This post may sound like a double entendre, it is though inspired by Michael Howard again. Michael is the keynote speaker at a conference at Cai’s school and is also staying with us, so we have been having conversations and my mind is particularly active at the moment. One of the things that I have come to recognize in the last few days is that most of the acts I am particularly proud of I have been led to intuitively rather than thought my way into them. The choice of Cai’s school is a good example, deciding to send Cai to a Waldorf school was first inspired by an emotional response to a school I witnessed in my late teens. When we were looking at where to send Cai, we went to a May Fair at the Anchorage Waldorf School and our decision was based on how Kim and I felt there and how Cai appeared to feel. My knowledge of Rudolph Steiner back then was based on having hung out with some hippies who were into Biodynamic farming. One night I watched in incredulous amusement while they buried a bull’s horn full of urine in dirt and proceeded to have a full moon party where they danced around said buried horn. The thing was, while I did not feel comfortable with their approach or rituals, I did enjoy the huge and highly tasty vegetables they produced by pouring this fertilizer on their plants, I was still not prepared to read Steiner’s books though.
Likewise the next step of my Waldorf journey was watching a sculptor call David Nash create something incredible at a residential center where I worked. “Portal of light” was a huge dying tree, that had its crown cut off and all but one of its limbs removed. This limb was trimmed and then sectioned off with a chain saw, also the trunk around the limb was cut through so that light was visible through it and it look like the limb was floating.
Nash was part of a cooperative that started the Waldorf school I had originally seen and his sculpture now makes me think of Steiner because Nash can see something within a tree that I can not and when he exposes it the results are incredible. Likewise, Steiner was able to see things within children and the techniques he collected and shared with teachers are similarly impressive because they bring out the “wonder” from within children.
If I had stopped to read Steiner’s work before having felt on a number of occasions the results I now witness on a daily basis, I know that Cai would not be at a Waldorf school. I was just not ready for Steiner’s brand of esoteric mysticism.
So why am I writing about all this? In the last post I talked of how freedom of will requires us to navigate the stream of thoughts that are constantly flowing and this requires us to use meditative practices to develop our skills and understanding (Steiner shared a few different ones designed to develop different capacities of will). Michael Howard in his book discusses the difference between thinking-will (head and hand coordination) and feeling-will (head, hand & heart coordination). He clearly states that the intentional development of both types of will in children needs to become the major purpose of education however he in particular focuses on how we can develop feeling-will because this is the piece that is most often lacking. Howard goes farther and suggests that “the defining characteristic of feeling-will is the capacity to live deeply into the inner quality of something outside us, knowing and feeling it as if we are within it or it is within us.”
Now this has got me thinking if I have used my feeling-will to create the decisions I am proud of how can I develop it in others as an outdoor educator? How can I lead my trainees towards this beacon as someone who develops a corporate culture?
Next time around I will share some of Michael’s techniques for developing feeling-will. You can always read his book. Until then, has thinking or feeling provided your best results?