Fear or Love: Meditation, Motivation and the Golden Tipping Point

Image result for love vs. fear

Dear students,

I frequently ask you to do spiritual practices in my religion classes and, regardless of the motive, most of you seem to benefit.  But in this entry, I’d like to turn the spotlight on the question of motivation and explore what our assumptions about doing these practices tell us about our entire approach to life. Continue reading

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Cultivating Heartfulness: A Practice to Develop Inner Awareness

Image result for heart coherenceDear Students,

Perhaps the most common truism taught about the spiritual life is the need to journey from the head to the heart. The ancient wisdom traditions of the world teach with one voice that we need to re-awaken the heart, but how do we do that?

Of course, we all have some sense that it is possible to slow down and act from the heart, but my experience at HKIS is that this happens only very temporarily, like when we share something with close family members or friends, or when we travel to do service in another country.*

So what to do? In this entry, I want to share with you a very practical exercise that will effectively move you into heart exploration – and train you to “go there” whenever you choose. I am drawing this practice almost entirely from Robert Sardello’s brilliant book Heartfulness, excerpts of which I have adapted for you in more easily understand prose. Continue reading

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Walking the Bodhisattva Path: Teaching Compassion on a China Orphanage Trip


What’s really real? Having brought hundreds of students to two nearby orphanages in southern China since 1995 with a plethora of memories – good news of adoption and connection along with tragic stories of separation and loss – I ask myself what really matters when one takes the long view? Continue reading

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Introducing the Wisdom Way of Teaching: Educating for Social Conscience and Inner Awakening in the High School Classroom

DSC_2828 This entry, written as an introduction for a future book, explores how the yin-yang symbol offers a model for the integration of service learning and spiritual practices in school curricula. Such an approach is needed to meet the deep needs of both the planet and of our students.

“The whole secret of the teacher’s force lies in the conviction that men are convertible, and they are. They want awakening, to get the soul out of bed, out of her habitual sleep.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Saving Starfish: In Search of Genuine Service in a Chinese Orphanage” by Andrea Sum


A picture of Andrea (on left) at Xiqiao Mountain during the China Orphanage Trip.


Every year in the Humanities I in Action class I take students to two nearby orphanages in southern China for an experience with taking care of children for a long weekend. For many students the trip dissolves the psychological boundary that they have built between their generally positive lives in Hong Kong and the suffering that occurs at the periphery of their consciousness – a disfigured beggar on a walkway in Central, breaking news stories with natural disaster scenes, disparaging commentary issuing from overhead TV monitors.

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The Benefits of Meditation Five Years On: A Personal Reflection

Richard and Suzanne Friedericks and myself traveled to Assisi, Italy five years ago to do a spiritual retreat with our teacher Cynthia Bourgeault. Looking back on that time, I can now recognize the significant turning point in my life that emerged at this propitious moment.


Five years ago during Easter vacation I was very sick and panicky. A recurrent stomach bug since mid-January had left my immune system in tatters and for the first time in my life, I wondered if maybe I would lead a short life. In desperation I googled “strengthen immune system” and, to my surprise, one of the top choices was meditation. “That does it,” I thought, “I’m doing this.” I was headed to Assisi, Italy for a retreat with my spiritual teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault, in three weeks’ time, and I had not embraced her spiritual practice of choice, a Christian form of meditation called Centering Prayer, despite having been thoroughly introduced to it by Father Basil Pennington in the mid-90’s. My health, my teachers, and Google were all in alignment. How could I refuse? Continue reading

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Flag Day Charity Fundraising: Student Entry into a Complex Psychosocial World

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 8.11.21 PM.pngIntroduction

We know that physiologically 14 year olds are just starting to wake up to their ability to exercise introspection. Students begin to view themselves and other self-reflexively, as they now are able to consider the inner psychologicalSCpedagogy.jpg reality and group sociological behavior of any situation. We place this emerging cognitive ability at the center of our pedagogical approach to Humanities I in Action where contemporary events are seen through psychological and sociological lenses, which then serve as evidence that they gather to make sense of the world, which we call a worldview, a working life philosophy.

Our first out-of-the-classroom activity in this course is deceptively simple. Students participate in a government-sanctioned method for fundraising called selling flags. Students carry a flag bag with them onto Hong Kong streets and solicit donations for a Hong Kong charity organization. A pair of hard-working students can raise $50 USD ($400 HK) in less than two hours. Multiple this by 50 pairs and our classes can make a significant donation to a Hong Kong charity with a small investment of time that, at the same time, serves our class purposes. Continue reading

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