Saturday, 12 April 2014

K is for Knowing, Knowing Oneself

Know thyself. That's the key to knowing all, is the truth India and many other ancient civilizations have revealed for the humanity. It applies most directly to the field of education, a field of human activity directly concerned with knowledge - of the world and the self, and the process of knowing - the world and the self.

But before we speak of how this idea of Know Thyself can be applied in the classroom, it is important to go deeper into the idea itself and see how it applies to the person directly responsible for the learning experiences being facilitated in the classroom, namely, the teacher herself or himself.

To begin with, what is this self that we are trying to know? In an earlier post, I wrote about the Indian view of what constitutes a human being, an individual. According to this view, an individual is in fact not a single entity, but rather a complex being with different parts - physical, vital, mental - intermixed and interacting with one another, all of which are the outer instruments or powers of the truer, inner being, the soul or psychic being.

Each of these outer instruments is developed and cultivated and refined through life-experiences and education. Each of these instruments tries to assert its dominance and act as per its own preferences, likes and dislikes. The path to knowing oneself begins by knowing the working of each of our parts and to become conscious of their movements. The more we as parents/educators/adults can know about ourselves, the greater the self-mastery we can gain over ourselves, better examples we shall be for our children and younger generations.

The way to become conscious of each of our parts and their movements is constant observation and a sincere examination of our motivations for all that we choose to do or not do.
To observe, to note down one’s reactions and impulses and their causes, to become a discerning witness of one’s desires, one’s movements of violence and passion, one’s instincts of possession and appropriation and domination and the background of vanity which supports them, together with their counterparts of weakness, discouragement, depression and despair. (The Mother, CWM, Volume 12, p. 22)
Introspection, journaling, quiet contemplation, self-analysis and other such exercises can be immensely helpful. In this journey, naturally we will also come across much darkness and shadow in us. Instead of pushing it away as if it doesn't matter, or suppressing it under a false assumption that this will make it go away, why not we offer all this inner darkness, turmoil, struggle, disarray at the feet of the higher self, the true self within, the Divine within, so that it can be washed away by the Bright Light of that Higher Presence? We may call that Presence with whatever name we like. But the point is that by humbly offering our darkness and shadow at the feet of the Light within will help us gradually move away from a negative path of self-analysis to a more positive self-awareness, which will help us become more conscious of our innate potential, our capacities and our true temperament.

This is obviously not a one-time process. This has to be done constantly and throughout our lives. Only when we as adults - teachers, parents - begin this journey of becoming more self-aware, we can be ready to initiate such practices and self-awareness techniques in our schools and classrooms.

One of the most effective ways to facilitate such self-knowing processes among teachers in a school could be through the regular in-service orientations and workshops for teachers. Thoughtfully prepared exercises that can gently lead to introspection and an inward gaze can help teachers regain a new perspective on their approach to life, their work, their teaching style and their motivations. Autobiographical teacher-research methods have been used for quite a while now in academic circles. Interested teachers may be encouraged to learn about them and apply them in their own school contexts.

Let me close this post by sharing this resource for those interested in knowing more about how to know "who am I"...

If this short clip resonates with you, you may like to listen/watch the full talk here.

Painting by Bindu Popli


This post is written for the A-Z Challenge, April 2014. The theme I am exploring is - Putting India back in Indian Education

Click here for the previous post in this series.

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