, indeed. Principles of Practice at Rowan’s school can also be Principles of Practice for any of us wishing to imbue our lives with practice, both in how we parent as well as in the broader context of our lives. Below are excerpts from the list (in italics) and some musings to pair.

Genuine Relationships. It is beyond concept, technique, method or strategy. Action arises out of the spontaneous indeterminate living quality of people themselves.

Kindness. A constant recognition and reminder of Basic Goodness, the sudden cruelty of impulse does not solidify.

No Problem Children. There are children with very special needs, but the atmosphere of “problem” with its attendant fixations is not introduced.

Oh how I love this one. “The atmosphere of “problem” with its attendant fixations is not introduced.” What if we too lived like this? Rather than working to ‘fix’ something we can in stead be available to Grace, and offer our unwavering compassionate presence in the face of whatever is arising, without judgment (this applies to our own experience, too).

Habitual Vision of Greatness. A reference to quality, excellence, greatness and nobility infuses the environment and content of the curriculum.

Again, what if we lived each day like this? Substitute ‘work’ for curriculum. “A reference to quality, excellence, greatness and nobility infuses the environment and content of our work.” I’m reminded of what a teacher once said about caring for another human being:
“There is nothing more regal.” Can we integrate a habitual vision of greatness into the ‘ordinary’ moments of work and parenthood?

Cultivation of Inquisitiveness. Students are constantly challenged to inquiry, wonder, and freshness of mind.

This reminds me to be ever-awake and inquisitive, even in my adult form. Particularly with the ongoing structure of habits, routines and seemingly never-ending responsibilities, we can practice a freshness of mind…

Accommodation of Mistakes. Great value is placed on mistakes as the door to understanding.

How true, particularly with the learning curve of parenthood. Every time we meet our own limitations and see a different course of action than what we may have taken, we can use these moments as teaching moments. No guilt. No dwelling. Just honest acknowledgement of mistake and deepened commitment to integrity and patience moving forward…

Discipline of Body, Speech and Mind. Order, attention to detail, doing things thoroughly and fully in all activities – dress, eating, greetings, cleaning up, etc., are considered essential to the overall environment.

Can our homes and play spaces reflect this order too?

No Blame. By perceiving situations as they are without attaching blame, negativity becomes workable.

Not Afraid of Sharp Edges. All the negativity and intelligence of the child is acknowledged squarely and viewed as relevant.

Celebration. Take delight in the simple appreciation of each other and the world. Discipline and delight go hand in hand.

Basic Goodness is the Fundamental Reference Point. Because, in every situation, the reminder of Basic Goodness is available, trust in oneself and humor in the environment propel seemingly stuck situations forward.

Sacred World. Because the world is viewed as sacred, every object and person has its own dignity. Things have their own power, quality and place. This is the art of everyday life.

3 thoughts on “Principles of Practice

  1. “…the art of everyday life.” I love this! I love the whole thing. Thanks for posting this, Deb. I remember so well these Principles of Practice, which were framed and posted in each classroom I taught in at Alaya, so very long ago! I remember being so impressed and inspired by the clear wisdom of each one, and referring to them often… You have inspired me to dig out my copy from my dusty teaching notebook, and post it in my home. It applies so well to home life with small children, you’re right! and especially where we are now, homeschooling my kindergartener while trying to also provide a wholesome, safe and inviting space for my almost-three year old inferno of life force energy and curiosity! “Not afraid of sharp edges.” Whew.
    Love you! xo

  2. Pingback: Principles of Contemplative Parenting – Motherhood as Spiritual Art

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