As we travel the world and naturally discover so many new things from day-to-day, I am struck by the absurdity of what my kids are learning as part of their core curriculum. In a fast paced, ever-changing world, who cares whether or not you can simplify a polynomial expression? I’ve been asking that kind of question my whole life. Even though I liked grade 9 math and took comfort in the rigidity of rules and equations, the whole concept never really made sense to me. Even back then, when calculus was used as a filter to weed out applicants for University, I didn’t understand the point of learning unpractical subjects.

Nobody really needs to know higher level math for most parts of daily life. What we need to know, is how to manage stress. How to live a joyful life. By learning first, how to improve our lives, we might just have the enthusiasm to tackle a complex, math based subject.

It seems like we have lost sight of what is important in education, not just for children but for adults as well. We have a basic curriculum which has not changed in 100 years. Students progress along with others of the same age and pass markers throughout the year. They are not encouraged to engage in their learning but rather complete the prescribed outcomes along a linear path. Mastery is not necessary because that would mean customization. The institutions of learning are good at churning out students, who have all achieved the same thing.

I am good at complaining about this, but I don’t have a better solution. I have not taken the huge step of home schooling my children, which would allow quite a bit more flexibility in how the learning outcomes are met. I am not a teacher and I fully empathize with how difficult a job it must be to move 30 kids through your class block each semester. But why are more people, teachers, parents and students not challenging the status quo?

Back to the stress epidemic. This ugly problem is reaching into every part of society. All socioeconomic levels and across the age spectrum. Younger and younger children are being diagnosed and treated with pharmaceuticals for depression and anxiety disorders. The causes for this are varied, but one common problem seems to lead back to technology. Because of excessive use, we are not getting enough quality sleep. Our brains are not doing the clean-up which is essential in every 24 hour cycle. The knock-on effect of sleep deprivation spans the gamut of human health and wellness.

I think the place to tackle stress starts with wellness. Even though I have reduced my stress levels from the height of my suffering, just 2 years ago, I am still the same person, essentially. My habits, thoughts and patterns of daily living are pretty much as they were. If I want to re-enter society and function better than I did before, I need some new strategies. So, wellness it is.

In order to jump-start my wellness journey, I am taking the 21-day meditation experience with Oprah & Deepak. In this mini course, Deepak Chopra has identified 7 steps to radical wellbeing. If we break this down, radical is characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive. Wellbeing is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Who wouldn’t want this? There are no supplements, drugs or extra special treatments I need. Every tool required, I already possess.

I’m going to be reporting on all 7 steps as I go along and creating video segments to highlight my learning. Follow along here by joining this blog and subscribing to my youtube channel. This is going to be an interesting experiment for me because I need to incorporate this into my life as we travel. Just like anyone else who has an established routine. I have to fit it in. I’m not sitting here with a blank slate of time I can just pencil in all sorts of new daily activities.

Here are my thoughts before I begin. Will be interesting to see the progression as I learn new habits on this 21-day journey. I am already profoundly impressed with the scope of the material to be covered in the course.

  1. Change your perceptions of your body and aging. Deepak warns, “Begin to notice both your internal dialogue and how you speak about your body and aging.” As well, a striking statement he makes regarding the very physical structure of your body, “Keep in mind that your cells are eavesdropping on what you say.” It was not long ago that nobody would have believed you have any control of how your body ages. In fact, there may still be many people who don’t buy into this concept, despite the growing body of research, proving efficacy. (The Shamatha Project shows that by protecting caps called telomeres on the ends of our chromosomes, meditation might help to delay the process of ageing.)
  2. Manage your stress with meditation. Deepak cites that according to research, “people who meditate regularly develop less hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, and other stress-related illnesses that speed up aging. Furthermore, new studies are finding that meditation literally restores the brain.” (Mass. General study – mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks)
  3. Get abundant restful sleep. You would think this should be the easiest thing a person could do. We all learned the importance of getting a good night’s sleep when we were children. At least we did in my home. And I practiced this when my babies were newborn. Job number one was to get kids sleeping. But, is it restful? Evidently, if you need an alarm clock to wake in the morning, you may not be getting enough, restful sleep. The cognitive effects of poor sleep are a health epidemic in and of itself.
  4. Nurture your body with healthy food. Deepak makes a simple statement – “There are ‘dead’ foods that accelerate aging and entropy and others that renew and revitalize the body. Foods to eliminate or minimize include items that are canned, frozen, microwaved, or highly processed. Focus on eating a variety of fresh and freshly prepared food.” Unfortunately, the standard American diet is tipped way too far towards the ‘dead’ foods. Typical grocery stores are filled with foods designed to be more convenient. While that may be true, you cannot improve on the basic, whole foods which are simply prepared.
  5. Move your body everyday. It is not a new concept that physical exercise is good for your body. What is a more recent discover is the connection to the brain. “In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Harvard University professor John Ratey, M.D. describes how physical activity sparks biological changes that increases the brain’s ability to learn, adapt, and perform other cognitive tasks.”
  6. Cultivate loving relationships. This seems like a no-brainer as well. Who doesn’t know how do this? Surprisingly, it is not as easy as it seems and people are suffering for not prioritizing this aspect of their lives. Having many friends on social media does not produce the same result for the brain. Connections with other people need to be lived IN REAL LIFE.
  7. Maintain a youthful mind. “Children offer the finest expressions of openness and flexibility. They play and laugh freely, and find wonder in the smallest things. They are infinitely creative because they haven’t yet built up the layers of conditioning that create limitations and restrictions.” Oh to be a kid again. For me, I also think this is the well of our creativity. Without a youthful mind, we have too many blinders on. We have closed off too many doors of opportunity.

If you are so inclined, join these 21-days! There is no downside. There are no bad habits to be picked up by accident here. Only potential upside. I also believe much of the ideas expressed here are pretty much common sense. The only new idea to my Western based upbringing is the practice of meditation. But as we know from history, that is not a new practice at all.

Enjoy! Namaste.

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