“Education 5.0”: Introducing Meditation into Universities and Schools
– Report on an ongoing experiment at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany
University Education in the digitized Society
Our liberal society has universities as places of social reflection and production of innovations. They are places of knowledge transfer and knowledge generation. But they are also the place where personal development is concerned. Especially the last point must be given a stronger weight in the face of today’s digitization.
Two reasons suggest this: Firstly, the half-life period of knowledge is increasingly lowered, and the greatest reliability is therefore in the competencies of one’s own person. Universities need to enable students to quickly acquire new knowledge. The basis for this is a sound basic education on which everything else can build. The second reason is our extremely fast-paced, increasingly digitized society in the context of an economy that is primarily concerned with generating attention.
Therefore, we must think abouta reasonable development of universities as educational places. What must be the elements of pedagogy in the age of digitization? Today young people do not need digitization skills alone, but more conscious mind and body training, more philosophical, exploratory thinking, more creativity, entrepreneurship and openness to new things, and finally the ability to think complex and intelligent. Only relying on technical skills that make digital devices work even better will put humans offside in the long term.
Education must thus give an answer to the present state of digitization of our society and our industry as well (which is called “Industry 4.0”). We therefore named this education approach “Education 5.0”. It is essential to see our students as holistic personalities, and to strengthen this personality. They shall be able to cope with the contents and necessities of their studies, which are one the one hand getting more and more complex, and on the other hand more and more narrow as a specialized subject of study. They shall learn not to get trapped by the new media but to handle them wisely. Ultimately, this education project is no more and no less than the reinvention of humanity under the conditions of a digital society.
Development of Personality by Meditation
Not only because of the author’s own meditation practice over more than three decades, but – above all – because of the deep teachings of “Social Buddhism” and the personal guiding through his Enlightened Buddhist Master, Supreme Matriarch Ji Kwang Dae Poep Sa Nim, which he could attend continuously in the Lotus Buddhist Monastery in Hawaii, the methods and goals of developing the students’ personalities were quite clear for him.
In all meditation exercises, both the body and the mind are involved, which are brought to harmony and unity. In the lessons with our university students we offer a wide range of different forms of meditation. In addition to the classic silent sitting, there is walking meditation, meditation with sounds, mantra recitation and mantra singing, as well as physical exercises (Ki Song).
Across all forms of meditation the goals and effects are more or less the same. The “short-term goals” which are mostly seen by the university students and which are the focus of many meditation offerings, are the physical and psycho-hygienic effects that are obvious: stress reduction, greater relaxation, more calmness and serenity, greater ability to concentrate, more physical stability and a stable health. Already these positive effects on body and mind would be reason enough to introduce meditation in the university.
A further and even more important goal are the direct changes that we can achieve in meditation in our mind, through which we get a new, changed access to our own thinking and perception. Meditation can change our mind. “Behind” thinking and perceiving is the gradually unfolding wide and “empty” mind. We learn to see that our “self” is not identical with our thoughts and perceptions that continuously appear in our everyday consciousness. This reduces all fears that this ego may be threatened or not able to meet one’s requirements. Exam fears are thus diminished, for example.
We notice that we are not helplessly exposed to all these “objects” of consciousness (and especially our often negative thoughts!), but we can influence and control them. Instead of floating in the unconscious stream of our thoughts, we become aware of our mental activity. Before we were dependent on what emerges as an object in our consciousness by identifying with it, but in the process of meditation we gradually gain mental autonomy. We see that alternatives to our thoughts and ideas are possible. The result is a more conscious way of dealing with thoughts, as the mind can now see what he has not been able to see before. We thus become masters of our mind.
Through meditation, intuition and creativity can be systematically cultivated by expanding our mind space. A more creative use of our knowledge is exactly what we need for our future in an increasingly complex society. There is not always only one answer to a question, but many possible ones (“divergent thinking”). The point is to open up this space of possibility, so as not to exclude solutions to problems. Nothing is more necessary today, especially in education and science, to promote intuition and creativity in order to find new ideas and solutions to unsolved problems. We urgently need more than one solution to every problem, and a lot of new solutions!
Social skills such as listening to others or the ability to work in teams are noticeably strengthened through meditation. Our empathy is growing. We recognize that others are like us. Our ability to navigate in the increasingly complex structures of today’s society is strengthened. As an effect of meditative training, we develop new competencies and new skills. We see that the results of our work are getting better and better. Acting in the society under highly complex conditions will be easier and clearer for each of us.
Personality development is thus the open process, which is initiated and deepened in meditation and related self-reflection. In other words, it is about changing the image that we have of ourselves. Even more, body and mind are directly changing to a more relaxed, healthy state.
Thus, personality development becomes an active formation, a shaping of our self. We realize that a stable, mature, alive self is just one without a fixed “core”. The “self” is its own process, in which it is always recreated. We see and feel our great own power to influence and change what seemed to be fixed structures in us and outside of us.
Our University Project
Pursuing this vision of directly improving the personal conditions of education for our students by introducing meditation practice, we started the project “Personality, Reflection and Society” in our university, which is in the summer of 2019 in its fifth semester. Already from the program’s name its aim becomes apparent: to help the students to develop as independent and self-responsible personalities and, on the other hand, changing the conditions of the society’s education system. “Reflection” is both the link between the two poles (individuals and society), and also the process that takes place in the consciousness of the individual. On the one hand we refer to reflection in the classical sense of thinking about something, especially the important rational analysis and evaluation of one’s mediation experiences and, discursively, those of the other students in the group. On the other hand, reflection means observing and changing the processes of our everyday thinking, feeling and acting, with all their context conditions. Meditation, combined with self-reflection and philosophy, thus seem to be the key elements to cope with the challenges of studying in a highly complex society under conditions of universal digitization.
The main elements of our project are up to now:
– Courses for students in our General Studies Program with theoretical inputs and meditation practice boxes. These courses are something like a research lab for the students who get information from their teachers (three of us at the moment), can practice meditation, work together in working groups, and reflect on all by writing diaries about their progress and difficulties. This is the core of our project. Every semester groups of 35 -40 students from all faculties take part in those courses.
– Furthermore, we offer free meditation courses for all students and for our professors and employees.
– There is an intense networking with other universities (3 at the moment) in order to build up cooperation in research and planning courses together.
– The publication of our first book beginning of 2019:
Frank E.P. Dievernich / Gerd-Dietrich Döben-Henisch / Reiner Frey “Education 5.0: Science, Universities and Meditation. The Self-Project” (published in German language: “Bildung 5.0: Wissenschaft, Hochschulen und Meditation. Das Selbstprojekt”, Verlag Beltz-Juventa 2019)1
– We plan to strengthen our research project shortly and will establish a Scientific Center “Education and Personality Development” at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. We really have to work out a scientific approach to meditation and to translate the traditional “languages” of spirituality into the modern language of science. And even beyond that, as the author’s Buddhist Master Ji Kwang Dae Poep Sa Nim says, “Actually meditation is a science and is scientific in essence.”
– A first congress “Meditation and the Future of Education” took place in October 2018; a second congress will be held on October 25, 2019 about the issue “Spirituality and Science” (in German language):
In spite of all these promising new approaches we know that we are just at the beginning and it still will take a long process until the meditation experiment will reach all universities and students nationwide and all over Europe. It is also clear to us that in the development of a child it is much too late to start this offer in the university; we therefore also want to support all those efforts to introduce meditation already in kindergartens and schools in order to support the forming of a strong, free and clear personality from an early age. Thus “Education 5.0”, as we have called our answer to the stage of digitization by developing a new consciousness, can be a project to revolve our entire education.
About the author:
As a lawyer Reiner Frey has been for 23 years Chancellor of the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. Parallel to this “first job” he can look back on almost 35 years of meditation practice. He is a close student and Head Disciple of the Great Buddhist Energy Master Ji Kwang Dae Poep Sa Nim, Supreme Matriarch of the Yun Hwa Denomination of World Social Buddhism.