“Dealing with the Accuser: Befriending Your Inner Critic” by Sangeeta Bansal and Marty Schmidt

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All of us have inner voices that direct critique towards ourselves, which when well-managed can serve us well. However, for many students these voices become far too powerful, leaving them with low self-regard. In this blog entry guest writer Sangeeta Bansal and myself address this issue for students and teachers.*
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“The Global Field of Love:” Celebrating Jasmine and Ashwin’s Wedding in Burma

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 1.01.49 PMIntroduction

In 2004 a young student from Hong Kong local schools named Jasmine Lau signed up for Humanities I in Action; the course, as she said to myself and her teacher Ms. Talbot last week at her wedding, was “life-changing.” The “in Action” class and her subsequent experiences impacted the trajectory of Jasmine’s life in significant ways. Several years later she along with some of her HKIS friends helped to start a girls scholarship program with an NGO called CWEF that has sponsored more than 450 girls in southern China to gain a high school education, and is still running to this day. After graduating from college, Jasmine established her own NGO in Beijing that she still directs called “Philanthropy in Motion” (PIM). In 2015 HKIS awarded her the Alumna of the Year Award, and in 2016 Forbes named her as a young social entrepreneur to watch. (Hit here to  see a very fine video Jasmine made about the girls scholarship program in 2007 – and see her as a high school student, too!) Continue reading

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“Self-Discovery: Becoming a Healthier Me” by Ali Taha Brown


Ali breaks through a tackle on the HKIS rugby pitch in a match against International School of Beijing during APAC in October.


The final papers from this past semester’s “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class produced a bumper crop of self-reflective pieces. First, I shared Sandra’s recovery of her Larger Self through re-discovering her innate love of service and spirituality. Second, Sharon explained how she was able to discover the nearly unheard virtue of letting go – and how this new attitude dramatically shifted her experience of the first half of her senior year. And now we come to Ali, who shares in this essay that he not only found out more about his personal identity – the fundamental task of adolescence – but also how to support this new self-understanding through a better diet and spiritual practices. All of these essays suggest that so many of what are considered unavoidable and intractable adolescent struggles can be significantly improved with relatively simple life choices over a period of several months. Please enjoy Ali’s essay! Continue reading

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Presence and Plant Intelligence: Best Books of 2017


Finding my first Buhner book in Dublin in July, a celebratory moment!


If last year’s highlight was easy to identify – studying the Enneagram in London – then IMG_20170625_084019297_HDRthis year’s epiphany was equally obvious, coming during summer holidays on a remote snip of Scottish land called Holy Isle. In the middle of a weeklong retreat with my teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, the gardener of the Tibetan Buddhist center, Sarah, brought me an excerpt of the writings of Stephen Buhner on plant intelligence. I was so struck by something in the writing style that when I arrived in Dublin several days later, heavy luggage in tow, I made an unconscious beeline for the nearest bookstore and was fortunate enough – and mildly ecstatic – to find a copy of his Secret Teachings of Plants, which I devoured in the subsequent hours and days. Sarah’s tip set me on an unprecedented reading tear, inwardly digesting three of Stephen’s sizable books during the summer and another two in the fall. Continue reading

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“Holding Onto Letting Go” by Sharon Kim

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Sharon Kim – in center in blue track pants and white top in a “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class photo – reflects in this essay on her experience with two forms of spiritual practices that taught her how to let go in the midst of a full-on high school career and how that dramatically changed her experience of the first semester of her senior year.

“All great spirituality is about letting go. I say this as an absolute statement.”

-Richard Rohr, September 1st, 2016


The biggest challenge that HKIS students face, like elite students everywhere, is the wall-Related imageto-wall, 24-7 feelings of stress that they report regularly in conversations. Rather than dismissing their concerns as “first world problems” or reminding them that their array of opportunities are so far greater than anything we experienced in our formative years, I think it’s better to listen with a compassionate ear to their concerns and experiment with solutions.

Sharon’s final essay in my “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class represents just such an experiment in relieving stress. According to the Wisdom Tradition, our working philosophy in the class, the real reason that students are suffering is that they themselves are imbalanced. Rather than attendingScreen Shot 2017-12-19 at 9.17.11 PM.png to their bodies, minds, and hearts as an integrated whole, educational systems – in imitation of the larger cultural milieu – value the mind’s academic achievement above all else. They then try to seek for what they really want – peace and security – through the mind’s relentless striving towards and worry about various markers of success: SAT scores, GPA, exam results, and college acceptances. Continue reading

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“Compassion for Others and Compassion for Myself: The Long Journey to Finding Me Again” by Sandra Wellins


“Compassion for others and compassion for myself became the new foundation for my self-healing.”


I have just completed another semester of “Service, Society, and the Sacred,*” a senior religion elective at HKIS that is designed to help students find inner direction – to gain greater self-understanding and imagine how they might want to apply their gifts and talents to the world. The student essays and sharing on the last day of class again overwhelmingly affirmed that the body-mind-heart framework that has become the underlying course structure is what students need as they seek direction in life. Continue reading

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Introducing Spiritual Practices for Spiritual Explorations Class

IMG_20170707_153112089Dear Students,

We are very excited to bring to you our new Spiritual Explorations SPEX Logo E.png(SPEX) course! At the heart of this new curriculum is an experience-based approach in which you will be regularly engaging in spiritual practices. This teaching strategy emerges out of a belief taught by religions across the world that spiritual development best occurs as practitioners explore and integrate the intelligences of their bodies, minds, and hearts. With the help of mindfulness teacher Sangeeta Bansal, our teaching team has created the following list of practices that you will be exploring during the course.

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