Shadow play: mindfulness and reflection in Waldorf education

Leigh Burrows

Abstract


A relational approach to practice and inquiry requires us to be
intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and bodily engaged,
with receptivity, openness, sensitivity, flexibility and
a true willingness to listen, see and understand.
(Finlay & Evans, 2009, p109)

You must have shadow and light source both.
Rumi in Barks (2010, p109)

Abstract. This paper reports on research conducted with 25 teachers and leaders from eight Waldorf schools in Australia that explored their experience of mindfulness and reflection in relation to a self-identified relational dilemma with a student, colleague or parent that was causing them concern at work. The aim was to see if the practices assisted in shining a light on difficult encounters and create more positive school communities. The study found that the participants experienced mindfulness practice and journaling as personally and professionally empowering and in some cases, liberating. In the majority of cases by the end of the six-week project the dilemma was no longer experienced as a dilemma or their relationship to it had altered. Analysis of the dilemmas showed that their root causes were a blend of personal, interpersonal and structural/institutional factors. It is suggested that more research is needed to explore the potential of mindfulness and reflection to contribute to more sustained personal, professional and institutional renewal in Waldorf education.
 
Keywords: Steiner/Waldorf education, relationships, school communities, teachers, adult learning.

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