“I Can! You Can! We Can!” Empowering Young Women at CWEF Summer Camp

IMG_1292The 10th annual CWEF and Ember Summer English and Leadership camp was held in Deqing, China from July 8-10, in which volunteers from Hong Kong worked with girls scholarship winners to strengthen their English skills and engage in empowerment activities. This is our group picture moments before we said our goodbyes after a meaningful and memorable weekend together.  Continue reading

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Burn Your Mandala: Letting Go in a Culture of Achievement

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The shadow side of high-achieving educational systems is its demoralizing and even debilitating levels of stress upon students. The Buddhist spiritual practice of creating beautiful works of art called mandalas and then destroying them when they are completed offers schools a counterintuitive metaphor for dealing with the increasing sense of competition evident in our educational systems. This mandala-making process of creating and then ultimately destroying a cherished achievement models an insight schools need to help students become both productive and balanced. (See this SCMP video on the construction and meaning of the mandala by Bhutanese monks visiting Hong Kong’s Asia Society in May.) Continue reading

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“From Whirlwind to Wisdom”: Baccalaureate Speech to Class of 2016


Graduating senior Brent Hensley and myself prepping for the baccalaureate service on June 5, which began graduation week.

Welcome to graduation week, it’s my pleasure to share a few thoughts tonight as you prepare you to go through this major rite of passage – bringing closure to your high school career and beginning your next step in life.

Just last Monday we were all sitting in the gym and Josh Levy was summarizing the 2015-2016 year in what he called a “whirlwind” of activities. We have our own HKIS code language for the whirlwind: formatives and summatives, IFs, APs, SATs, GPAs squeezing in the occasional DMCs – thanks to last year’s interim cluing me in on that one. That’s just a brief reminder of the whirlwind.

But this week, seniors, will be like no other at HKIS. The usual whirlwind has been quelled . . . and what will take its place? My wish for you this week is that you can exchange the usual whirlwind for a bit of wisdom. Continue reading

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Teaching for Self-Transcendence: Spiritual Practices in the World Religions Classroom

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A spiritual practices project has become the centerpiece of my  9th grade World Religions curriculum. Students can choose any spiritual practice, such as meditation which resulted in the dreamy image of rebirth above, to help themselves grow. This entry shares my approach to teaching the course, the role of this project in the curriculum, and 14 examples of student projects. 


Over the last five years as I’ve taught World Religions at Hong Kong International School, I’ve continued to weigh the most fundamental questions about this area of study: what is the purpose of religion and how do I teach toward that purpose?

I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that, in the midst of a society that trains us to be separate, autonomous individuals, the purpose of religion, which literally means to “reconnect,” is to offer followers self-transcendence, uniting a lower, self-protective self with a more generous, outward-focused Larger Self. Continue reading

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Teaching Consciousness of the Body: Two Practitioners in Dialogue

DSC_3799In contemporary culture which overemphasizes the mind’s ability to accomplish and achieve, most students consider paying attention to the body for the purpose of “being” an unexplored strategy for stress reduction. In this dialogue Marty Schmidt and Sangeeta Bansal, both teachers of mindfulness practices, discuss the importance of the body in their teaching and how they lead their students towards greater body consciousness.

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“I Feel Myself Radiate with Life:” One Student’s Journey of Awakening through Holistic Education Courses

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“We have gone neither deep nor broad. We have emphasized neither solitude nor solidarity as essential to the spiritual journey. In fact, most of us are afraid of both and given little concrete training in either.”

– Richard Rohr in the forward to Solitude and Compassion: The Path to the Heart of the Gospel by Gus Gordon, p. 1. 


My educational philosophy finally settled a few years ago on a yin-yang approach. The yang, which comes first, is the opening of students’ eyes to the suffering of the world, and realizing that as part of an interconnected world, it is one’s responsibility to relieve the suffering of others. Compassionate action is the goal of our grade 9 Humanities I in Action curriculum.

Not long after completing my doctorate in this course curriculum, I was struck by the sharing of one of my students, Jaclyn, at a high school assembly where she reflected that while she was trying to save the world in Humanities I in Action, at home she was unloving towards her own grandfather who later passed away. This is when I realized that I needed to teach the yin of inner awakening as intentionally as the yang of social conscience. Continue reading

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The Role of Inner Awakening in Compassionate Action: The Worldview of Wisdom Teacher Cynthia Bourgeault


“In my own efforts to live the gospel I have found that it is virtually impossible to reach and sustain that level of ‘perfect love’ without a practice of contemplative prayer . . .. Ordinary awareness always eventually betrays itself and returns to its usual postures of self-defense and self-justification . . .. Only from the level of spiritual awareness do you see and trust that all is held in the divine Mercy . . .. You can begin to reach out to the world with the same wonderful, generous vulnerability that we see in Christ.”

– Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, 17.


My teaching career has focused much of its energy on helping students to develop compassionate action in society: encouraging our school community to see beyond its primary achievement orientation and care for others. However, for all the growth of social conscience education at our school, there has always been a persistent ache within me. In the form of a question, the ache asked: what is the role of the inner life in developing compassionate action? I kept waiting for “Sojourners,” the inspiring Christian social justice magazine, to write as in-depth about the interior journey as they did about social issues, but they never did. This was the ache. Continue reading

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