I was lying in the shade on the Main House lawn looking up at the sky. The weather was warm, not hot. I could see the gentle breeze move through the trees. Nearby, other staff and faculty members were spread out around the lawn, gazebo, and pathways. Some were seated on rocks, others lay on benches, or sat upright facing the mountains. Together, but alone, we were engaged in “radical downtime,” something many of our teachers practice with our students throughout the school day.

This was during our weekly faculty meeting, and the amount of time was far too short. Radical downtime is not mindfulness or meditation. The idea is to be without external stimuli – books, electronics, paper, instrument, conversation – to be with oneself without a purpose. Daydreaming, thinking, not thinking, allowing the mind to wander, closing the eyes, napping is fine if that is what is needed.

I remember reading once that for a person who gets the appropriate amount of sleep, it should take 15-20 minutes to naturally fall asleep after closing one’s eyes. The mind will cycle through the day’s interactions, projects, forgotten to-dos, but once the mind slows down, sleep will prevail. I wonder how many people allow that amount of time to drift off. My own habit is to read until I realize I am dreaming with my eyes closed and the book has fallen out of my hand. That’s when I turn off the lights and fall asleep within seconds.

Research around radical downtime suggests that people who practice this activity have improved memory, increased creativity, decreased stress, and experience fewer sleep disturbances. When we stop and do “nothing,” especially in this hyper-technological world full of distractions, we increase the possibility of becoming more aware of our emotions, noticing body sensations and what they may mean to us. For children, having time to process what is happening inside themselves and learning how to be content with themselves without external provocation is an essential aspect of our purpose as a school.

It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree – not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself – and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fisherman’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.”

— J. Krishnamurti, “Think on These Things”

As the Oak Grove academic year ends, students depart and the campus quietens. This is a time for staff and board members to retreat, recoup, and reflect. 

In late June, the Oak Grove School Board met in the relaxed setting of a ranch home on the California coast. Between casual walks and light conversation, the OGSB inquired into the intention of the school, discussed some big-picture topics, and made goals for the 2019-2020 school year. 

Twice throughout the summer, Oak Grove staff has the opportunity to retreat over a three-day period with the Head of School at the Krishnamurti Education Center. This gives faculty and staff the opportunity to stay at Pepper Tree Retreat, a place of silence and calm, to explore the Krishnamurti Education Center with all of the resources it offers, and to discuss Krishnamurti’s Letters to the Schools. Each person has ample time to quietly reflect, take walks, rest, read, and practice yoga. A true retreat.

The Leadership Team, a group of ten administrators representing all departments of the school, retreats in August, meeting for three days at a home in Santa Barbara. The days are filled with planning, philosophical discussions, and organizing the upcoming year, all the while interspersed with fun activities and importantly, leisure time. 

“So we must be very clear in the understanding of the word leisure: it is a time, a period when the mind is not occupied with anything whatsoever. It is the time of observation. It is only the unoccupied mind that can observe. Free observation is the movement of learning. This frees the mind from being mechanical.”

The Whole Movement of Life is Learning
J. Krishnamurti