“Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” — Ron Miller, Pioneer in Holistic Education
Our program starts with the mental wellness of the students. Proper sleep, gut health, purpose, silent reflection, community and connection, play and movement, boundaries and discomfort and adversity prepare and inspire us for lifelong learning. The remote location allows participants to reset their internal clocks and adjust to the natural circadian rhythms. We have about 13 hours of sunlight a day year-round. We spend almost a third of our life sleeping, so we will put extra love into the accommodations, creating a sacred space with comfortable mattresses, pillows and sheets and many little artistic touches to honor the space where we rest and dream.
Although the curriculum is for adults, we utilize some of the methodologies from Waldorf and Montessori schools in the program design, de-emphasizing the use of text books. Emphasis is on learning by doing and providing hands-on projects and opportunities with an integrated curriculum design focused on thematic structure. The goals of holistic learning are understanding and action as opposed to rote memorization. We will emphasize listening and retaining information without the presence of a phone, recording device or internet search engine. These methodologies promote collaboration instead of competition, crucial when it comes to building a community, which is one of the goals of Harmonia. Indigenous tribes and cultures taught people about the great adventure of being human – trials and tribulations, the challenges, and the enormous possibilities for human goodness and even greatness.
Unfortunately, many public schools encourage competitive conformity wherein learning becomes a necessary chore, driven by competition, rewards and punishments and too often the subjects are devoid of direct meaning in student’s lives. Human resilience has been pushed aside to teach children to see themselves perpetual victims of a ruthless humanity and to judge those who do not conform to political correctness. Popular culture reinforces this dystopian vision. We have few examples of healthy relationships, positive conflict resolution and two-way communication. If we want to make Harmonia a holistic experience, we have to address social and emotional development, healthy relationships and human resilience.
Ancient wisdom for the modern world
The spiritual practices of many ancient indigenous tribal cultures throughout the world center on the alignment of the Earth and Nature. The personal, social and ecological are interwoven. “Health” is the state in which everything is in balance.
Harmonia was created to share ways of living in balance with the Earth, incorporating ancient wisdom into the modern world. Our purpose is to expose people to the beauty of Nature and the interconnectedness of all living systems, inspiring and empowering us to be caretakers of this magnificent planetary creation as co-creators of a culture that honors, protects and restores the vibrancy and health of ourselves and the planet.
The Medicine Wheel, also referred to as the Sacred Hoop, is found in many native cultures throughout the world, representing the concept that everything in the universe is interrelated. Human beings and all things which exist in their environment are connected in one continuous process of growth and development.
The wheel has four quadrants, balanced to represent the Four Directions (east, south, west, north); Stages of Life (birth, youth, adult/elder, death); Seasons (spring, summer, winter, fall); Aspects of Life (spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical); and Elements (fire/sun, air, water, earth). In some traditions, animal totems serve as guardians of the direction and/or elements.
The Medicine Wheel is the foundation of Harmonia – our connection to the Earth and our connection to each other. We create harmony and balance when we attend to the whole.
The medicine wheel approach allows for a holistic understanding of dynamic relationships (permaculture) to create a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with the Earth. Utilized in the curriculum design, wisdom is achieved through holistic learning using all the senses in multiple modalities in a natural environment. The gifts of the directions (vision, time, reason, movement) and the actions of those gifts (see it, relate to it, figure it out, do it) are the basis of the learning process (awareness, understanding, knowledge, wisdom) and personal development (spiritual, physical, mental and emotional).
In a beekeeping course we might incorporate the medicine wheel by teaching:
The role of bees as pollinators, historic uses of honey, effects of environmental contamination on bee colonies and the need to take a more active role in protecting bee colonies (vision, awareness, see it);
The anatomy, stages of development and life cycle of the bee, castes, development of the comb, relationship in the food chain (time, understanding, relate to it); The relationship and effects of the elements on colonies, reproduction and honey production (water, fire/heat/sun, earth, and wind);
Top-bar hive, vertical stackable frame hive, flow hive, protective clothing, smoker, natural/backyard/indoor beekeeping, diseases and parasites, swarming and supersedure (knowledge, reason, figure it out);
Building and/or relocating hives, honey collection, sharing knowledge (movement, wisdom, do it). As part of the personal development aspect (spiritual, physical, mental and emotional), students will make an offering and meditate in the presence of bees, walk through fields of flowers to observe and record bee patterns and habitats and work, design bee gardens and sow flower seeds to attract more bees, and engage in dialogue around theses issues, prompting the student to take positive action.
All truth can be found in Nature
“My profession is always to be alert, to find God in nature, to know God’s lurking places, to attend to all the oratorios and the operas in nature.” —Henry David Thoreau
The present ecological crisis has become more than a cause; it opens space for a spiritual awakening. Eco-spirituality is a manifestation of the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment, connecting the science of ecology with spirituality, promoting conservation efforts, and inspiring environmental activism. Exposure to the beauty and perfect ecological balance of Nature and the interconnectedness of all living systems empowers us to be caretakers of this magnificent planetary creation, co-creating a culture that honors, protects, restores and replenishes the vibrancy and health of ourselves and our Earth.
Ancient indigenous spiritual practices center on alignment with the Earth and Nature. Tapping into the wisdom of our ancient ancestors and the traditions that kept them aligned with the Earth, we can reconnect with the Earth and begin to share in the joy and interconnectivity of life. There is increased interest in indigenous and Native American teachings along with more people who are searching for wisdom, natural living, and natural medicine. Part of living in respectful relationship with one another involves seeking to understand Indigenous spirituality. We will invite elders, teachers, tribal leaders and medicine men and women from around the world to hold space at Harmonia, sharing their history, traditions, prayers, stories, music, dances, celebrations, food, medicines, and way of living with our community.
We are guided by the Seven Sacred Virtues of the Lakota, which are the same foundations of many spiritual practices around the world. Wóčhekiya – Prayer
Wičákha – Honesty
Wahwala – Humility
Waúnšila – Compassion
Waóhola – Respect
Wawokiye – Generosity
Wóksape – Wisdom
The Red Road is mindful living within the Creator’s instructions as exemplified by the seven sacred virtues, living in the present moment connected to all that surrounds us. It is attending to our four sides, taking care of and respecting ourselves and the Creator. The Red Road is gratitude, to be thankful for what we have and taking only what we need. It is giving back to the community that supports us. Red Road wisdom is attained through a life of truth, humbleness, respect, friendship, gratitude, generosity and honor.
For some, the Red Road is path of medicine, sun dance, sweat lodges, purifications, and learning the teachings and traditions of Native Americans. For others, the Red Road is a healing modality, often undertaken after living a life out of balance. Within Harmonia, it is a daily path of self-discovery and a tool for living harmoniously in community that will include sweat lodges, music and dance, meditation and ceremony.
Only you can walk your journey, but many are on the road.
Art and Culture
“To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling–this is the activity of art.
Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.
And if men lacked this other capacity of being infected by art, people might be almost more savage still, and, above all, more separated from, and more hostile to, one another.” – Leo Tolstoy in What Is Art?
The difference between a culture that survives and one that thrives is art. Art brings joy.
Art helps to develop creative problem-solving skills, boost critical thinking, and connect us to our diverse ideas and cultures. Art allows us to showcase our emotions, helping us to communicate without words. Art makes us look at an idea with a new perspective. Art connects us to humanity and the world at large. Art is food for the soul, transforming the mundane into the magical.
Environmental Art is the exploration of the human relationship with the environment, inspiring awareness of nature, environmental issues and sustainable development through art. It can take the form of natural elements that transform a landscape, or something simpler, such as an arrangement flowers, pebbles and leaves in an aesthetic design. Ecological Art (ecoart) is a form ecological activism, highlighting issues like plastic pollution by creating art from trash or environmental destruction. Ecoart is designed to increase awareness, stimulate discussion about human behavior towards other species, and encourages the long-term respect for the Earth.
At Harmonia, we weave the arts (environmental, pottery, music, movement) into the curricula as well as teach specific artistic skills. Many people have yet to find their niche without the opportunity to explore different mediums, be it painting, dance, music, woodworking or theater. We encourage participants to play with different forms of creative expression to enhance the educational experience. Every project will be infused with art.
Sharing indigenous knowledge is the reason Harmonia exists. One way of sharing is the educational trail web throughout the property, a bilingual encyclopedia to describe flora and fauna, indigenous cultures and practices, medicinal plants, sacred geometry, poetry (definitely a Rumi trail!), survival skills, astronomy, astrology, geology…. Aside from imparting knowledge, it is a language tool for students who want to include Spanish in their program. The Art and Culture program will include researching, translating and working with the construction team on the design of the signage and with the Earth team on the proper placement in the forest. Everything is collaborative. Everyone has a skill or passion to share to create the whole.