EDITION: April - June 2015


By Belén Köhler, Founder of Universal Mandala
Awakening Knowledge, Strength and Compassion: The new educational paradigm.

A major reason why there are so many problems in the world is that our system of educating children does not present to them the most important parts of life. We are talking about how to develop: a positive heart that embraces all other living beings, knowledge about the nature and potential of their minds, and the understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. Over the past few decades, research on the benefits of addressing the education of the whole child – mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual – supports the need for a change in how and what we teach children. By incorporating these missing parts teachers, parents and children would gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. This opens the doors up for us to the potential to transform every aspect of life, and bring about a world that is more peaceful, happy and harmonious.

Now is the time for us to focus on what I call ‘An education to awaken Knowledge, Strength and Compassion’. I am talking about acquiring the knowledge that empowers us to tap into our deepest values; to be guided by our wisdom so that we choose more compassionate and kind actions. It is during the first five years of life that a child’s brain is most open to “absorb”, and her experiences are laying the foundation for her entire life. It is especially important during these formative years to show our children a positive way of life through the use of creative imagery and “real life” activities. This model of education understands that both ‘nature and nurture’ play important roles in a child’s development. The combination of a child’s individual biology, her family environment and the society she grows up in will shape how she interacts with the world.

Cultivating a wiser and more compassionate response to the many experiences we encounter is of the utmost importance in creating the type of community and culture we desire. Neuroscience tells us that ‘mirror neurons’ located in our brains help us to understand and reflect the intentions and behaviors of others. These cells are sensitive enough to pick up on the subtleties underlying peoples’ actions. This helps us to sense the thoughts, beliefs and perceptions of others, and for them to sense ours as well. In this way we are all teachers for each other. So the more mindful and aware we are of what we are transmitting through our actions and choices, the greater the positive influence we will have on our children, our communities and the world. It is through their schooling and environment that children develop this type of conscious attitude. Of particular importance are primary care-givers and other people with whom they spend a lot of time.

Parents and educators need to pay great attention to the cognitive development of the children’s thoughts and emotions. Our inner world creates our outer world, so even if we are born with certain predispositions we do not need to be limited, restricted or controlled by them. We all have the potential for change. Recent neuroscience research validates what meditation practitioners and contemplatives have known throughout time: the human brain is constantly changing and has the potential to be consciously transformed. In other words, we can become the person whom we really want to be. This means it is possible to guide our children to become conscious individuals, and doing that is how we can create a more beautiful world. This is the great opportunity that is being presented to us through this new concept of education.  

We have found the missing pieces to the education puzzle: developing a good heart that can hold all living beings, knowing the nature and potential of our minds and integrating the understanding of the interconnection of all things. All human beings possess the ability to develop their innate wisdom, ethical sensibilities and sympathetic understanding, so a sustainable education and healthy development of the children through these interconnected pathways will naturally guide them towards awakening their Knowledge, Strength and Compassion and will help them to grow as well-rounded individuals and become responsible members of the world community. In a few words: An education for the heart and mind. Once we put these pieces together… the magic happens! Our real human nature will arise from this new educational paradigm. Let’s remember that the key is to address not only the children’s various talents, but also their emotional and inner development. This will create within them a solid foundation for living a happy, successful and meaningful life. The primary goal is to spark within their minds the desire to make a positive difference in the world, while also providing an adequate structure that cultivates competence in academics. To achieve this an educational system needs to present an integrated curriculum that teaches in an experiential, organic and logical way.

My experience of working with children and being a mother has taught me that children love logic. They can follow things that make sense; they like to explore ‘why’; and when they are made part of the process they are active participants in the awakening of their inner knowledge. It is important that children learn to understand logically the answer to the simple question: “why be kind”. When kindness is presented through a logical exploration, what naturally arises is an innate sense of empathy and goodness. Those of us who guide the children in this process of awakening must first develop these qualities of kindness and wisdom within ourselves. As it is with leadership of any kind, in order to lead a company or a community toward a goal – particularly an altruistic goal – the leader must be awakened to the very qualities that they hope to imbue in their team and culture. The message is clear: leading by example is the most powerful teacher!

Universal Mandala is dedicated to ‘being the change we wish to see in the world’ by transforming the culture of education through the awakening of Knowledge, Strength and Compassion. •