The Wisdom School Model: Implications for a “Spiritual Explorations” Curriculum


“Wisdom Schools are a format for integral learning that’s based in some of the deepest kind of roots for transformation and change in the Christian tradition…It’s been a classic way that human beings have handed on Wisdom since time immemorial. The vision that human beings as we are not only can transform, not only can grow, but also have a different kind of consciousness that results in a different kind of presence in the world. Wisdom schools are about awakening the yearning for that presence and then developing the skills and the knowledge base to apply that, to transform your own life and the life of people around you.”

-Cynthia Bourgeault


HKIS is embarking on a bold educational experiment by creating a Wellness block for each student each year at the high school, consisting of classes in PE (body), counseling (mind), and religion (heart). The religion courses’ contribution to this effort is a 4-year curriculum called “Spiritual Explorations” (SPEX), 20 classes a year aimed to support the spiritual lives of students. In this blog, I’d like to sketch out the essentials of a Wisdom School and share implications from my retreat experience to further develop the SPEX curriculum. Continue reading

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Opening the Soul Cage

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Dear students,

What I would like you to hear, as you enter into a high school career that will challenge you in every way, is a universal message from the world’s Wisdom traditions about your true identity. Think of all the most positive qualities you enjoy – contentment, empathy, forgiveness, creativity, gratefulness, morality, unconditional love. These concepts are universally revered as among our most cherished values, and we associate them with Divine Reality as well as with the most cultivated traits of human beings.

The message from the world’s religions is that these things are your essence. What we most desire in God and what we most admire in others also lies at the heart who you are. Continue reading

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The Tao Becomes Flesh: Seeking Divinity in the Dark

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The “Christ Temple” at Tao Fung Shan retreat center.

Logos and the Light

Probably the most memorable passage from my youth about God, Jesus, and the nature of reality was from John 1:1-5, 14:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Image result for logos word made fleshWord was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….The Word came flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

Christmas scenes accompany these memories along with the glorious refrains of Handel’s Messiah, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed….And all flesh shall see it together.” Continue reading

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The Wisdom Way of Knowing and Teaching: Reflections on the Epistemological Foundations of the SPEX Curriculum

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A Collective Tea Ceremony Experience


A year ago a group of religion teachers at Image result for below waterlineHKIS began teaching a new series of courses called “Spiritual Explorations” (SPEX) at HKIS, which started with grade 9 students in January, 2018. In a previous entry, I shared the first unit of SPEX 9 on “waking up” to a spiritual life and  students’ positive responses. The SPEX pedagogy, I proposed, involved three defining characteristics, which I summarize below as context for this entry. The focus in this piece is to go “under the waterline” and speculate on the epistemological foundations of the SPEX curriculum, the deeper philosophical commitments of the SPEX teaching team’s approach to knowing itself. Continue reading

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A New “Good News” for Students: Best Books of 2018


Final class with my “Service, Society, and the Sacred” students as we shared our  stories of our growth throughout the semester.

“We worshipped Jesus instead of following him on his same path. We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God and everything else. This shift made us into a religion of “belonging and believing” instead of a religion of transformation.”

Richard Rohr

Dear Readers,

Whereas in past years (such as 2017 or 2016), it was not difficult for me to spot a specific spiritual highlight, it took me some time to identify this year’s big event, which was a slow dawning rather than a bolt from the blue. Upon further reflection, however, this year’s insight bubbled up. into my consciousness.

The realization is this: mainstream Christianity has got the wrong message for today’s students. Continue reading

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“Serving Others Includes Serving Myself:” Final SSS Reflection by Ana Gallagher

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The top picture is of Ana (left) and India (right) in grade 9 participating in a flag day to raise money for charity in “Humanities I in Action,” while the bottom picture comes three years later as the two girls do a conscious walking activity in “Service, Society, and the Sacred.”


It took me many years to understand the simple truth that Ana shares in this essay: to serve others effectively means taking care of yourself. This seemingly obvious point indicates a major blind spot in our educational systems – that students don’t truly understand how to take care of themselves. They become so outer focused that they lose all but a superficial sense of self-care. Continue reading

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“On Retreat with Three Wisdom Streams: Contemplating the Dao De Jing, the Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the Bhagavad Gita” by Marty Schmidt and Sangeeta Bansal

The first multi-day spiritual retreat with HKIS faculty in many years was held October 14-15, 2017 at Tao Fung Shan retreat center above Shatin.

Dear Teachers,

Welcome to a very special retreat, which will be held on Saturday-Sunday, January 26-27 at the Tao Fung Shan Christian Centre above Shatin. We are writing this background to the retreat to entice you to come as well as introduce you to the extremely rich content that will be offered. We will present the writings of three major religious traditions: the Taoist classic Dao De Jing; the writings of the early Christian desert fathers and mothers of the 4th and 5th century; and selected readings from the Hindu classic scripture the Bhagavad Gita. Both of us have recently read the Dao De Jing and found it to be the most accessible ancient wisdom text that we’ve ever read. Additionally, Marty found study of the Christian desert tradition to be totally eye-opening only a few years ago on a retreat in New Zealand, while the foundations of Sangeeta’s spiritual life – like many others from the Indian subcontinent – are found in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. To bring these rich traditions together for a weekend of study, discussion, practice, and quiet abiding is a privilege for us. Continue reading

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