Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Blessing For the Senses


This is a beautiful blessing from the incredible John O’Donohue, and is perfect for the sensous exploration of the world that I try to foster and encourage through Sensing Life:

A Blessing for the Senses

– John O’Donohue, from  “Anam Cara”

May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful
and beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful
and recognize that your senses
are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is
mindful, gazing, feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to
celebrate the universe and the mystery
and possibilities in your presence here.
May the Eros of the Earth bless you.




Education: Happy, healthy children = Happy, healthy world?


I have a question – how can we educate our children in ways that will help to grow a happier, healthier, more peaceful and loving world? Instead of putting them through factory-style schooling that serves only to mould them into cogs for the gigantic capitalist machine, maybe we could start by finding out what a child needs to be healthy and happy? And then work with them to understand how they, and we, can identify and meet those needs?

I have just re-watched the RSA Animates “Changing Paradigms” short film by Ken Robinson, and it has just reaffirmed a knowing within me. He presents an easy, accessible yet completely spot-on summary of the unsustainable and dysfunctional assumptions and habits that make up our current mainstream education system.

Ken reminds us that we need a radical rethink on the nature of human capacity – that our ideas around what is academic, non-academic, abstract, theoretical, vocational, are all actually myths; in that they are all the product of a certain way of thinking, and not absolute truths. He feels that we must recognise that great learning actually happens in groups, and so the extreme focus we put on individual ‘results’, removed from the learning context, is preventing many other, possibly more beneficial and fruitful, ways of learning to occur. Lasting he feels that it is crucial that we examine the habits that our educational institutions embody and occupy. He thinks that our current system of education is modelled on the interest and image of industrialism. I agree and add to that scientism, capitalism, and its offspring, conspicuous consumerism.

As I am passionate about our need to focus on our direct sense perception of the world, in order to become fully alive and more fully human – and so I love his reference to aesthetics. He notes that in the Arts we focus on aesthetic experience, and that this is when:

– Our senses are operating at their peak

– We are present in the current moment

– We are resonating with the excitement of the thing we are experiencing

We are fully alive!

In contrast to this, an anaesthetic experience occurs when we shut our senses off and deaden ourselves to what is happening. This is what Ken feels is happening in our educational systems today.

I am interested in how we can bring Life back into our classrooms…

How can we become everyday phenomenologists, both adults and children? Directly experiencing both our inner and outer worlds….

Children from age four or five can educate themselves, and according to the Reggio Emilia model of early-years education, even earlier than this. 

From an early age children can follow a line of their own inquiry, explore, and investigate. Ken Robinson references divergent thinking in the RSA film, which is the ability to see lots of different possible answers for a question, and lots of different ways of interpreting a question. In the book “Breakpoint and Beyond” there was a study on divergent thinking that tested kindergarten children, and 98% scored the ‘genius’ level – but we ‘educate’ our children in ways that diminish these natural capacities. What would our future look like if we did not destroy these incredible natural capacities at an early age, but actually focused on them and strengthened them?

Children are capable of constructing their own learning, and I am interested in how we allow a child to use all their senses and capacities to learn – where learning and play are not separated, and neither are life and education.

If we want to build a healthier, happier society – starting from how we ‘educate’ our children, I think that we need to start from scratch in order to build something different. I would like to be a part of an educational movement that invites children into participatory encounters, in all aspects of their lives. Just look at this 13 year old who has been encouraged to do just that – he takes the lead in his own education, with the support of the adults around him, and at 13 has already given his first TED talk!

So the question for me, is how we can provide alternatives, that nurture the development of the whole child, that enhance their natural capacities, address their authentic human needs, and that are accessible to all? Not just a priviledged few?

I have no answers yet, but I do now realise that my calling is to education, so I am opening a personal and professional inquiry into how I can help to develop such possibilities. If you have any thoughts or suggestions I would love to hear from you,



Small stone no.41: South Dartmoor

“In a large, gently sloping basin the woodland has been cleared away, leaving the closely shaven land with a soft, smooth, supple green face. It has been parceled up into misshapen rectangles of lush grass carpets separated by long, thin stubby hedges. At the lip of the basin lies its woodland beard, bare branches intertwine to form a dens…e protective barrier for the land’s protruding chin. In the distance bonfire smoke work’s its way into the damp, heavy air and the sunlight reveals the beige, barren bareness of the smooth moorland which lines the horizon. Mid-way the rain and the sunlight mix together to form a translucent curtain of fine haze. Giant ash grey clouds float steadily through the sky, outlined by bright wispy illumination, and sheep shelter at the edge of the woodland, huddled together, away from the unforgiving exposure of the open fields. Impossibly narrow lanes dive down steep hills, lined by tall scraggy hedgerows where nobody goes apart from occasional cars and tractors. The distant moors feel wiser than than the soft, supple fields that lie in their shadow. The moors have been weathered and beaten by the elements, shaken to their bare bones. This ferocity is warn by the haggered expressions of the twisted trees and bushes. Allowing my eyes to feel their way across this landscape I have a sense that depth perception is a capacity of the soul rather than of sight. My eyes provide the open doorway but it is my soul that stretches itself outward to meet this world, and revels in the opportunity to join with it in it’s wondrously creative expressions of earthly physical form.”

Small Stone no. 40: Dartmoor


“In your vast bright blue skies my spirit flies, swooping over the low, scrubby gorse. Gentle undulations sweep my soul across the ancient land toward an inward liberation. The soggy, sodden ground collects its wetness in crystal clear pools that act as mirrors for the myriad of fast-paced changing faces in the sky above. Giant, crumpled, weathered rocks salute on high to serenade the distant sea, which glows in the yellow-grey storm light. The persistent winds bring freshness and an elemental force to the coarse, tufty, tawny colored grasses. Luscious green mossy carpets soften the hardness of gigantic cold rocks with their delicate spongey body. Hail lashes our faces as a north wind storm blows its way across the moor to meet the sea. Our windswept cheeks glow and eyes brighten as we expand into wonders that surround us. The crisp, cool winter air brings life to our lungs, and to a land that is still silently sleeping.”