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Educating for Wisdom and Compassion

Educating for Wisdom and Compassion
Creating Conditions for Timeless Learning

  • John P. Miller - Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Centre for Teacher Development

July 2005 | 184 pages | Corwin
Wisdom as an outcome of education is often overlooked and drowned out by the demands of concept attainment, skills mastery, and high-stakes assessments. But wisdom in teaching and learning is the central topic of this small book.

Blending philosophy, research, and three decades of practice, author Jack Miller offers a readable and accessible discussion of timeless principles of learning, including attention, contemplation, connection, participation, transformation, mystery, responsibility, wholeness, and joy.

The author shows us how the themes of timeless learning have been discussed in the works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott; how they are put into practice in Montessori, Waldorf, and Krishnamurti schools; and how teachers in today's schools can apply the principles, models, and methods of timeless learning to inform instruction in their own classrooms and teaching practice.

Part I Timeless Learning: Definitions and Fundamentals
1. Timeless Learning
What Is Timeless Learning?

What Are the Characteristics of Timeless Learning?









Mysterious and unexplainable


What Does Timeless Learning Bring to Today's Classrooms?



2. The Perennial Philosophy: A Relaxed Universalism
Foundations of the Perennial Philosophy

The interconnected nature of reality and the mysterious unity of the universe

The intimate connection between the individual's inner self, or soul, and the mysterious unity

Wisdom or knowledge of the mysterious unity can be developed through various contemplative practices

Values are derived from seeing and realizing the interconnectedness of reality

Awareness of the mysterious unity of existence leads to social action to counter injustice and human suffering


Part II Timeless Learning: Processes and Practices
3. Letting Go and Becoming Empty
Psychosynthesis and Dis-identification

David Hunt


The Bhagavad Gita and Non-Attachment

Spiritual Knowing

Just Let Go


4. Attention and Meditation

Forms of Meditation

Intellectual Meditation

Emotional Meditation

Physical Meditation

Action Meditation

Meditation Practices


Body Scan



Movement meditation

Getting Started

Meditation With Children

Just One Minute by Naomi Baer


5. Compassion, Caring, and Lovingkindness
Kindness, Empathy, Compassion, and Love

Lovingkindness Practice

Caring in Schools

School with Forest and Meadow (Ojiya School)

Service Learning

Engaged Service

Community-Based Work

To Be and to Have


6. Contemplation, Mindfulness, and Presence


Contemplation and Mindfulness in Classrooms

Contemplation and Action


Part III Timeless Learning: Perspectives, Examples, and Outcomes
7. Educational Perspectives on Timeless Learning
Transcendental Education



Bronson Alcott

Holistic Education

Linear Thinking and Intuition

Relationship Between Mind and Body

Subject Connections

Community Connections

Earth Connections

Self Connections

Slow Education



8. Examples of Timeless Learning
Krishnamurti Schools

Principles of Learning

The School

The Teacher

Waldorf Education

Steiner's View of Development


Montessori Education



9. Creating Conditions for Timeless Learning in Public Schools
Work on Yourself

Be Fully Present

Recognize the Importance of the Nonverbal

Honor Silence

Develop a Rhythm

Integrate Timeless Learning with other Forms of Learning

Balancing Spontenaity and Planning

Don't Forget the Body

Live Your Own Truth

Acknowledge the Mystery

Let Your Humanity Come Through


10. The Fruits of Timeless Learning
The Present Educational Context

The Results of Timeless Learning

Research on Contemplative Practices

My Own Research

Nature of Mediation Practice

Personal Effects of Meditation Practice

Professional Effects of Meditation Practice


Ultimate Outcomes of Timeless Learning

Wisdom and Compassion

Joy: The Singing Soul

Awe and Wonder


Sense of Purpose



"In Educating for Wisdom and Compassion: Creating Conditions for Timeless Learning, John Miller creates the category of timeless learning and describes its qualities and aspects. For someone new to this perspective, the book provides an enormously rich introduction to these insights and offers ready access to a set of detailed and wide ranging resources, including many activities the reader can experience at once. For those who are more knowledgeable, the book offers an opportunity for significant deepening of their understanding about the value and enactment of timeless learning. Educating for Wisdom and Compassion: Creating Conditions for Timeless Learning is clear and direct. It’s a book that provokes reflection, engagement, and a deeper vision."

David Marshak
Professor of Education, Seattle University

"Fills a vacuum in the education literature, a vacuum for an approach to teaching and learning anchored in the insights of various wisdom traditions and spiritually-oriented educational innovators. . . .It is a clearly written, concise, and inspired book which will be of great value to many of us in the education field."

Lourdes Arguelles
Professor of Education and Cultural Studies, Claremont Graduate University

"...the vignettes and stories, the suggested practices, the invocation of a fundamentally better way of being and of being in school, the focus on wisdom and compassion as outcomes of education.  Much of the material is wonderful, as is the message."

Geoffrey Caine
Learning and Education Consultant, Caine Learning LLC

"This is a timely, thoughtful, and very important book. In emphasizing the contemplative mind, it elaborates a key dimension of a new vision of education that is grounded in the wisdom traditions and essential in today’s classrooms. In a sensible, mature, and down-to-earth fashion, this work offers a philosophical context, an intimate understanding of the processes of consciousness, and a wide range of tested practical means to integrate the contemplative mind in the classroom."

Tobin Hart
Associate Professor, State University of West Georgia

"This is a timely and valuable resource for educators concerned with integrating a spiritual perspective in their work...The book is written in a very reader friendly manner, using no or very little terminology unfamiliar to most readers."

Robert London, Professor
California State University at San Bernardino

"What this book offers that this country and others could benefit from is a different version of what our children need...The book’s major strength is the stimulation of a different point of view in a climate that may need some remediation. The quotes and anecdotes are very good."

Pearl Solomon
Associate Professor of Teacher Education, St. Thomas Aquinas College

"In this engaging book, John Miller has effectively distilled the essence of holistic education, providing parents, teachers and researchers with a solid foundation for understanding its key ideals and characteristic practices. Miller explains how a pedagogy rooted in caring, compassion, mindfulness and meaning truly makes a difference in in our lives. I will recommend this book to my students as a core reading on holistic education."

Ron Miller, Goddard College, Vermont
Author, Caring for New Life: Essays on Holistic Education

"At a time of high-stakes testing and increasing emphasis on standards, Education for Wisdom and Compassion presents the value of a more holistic education. Author John P. Miller argues that a holistic approach allows students to gain a greater sense of purpose; reduce stress; and improve memory, alertness, and attention. Through meditation, contemplation, and reflection, Miller shows how students can find joy in learning and develop true wisdom."

Ed. - The Magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Winter 2005

"Like a precious opal, examination from multiple angles and perspectives reveals the beauty of this magnificent work."

PsycCRITIQUES, February 15, 2006, Issue 7, Volume 51

"Well-conceived and brilliantly brought to life, this valuable introduction will be useful to teachers, parents, administrators, and researchers interested in holistic education for diverse students of all ages."

PsycCRITIQUES, February 15, 2006, Issue 7, Volume 51

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Timeless Learning

John P. Miller

John P. (Jack) Miller, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto and Head of OISE’s Centre for Teacher Development. He has also been Visiting Professor at Shinwa Women’s University in Kobe, Japan, and at Rietsumeiken University in Kyoto, Japan. Professor Miller teaches courses in holistic education and spirituality in education. He has also led workshops and given keynote addresses on those topics at conferences around the world.  Notable among his many books, chapters, and journal articles are Holistic Learning and... More About Author