The spiritual domain is considered the elixir that breathes life into the other developmental domains, such as the cognitive, social, and physical domains. The morning centering ritual awakens the spiritual center, opening pathways to learning.
Centering is a whole class activity than has an opening and closing ritual with an activity in the middle. It includes mindfulness, but extends into other aspects of contemplative and spiritual learning with experiences that can integrate with the academic curriculum, social/emotional learning, creativity, kinesthetics, and students’ connection to the natural world. Once learning the basic formula for centering, the variety of activities the teacher may incorporate into centering is endless.
Centering has three main purposes.
The first purpose is internal — to help each student “center” themselves. After the hubbub of transitioning to school, centering provides a sense of wellbeing, and helps each student to mindfully become present, grounded, and in touch with their inner life and authentic selves. After centering, students are able to focus and ready to learn.
The second purpose is external — the content of centering. The versatile nature of centering means it can be used to teach a wide variety of objectives. Centering is an opportune time of day to learn character lessons in an authentic and memorable manner such a sharing an ancient story with a moral; or to delve deeper into academic understanding, perhaps by considering existential questions related to a topic, or maybe to visualize a time in history. Of course, it also provides a time and space to learn contemplative material and techniques. Once a teacher becomes comfortable with the format of centering, she will become adept at integrating it with classroom educational goals and needs.
The third purpose is magical — to create class coherence. Centering creates an opportunity for an open mind, open heart, and open will (Scharmer, 2009) among classmates. When such openness is experienced synchronically, the potential for transformative learning is palpable. A deep respect for one another develops, creating a collaborative and compassionate culture. The class embodies a connected “rhythm” –the class begins to feel as if it has group biorhythms and a unifying field. Non-rational ways of knowing and being become accessible and acceptable, and this “whole person learning” (Yorks and Kasl, 2002) makes learning easier and more enjoyable. It is important to note that the closing ritual typically includes an opportunity for reflection, which deepens the learning.
Centering in Omega is led by the teachers three times a week in the 7th and 8th grades and expected to be led by students the rest of the week. The middle school students are the role models of mindfulness throughout our campus and will practice Centering activities with younger grades. Typically, students write the chosen quote for the day in their journals and then verbalize how this quote relates to their life. This is a very powerful experience to hear peers open up and expand upon a theme from their life’s experiences. Thought-provoking topics are cultivated in this setting and great wisdom is shared openly.