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Meditation, Creativity, Busyness, Control, and Learning

Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Thomas Edison was one of the most creative and productive people that the world has ever known. Yet he never went to school. Why?

Children learn the mysteries of language and a multitude of other things before the age of five, on their own initiative. Why?

Almost everyone in America went through a traditional school system.  Yet if you ask the man on the street about current events, you will usually get a mindless answer. Why?

Every person, from the moment of conception is dealt a unique poker-hand-like personality that determines how and what he will learn, and the kind of social contribution that he will make, among other things.  And this works extremely well until the child gets into the traditional classroom.  At that point, the teacher says, in effect: "You will learn what I want you to learn, and do the many assignments that I give you, and if you don't, you're going to be in big trouble."

There are many problems here but three stand out: 1) People, and males in particular, absolutely detest being controlled.  In my twenty years of experience as a psychiatrist, patients have had three main complaints about parents and teachers: control, abuse, and neglect.  Students want to learn. They don't want to be controlled.

2) Abuse is extremely common in schools, particularly among men.  Almost every school has its bullies and scapegoats.  Teachers often have their favorites and their "bad" kids, who are targets of incessant humiliation.

3) Excessive assignments or "busywork" is extremely damaging to mindfulness.  Many students spend 70 hours or more per week on assignments.  In this kind of environment, the brain has no opportunity to integrate and process the complex array of data that it encounters, and the result is that the neural circuits become a tangled mess.

The essence of meditation is to sit quietly in a place where there is no distraction.  Do you know that most people cannot do this?  The reason is that under these conditions, they come face-to-face with the conflicts and disorganization that is in their minds, and become very uncomfortable.

Now, if they stuck it out, there would be a sense of confusion, which  would be even more uncomfortable, but in time this would clear, and there would be a deep inner peace.  But most people are unwilling to do this, and they are trapped in a rat-race of busyness.

Without question, the mind needs an environment without pressure, and time to peacefully reflect. Contrast this with the common practice of students losing sleep in order to study for exams.

We could say that Thomas Edison accomplished his great achievements in spite of the fact that he didn't go to school.  Or, we could say that not going through school gave him a big advantage.

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