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What is Education for Life? by J.

Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda), founder of the Education for Life philosophy of Living Wisdom Schools (Originally appeared in Clarity Magazine, Summer 1999.) What do I mean when I say Education for Life? I can present the problem and the solution. The problem is that people in traditional forms of education usually approach it from the standpoint of just preparing a person for a job. But ones job isnt the definition of ones lifeits only that which enables you to have enough money to meet your needs. Our lives encompass a much broader arena than ones capacity to earn money. Any educational system that teaches only job skills or offers only intellectual information is neglecting the essential needs of human beings. The solution is a form of education that trains us in that which is most relevant to ushow to find lasting happiness in life.

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We deeply need proper training in how-to-live skills such as how to find the right mate, how to raise our children, how to be a good employee, how to get along with our neighbors, and how to concentrate our minds so that we can draw success into all of our endeavors. There are many such skills that are essential to prepare a child for adulthood, and in traditional education many of them are completely ignored. Education for Life is a system that prepares the child to face the challenges of living as a human being, and helps him to achieve balance and harmony in all he does. What were really talking about is preparing everyone, not just children, for true maturity. This is a much bigger concept than just coming of age. As Ive defined it in my book, Education for Life, maturity is the ability to relate appropriately to other realities than ones own. Youll find that even people of advanced years are often childish and immature with regard to this definition, yet this ability to relate to others realities is what education should accomplish.

In a broader context, any great discovery in science is recognized as important not just for itself, but for what windows it opens to a greater understanding of the world as a whole. Einsteins discoveries, for example, were fascinating, but what made them truly great was the fact that they provided fertile concepts for exploration in every avenue in life. We find his concepts sited in the arts, in education, in music, in medicine, in every walk of life, because in some way they touch on a basic understanding of reality. The more a person can relate one reality to a host of other realities, the more we see his consciousness is expanding. You can see this ability to relate to other realities reflected in peoples conversation. Many times someone will try to discuss a topic from different points of view, but all theyre really doing is hammering on their own position. Its like people living on two distant islands shouting at each other. No matter how long they shout, the islands remain separated, and they cant hear each other. When a person has achieved the kind of maturity were talking about, he is able to listen to others, to absorb what theyre saying, and to relate it to what he already understands in order to come up with new insights. In this way, a discussion can build new understandings for everyone involved. The Education for Life system tries to point the way to maturity. It doesnt presume to give maturity, but it creates a mind-set that will endure for the whole of life. It provides a direction of growth that people can take all the way into old age and still keep growing so that they find things to marvel at in the world around them. We find that basically we have four tools that enable us to relate to life. First, we have to recognize that since we live in physical bodies, we can see our bodies as tools for helping us grow. If we dont properly take care of our bodies, we may find them becoming our foes instead of our friends. Second, we find that we respond to the world with our emotions. If our emotions are always agitated because of intense likes and dislikes, we will respond emotionally to what others say and not really hear them. We may hear our own idea of what they are saying, but if we have an emotional prejudice, we wont hear them objectively.

Third, if we dont know how to use our will power to overcome faults in ourselves, or to set goals and accomplish them, then we will never know fulfillment in life. Finally, if we dont develop our intellect, then we cannot understand things clearly, and our lifes experiences will come through our minds in a dull way. You need to have a clear intellect to really understand whats going on around you. So we have these four basic tools that enable us to grow toward evergreater maturity: the body, the emotions or feelings, the will power, and the intellect. Ive observed that the first six years of a childs life tend to be the period when they have to learn how to get their bodies under control. Youll see a child of four running down an aisle and knocking over a chair, or falling over something because he didnt look down. It takes a lot of energy to somehow learn how to get this body working well for us. During this period from one to six years, its important to teach children how to use their bodies to grow in other ways of understanding. For example, drama and dance movements, especially in the first six years, can be extremely important because children learn with their bodies at this stage. If through drama they can act out positive attitudes, or through dance they can be taught movements that help them express expansiveness, then theyre learning in a way thats appropriate to that level of development. They can be shown those kinds of physical gestures that come with selfishness, for example, and those that come with being generous and kind. This can be done in an amusing way so that its a game, and they can learn by imitation.

Often we can observe that if a person is unhappy, hell tend to look down, to slump forward, or to lean on a table. But conversely, our physical bearing can also influence our thoughts and feelings. If youre feeling happy but slump forward with your head in your hands, then youre much more likely to become open to the thoughts and feelings of depression. If on the other hand, you can sit up straight and look up, then you find that this posture helps your emotions and your will power. Its hard to feel that youve got a strong will if you are sitting slumped over. But if you sit straight with your chest up, its much easier to affirm that you are strong and able to combat this difficulty or overcome that obstacle. As the child matures and the intellect is brought into play, its also very important to understand the effect of physical posture on our mental functions. The seat of the intellect is located at the point between the eyebrows, or in the frontal lobe of the brain. Physiologists say that anatomically this is the most advanced part of the brain, and its from here that we reason. If we can learn to bring our energy upward to this part of the brain, we find that we can think more clearly. If, however, we allow our energy to sink downward, its much more difficult to think deeply. The next tool of maturity is the feelings, and these come into play during the next six year period from six to twelve. At this time, its easiest to instruct children through their feelings, and to inspire them through stories of heroism and courage. Its essential to give them fitting role models to followto talk about people throughout history who have done inspiring, great, and beautiful deeds. There are many such stories, but in our day and age it seems to be a practice to show that these heroes werent all that great after all. It seems to be the cynical philosophy of our time to bring people down to the lowest common denominator. I think that there are great things that man is capable of accomplishing, and we should explore that potential during these feeling years. Then we have years from twelve to eighteenthe terrible teens! This is the time when children want to express their own individuality. In theory,

at least, it could be a beautiful time, but in our culture particularly here in America, its a period of rejecting the family, tradition, and authority on most levels. Yet it also has a positive sideaffirming strength of will and independence. If we can encourage the development of will in wholesome ways through offering challenges and encouraging service to others, then we can help those children develop self-control and discipline. This will help them from falling into the habits of drugs and drinking that many acquire during their teens that weaken their will. If you affirm your ego and your own desires with the attitude of What I want is all thats important, you become contractive and in the long run weaken your will. This self-focus and defiance may strengthen self will, but thats not the kind of will were wanting to develop. Rather we want to help teens acquire the kind of will power that helps them to overcome the real challenges theyll face in life. Finally, we reach the ages from eighteen to twentyfour years when many children go on to college, and you find them sitting around coffee tables talking about Life, with a capital L, and discussing the great thinkers and philosophers throughout history. At this time, we consciously need to try to develop their intellects and help make their thinking clear. It takes 24 years to get all these tools of maturitythe body, feelings, will, and intellect developed and harmonized so that we can continue to grow throughout life. It shortchanges us to think that weve been completely educated when we leave school, because education essentially begins then, you might say. These four tools of maturity help us to grow all the way through life and not become a spent force by the time were forty. This approach to education ties into the very age in which were living. In the past people considered matter to be the ultimate reality, and a material view of reality found its way into every department of life. We tended to create dogmas and fixed definitions to express truth, like the Aristotelian way of thinking which says a thing is either this or that. You need fixed definitions to bring you to a certain level of clarity, but after that a definition becomes a liability because it limits your ability to expand beyond it. We are now living in an age of energy where we understand that the universe around us is essentially formed of energy, not matter. This vision of a more fluid reality demands that we get away from dogmatic

thinking where we see things as absolutely this or that. They can be BOTH! Instead of either/or, why not think both/and? So we have come to the point of accepting a more sophisticated approach to education, to logic, and to moral values which is directional, not absolute. This Education for Life system reflects an ever-expanding view of reality in which the child, the adult, and, on the deepest level, the eternal soul can grow to embrace broader and broader realities, until at last we can glimpse the infinite consciousness of God.