The Zen of Education

Thich Nhat Hanh is a well-known voice in Zen Buddhism. This passage is from his book, “Peace Is Every Step”.

“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are live in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.”

The passage has nothing intentionally to do with education, or with homeschooling. But to me, education is life. The point of education is to be able to live the best life that we can and give to the world by using our individual gifts. If the point of education is to “get somewhere”, and it doesn’t matter if we enjoy the process or not, we come to learn, over time, that life is all about the next step. Getting through now in order to get to… somewhere else.

Progressive homeschooling lets go of this future-oriented educational perspective.  When people learn at their own pace, with their own needs as the center of the point of learning, it’s much easier to focus on the now and be truly alive in the moment.

Sure, it’s important to plan for the future, and make decisions in such a way that we don’t screw up our future by not paying attention. But, if we spend most of our time looking at the future, then what’s the point of getting there, because once we get there, we’ll still be looking forward. It never ends. Now is the only moment. The future doesn’t exist. Make the now good (really good, not superficially good) and pay attention to what’s going on in the moment; that’s the formula for a good education.

If there is something that keeps us from being able to focus on the now, then we’re not learning. And nobody can force us to look at the now. Only we can decide to do that. We can, however, make someone focus on the future by making the now unbearably hard to look at.


2 Responses to “The Zen of Education”

  1. Colleen Says:

    Hi Tammy,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. I couldn’t agree more with your take on living in the moment. I would say that this is probably the main reason I started thinking about homeschooling. I am turned off by our society’s ever increasing focus on “preparation.” Preschool at age 3 prepares the child for Preschool at age 4. 4 year old preschool is a preparation for Kindergarten. Kindergarten prepares the child for 1st grade, etc. When does the child ever get to this mystery destination we’re working so hard to prepare her for? I think this is how so many people end up in jobs they hate later in life. There’s little focus on what we’re passionate about. Passion happens now – it’s not something to prepare for.
    I really enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  2. Making it up Says:

    I love the blogosphere

    Just when you think you’ve read it all before, you come across a new gem, like Just enough and nothing more which excels in though provoking posts and quotes like “We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know…

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