How to Foster a Spiritual Atmosphere in your group of 4 to 12 year olds

Workshop given by Yolanda Koning at the
Den Bosch Teacher Training
Notes by Didi Anandarama

What is a spiritual atmosphere?

A spiritual atmosphere is conducive to relaxation, concentration and higher thought processes. It can be created in a classroom intentionally but first we need to know what we would like to experience in it. The following ideas were developed with the participants in the workshop:

A spiritual atmosphere is peaceful, calm, quiet and soothing. It is an environment which is orderly, sentient, open and light. One feels safe, secure, fearless and quite different from how one feels in a usual classroom atmosphere. There is a lovely universal family-feeling where one can feel unity and oneness with all. Everyone is respectful, tender and charming to each other. There can be spontaneous fun and a fluid flow and exchange of love and heart. The atmosphere can be musical, energizing and changing with new inspiration. The result of being in such an atmosphere for a while is to feel awesome, blissful, sweet, joyful, radiant, powerful and refreshed – a truly fantastic spiritual experience.

How can the teacher prepare such an atmosphere?

The teacher first has to see that the physical environment is conducive. There must be fresh air, the right temperature, the right colours which are not too strong. It needs to be tidy and clean with a neutral but pleasant scent and the right music in the background. The teacher should have well-prepared materials to be used which are engaging, challenging, fun and demanding of skill development.

Before entering the classroom the teachers must leave their ‘baggage’ behind, take a moment to center and enter in a balanced mood. There is almost a ritualistic rhythm of welcoming the students, keeping a repeated flow of activities along the ground rules made together with the children in the beginning. The repeated activities can be circle time, singing together, storytelling, sharing in a circle, pair work or group activity. There can be a buddy system and other practices that foster respect, interaction, collective consciousness and thinking for collective welfare.

The teacher needs to have a clear overview of expected outcomes, enough staff to help, and be ready to adjust on a creative impulse from the students. The teacher needs to be very flexible and stimulating and looking for cues of students’ active participation because that ensures the highest benefit for the students. The teacher needs to be centered, self-confident, clear, wise and lavish in support, encouraging, reinforcing positive thinking and praising. The teacher must also be silent and easily withdrawn into the witnessing nucleus of the group when not needed.

The teacher needs to gives space to the children, be receptive to their words, ideas and creativity and guide them to be self-aware, without judgment and with an open heart.

While working unpredictable things can happen. What can the teacher do? The teacher needs to be well prepared. She also needs to be aware to guide relationships between children and to be an example in being courageous and responsible, asking for forgiveness if she/he made a mistake. The teacher needs to keep cool, keep voice low, smile and control facial expression and body language. The teacher needs to reflect on the unpredictable events that happen and process them together with the children to draw a lesson from and then move on. Usually after a good reflection things can go back to normal and pick up again to heighten the spiritual atmosphere in the class.