Provide a Critical-Thinking program for 50 teens

May 29, 2014

Surprising Philosophy Homework Reports

Isai with Jeff (top) and Conal with Amy and Laurel
Isai with Jeff (top) and Conal with Amy and Laurel

With warmest greetings from Guatemala,

We have a great report for you on the progress of the work in our Critical-Thinking program. Both of us were so surprised by the responses we got from our students on their recent book report assignment that we have decided to go into some detail for you.

The book, “Philosophy Is Not A Luxury” by Jeff Carreira is based on the philosophy of American Pragmatism.

But, before we get started, Debora and I, as the directors and teachers of this program, would like to appreciate you, our donors who are making possible the exposure of these brilliant minds to the best of the best available in the field of consciousness today. Without you this would never be possible. Thank you.

The book report we asked for was for each student to write a one-page summary on each of the 12 short chapaters in Jeff’s book (in total 52 pages so not too long). Here are the highlights of the questions, insights and conclusions that our students came back with:

Isai: In the picture with Jeff Carreira, the author of the book, during our First Annual Meditate-To-Educate event in December of 2012.

Isai was a little uncomfortable with the realization that we sometimes act as automatically. In chapter six the author of the book shows how John Dewey explains human action as an unfolding of habits. In this way it is only when disharmony arises that we have a necessary conscious relationship with the environment. Isai thought that there was a lot of truth in this statement, but he didn’t like it. Because of this he began being more aware and conscious about his daily life and in his own words said: “I don’t like to be a machine” questioning at all times, “why am I here?” and “why am I doing this?”

Conal: In the picture with Amy Edelstein (r) and our friend and board member Laurel Jacobson after a meditation session during Second Annual Meditate-To-Educate fundraising event in 2013.

Conal was curious about the statement of William James in chapter five that our choices and therefore actions have repercussions on the person we are going to become. The fact that a choice of a man is not that much about the action he is going to take but the person he is going to become. This had a great impact on Conal and he told us that since pondering this he has a completely different take on his choices and in the fact that he looks at the future man he wants to be.

Shirley: In the picture with Jeff Carreira during First Annual Meditate-To-Educate event in December of 2012.

Shirley had an insight that reality might not be what she thought it was. In chapter number two we can see how Kant distinguishes between Noumenon (what is known without the use of the senses) and Phenomenon (anything that appears or is an object in the senses) and the fact that reality included both. To this the Pragmatists also included human activity in the creation of reality. For Shirley reality was simply out there, and whatever she thought was real was truly real, she never thought that she might have been creating her own view or reality through her own personal lenses, as she said, “I never thought that my reality might look different from that of someone else”.

From a more evolutionary perspective, and looking towards our future as a human species, Shirley also realized our role in the future of humanity. In chapter eleven the author explains how many of us unknowingly allow the sentences in our heads to dictate our being and actions. He suggests at the end of Chapter 10 that if instead of responding automatically to certain thoughts we instead act in a new and fresh way with a conscious sentence that could say ‘we could find freedom’. These were Shirley’s thoughts, going back and forth and trying to glue it all together, in order for her to be a better person.

Jessica: In the picture during Amy Edelstein’s talk on Morals, Ethics and Compassion in December of 2013

Jessica’s insight was to realize that “I think of me as my body, life and history but I am not that”. This is a deep thought that appears in chapter 11 of the book “Committing to a New Reality”, in which the author explains in detail how we create our self-image. Jessy realized that what we usually think defines us is not who we are, it is just something we have.

Jessica was very surprised with this realization and she even began doing meditations on her own in order to figure out who she was when the body, mind, thoughts, and her personal story… were out of the picture. She is still doing so and sometimes she comes to the class with brilliant realizations, and other times with a lot of confusion! This is really great!!

Dinora: In the picture wearing the traditional Guatemalan clothes embracing the traditions of her country and at the same time deepening in the mind of the universe further and further.

Dinora’s big thought about this book was about the “unknown unknowns”. She never thought before about all the things we don’t know that we don’t know and how that also limits our imagination. She was fine with knowing that there are many things that she knows that she doesn’t know. But, when realizing that there are many things that she doesn’t know that she doesn’t know, she said, “I struggle a lot with this”.

She also was surprised with her understanding of the idea exposed in chapter number six “A Habit of Identification”. Here John Dewey describes our lives as an unfolding of habits in which we basically remain unconscious all the time until, for some reason, there is disharmony between our environment and our daily habits. So, Dinora wrote: “Do we act unconsciously in a conscious way, do we choose to be unconscious or are we unconscious of being unconscious and therefore we live completely unaware lives driven by only a chain of learned habits?” She finished her question saying that it feels like we all are born with a stone in our heads that prevents us from moving forward or being curious and in many cases that stone only falls out of our heads when we die.

Eduardo: In the image reading Jeff’s book on the day we first gave them to the students for their assignment.

In Chapter 2, ‘The Creation of Reality’ the author quotes Kant: “reality as we perceive it is not purely pre-existent and objective; it is also, at least partly, constructed and subjective.” Eduardo was really struck by this throughout his entire reading of the book. He came to the conclusion that reality is not something static and already given but something that we actually can create with the ways in which we live our lives.

Mario: (The brother of Eduardo) In this picture getting his copy of “Philosophy Is Not a Luxury”.

His insight came basically from the beginning of the book and accompanied him during the whole reading. This, he said, helped him to read the rest from a wider perspective. In Chapter 1 of the book ‘A Mountain of Assumptions’ the author quotes Wilfrid Sellars as follows: “The world doesn’t just exist; it appears to us—and the way it appears is not necessarily the way it is.” Therefore the world by Mario’s understanding is different to each one of us.

He realized that different people can look at the same event, and even if from an objective point of view there is one thing happening, they can interpret completely different things, experience different feeling and come to different conclusions. It depends on the lenses of the person who is looking at it. Mario was kind of sad with this realization as he got to the conclusion that reality is just the opposite of what we have been told. The reality we believe to be real is just the perspective of the person or persons who have been telling us what it is. Not bad for a 15 year old who lives with 6 brothers in 2 rooms, one of which only has dirt as a floor.

Fabi: In this picture with her little sister during our Christmas party celebrated every year.

Fabi’s strongest insight came while reading Chapter 7 of the book ‘Fallibilism’ in which the author explains how the mind cannot simply be a representation-creating device otherwise we would all see and interpret the same thing when facing the exact same event. Like a mirror only reflects exactly what it is in front of it, without changing anything, we could never make a mistake or error of judgment.

But in the chapter we see how Charles Sanders Peirce explained that our minds work more like paintings that become models for other paintings and these other paintings are the models of the next ones and so on. In the same way our thoughts are like these paintings and not as mirrors. To Fabi realizing that our thoughts are nothing but the result of secondhand ideas planted in our heads since we were born by others whose ideas and thoughts have been planted there by previous generations. This realization was kind of difficult because she came to the conclusion; ‘What I think, believe and take as real might not be that real and maybe the people who I thought knew reality might not be as wise as I thought’.

Jenny: In the picture during Amy Edelstein’s workshop in Antigua with the students of the Integral Heart Foundation while asking a question.

Jenny had many different insights and many, many questions. She began with the thought that we are not our history. From a quote in Chapter 11, ‘You might look at your history and say, this history is me—I am the life that I have lived. If you look closely you find that indeed it is your life and your history, but that life and that history is not you. You are the one that has that life and that history.’ In her mind if this is true then, who am I?

Also, as is mentioned in Chapter 10; ‘sentences describe us but we are not the sentences’. To her the more she was eliminating ‘ingredients’ of who she thinks she is, or what she is, the more abstract her self-image was getting. She said that she could see her body, that she wasn’t something abstract, and that it was obvious because anybody could see her. But, at the same time, it was true that if she had a body and she wasn’t the body, who then is the ‘she’ that has a body?

Jenny was also feeling a little insecure about the fact that things she believed she knew might not be as true as she thought they were. Back to Chapter 8 of the book ‘The Reality of the Unknown’ the author mentions how William James used the term ‘Vicious Intellectualism’ to describe how our concepts become obstacles to overcome in our ongoing inquiries. He says “When we recognize something to be real or true, we label it with a word or an idea. Once a concept is created we tend to believe in the truth of that concept and simultaneously see things that contradict it as false.”

Jenny said, “I feel like I am walking on egg shells”, that not only she didn’t know who she was anymore but also she didn’t know who to believe anymore in searching for her identity. Her logic was that the people she could go to for advice probably had already created concepts that they believed to be truth, although they probably really weren’t. She also mentioned the fact that most of people responded to questions automatically ‘knowing for sure that their answer was the truth’ without even thinking about the fact that they could be wrong and the other person right, and without giving any room to ask or see the truth in the other person’s statement.

Emily: In the picture just before one of our philosophy classes this year.

Emily showed the biggest change ever. When she came back to the class after the homework assignment was completed and she said that she was a totally different person. “I am hardly the same Emily we knew before.” She began by telling us how the book had shifted the perspective she had on who she was, and that it opened the doors to the possibility of change. She said that reading the book was to her equal to talking face to face to the author, “As if I was sitting with him and the book was only for me.”

Her realization came while reading Chapters 10 and 11, where the author explains how if we use sentences not as something given and fixed that already define us, but as a commitment to a new reality, we can then change. Quoting the book, in Chapter 10, ‘There is a transformative power that is released when we start to see the sentences in our heads, and those that we speak, as commitments to reality rather than descriptions of it. If our sentences are descriptions of a reality that already exists, then there is nothing we can do to change it. But if the sentences that I use are commitments to a reality, then we see that many of those commitments can be reconsidered and changed.’

Emily wants to commit to a new Emily, she wants to be who she wants and not who everybody tells her she is, that now she actually believes. She is happy to know there is a way of changing things including ourselves.

Jimmy: In the picture at his home, in one of the visits we did with potential donors in an (on-going attempt) to find a sponsor for his education.

It is interesting to know that Jimmy’s dream is to become an Evangelic Pastor. So it surprising but, in a very good way, to hear his insights from the book. The most important part for Jimmy was the fact that we should always leave open the door to further inquiry and don’t take things for granted and getting stuck in what we believe the reality, or as he said “what the truth is”.

He said that we shouldn’t be happy arriving to a conclusion but that we have to go beyond that conclusion and keep digging. Quoting the book he pointed at Chapter 8 where the author states: “The goal of inquiry is not to come to the end of inquiry, but to continually open up new avenues for further investigation, because no matter what answers we find they will never be the final truth.” And also at Chapter 12 when the author finishes the book by saying: “In times of crisis, more than ever we must examine what we believe to be true and why we believe it, so we can discover higher, deeper, and more encompassing truths that will lead to actions that will change the world for the better.”

Jimmy said that if he ever becomes a pastor, this is the way he would like to do his job.


We would like to thank you again for your on-going support of this program, and for the joy of hearing these insights emerging from our team of perceptual adventurers!

Jeff with Shirley (top) and Jessica
Jeff with Shirley (top) and Jessica
Dinora (top) in traditional dress, and Eduardo
Dinora (top) in traditional dress, and Eduardo
Mario (left) and Fabi with her sister
Mario (left) and Fabi with her sister
Jenny (l), Emily (top) and Jimmy
Jenny (l), Emily (top) and Jimmy
Feb 27, 2014

Philosophy is not a Luxury

5 new students who joined the morning class
5 new students who joined the morning class

The school year began and with it all our bright students came back to our class. School holidays in Guatemala last for three months and we wanted to make sure that they used, at least some of their time, in deep questioning, reading and thinking.

To do this we assigned our students a homework assignment for the holidays.They were asked to read “Philosophy Is Not A Luxury” but Jeff Carreira and to write a one-page report on each of its short 12 chapters. This book is based on the philosophy of the American Pragmatists and has many deep points that stetch the mind and imagination.

We were really surprised when over 65% of the returned with extensive reports on the book. They loved it and many of them asked us to keep the book so that they could read it again.

The most amazing story was that of Emily, whose face, attitude, smile and self-confidence had improved so much that we hardly recognized her from the previous year. In her own words: “This book to me was like talking one on one with a therapist. I learned that I am not who I always thought I was because other convinced me that I was a different person. Now I want to work in knowing myself and I know I that with my actions and choices I can choose to be whoever I want to be.”

Two of our favorite students, Dinora and Yessica, graduated high-school last year and have re-joined our CT program this year even though they are both now studying for careers and working part-time. We are most proud of them also.

The Integral Heart Foundation in deeply grateful to all of you, our donors, who make this work possible and as always, we are open to all your suggestions, comments and ideas.

We are very excited about this New Year and all the new possibilities that it opens. As part of this program we are already working with our Speakers for the Wisdom Speakers Series, and expanding the curriculum and the books that we will give to our dear students.

Much love to all of you,

The Integral Heart Foundation Team.

The new afternoon students
The new afternoon students
Here's Dinora and Yesi
This is Emily
This is Emily
Nov 21, 2013

Growth in Perspectives

The morning class in CT education program
The morning class in CT education program

A warm hello to you,

We have arrived at the end of another school year in Guatemala and with it the end of our Critical-Thinking/Philosophy program. It has been a great ride and as always the end of the year is a bitter sweet moment for all of us. We are very proud of our students for all of their growth and development they have shown but sad because we won’t be seeing them as often as usual until the middle of January.

In the CT module this year we focused mainly on ego, ego development, shadow, and managing ones emotional states, not entirely for personal benefit, but for the sake of the other person(s) with whom we are relating. The kids loved this class and in fact we had 6 new teenagers join, all brought in by referral from their friends!

Since the summer, Debora and Mick, the co-founders have been working on the translation of a book on philosophy written for one of our board members, Jeff Carreira. The book, “Philosophy Is Not a Luxury” became the holiday homework for our 32 students. They were very excited when we gave them the book and many of them began reading it right away in the class as we were assigning them the books.

One of the key areas by which we can measure the impact of this class is in the evidence for shifts in perspectives. In 2013 we challenged our students to write a one-page article titled ‘My Perfect Day’ and then to share that with the class the following week. Many, as you can expect where egocentric, personal experience based narratives. However, two of our student revealed to us by means of their story that their perspective had shifted quite dramatically. Here are their stories;

Miquel who is 21, a 3rd year student of ours, who is also being sponsored by one of our donors to study for a career as a chef. As part of his practical work his class was invited to select an impoverished village to cook for and feed for a day. The village they selected was only reachable by horseback. Miquel described this experience of helping other people as ‘blissful’ and incorporated not only such an event as part of a homework exercise called ‘My Perfect Day’ but also the fact that he saw himself with a worldwide chain of self-sustaining and free restaurants for the poor.

Jenny, 16, is a first year student who was referred to our work from another school after she expressed an interest in learning about philosophy. Also as part of our homework exercise called ‘My Perfect Day’, Jenny, who wishes to study to be a nurse, expressed a wish to open medical clinic for the impoverished throughout the world.

We are also Facebook ‘friends’ with many of our students and a curious way we have found to seek progress is by the content of their posts. For instance, one of our superstar students (an individual who possess the potential and interest to become a junior teacher of this content) recently posted quote from The Little Prince (a course book) and additional quotes from the Greek philosophers and Descartes (his own research and reading).

And finally, we are hosting two special events for our students in the month of December: one of them will be on the 4th and will be a lecture as part of our Wisdom Speakers Series. Amy Edelstein will be visiting us and giving a full day workshop on “Morals, Ethics, Spirit and Changing the World.” On December the 7th our students will also be participating in the event “Meditate to Educate” in which we will be meditating during a 12 hour period in order to raise funds to cover this education program.

Thank you so much for all your support of this project which we are all finding is of great importance for the world in which we live today.

The afternoon class of the CT education program
The afternoon class of the CT education program
The Meditation Marathon scheudule for 2013
The Meditation Marathon scheudule for 2013
Aug 27, 2013

Critical-Thinking Program = Fun and Learning in Guatemala

Andrew Cohen speaking to our teens via video-skype
Andrew Cohen speaking to our teens via video-skype

We have had a busy summer here in Guatemala!

Since we began teaching two classes on Wednesday (in the mornings and afternoons) at the new location, that was kindly offered to us by our good friend ‘Pastor’ Mike of Iglesia del Camino, we have maintained a great consistency in our class schedule. Teaching as we did within the public/NGO school system subjected us the many holiday and fiestas that occur here in Guatemala, good for play, not so good for learning and teaching!

We have been working on an Ego/Shadow module with our 32 regularly attending teens this year. We are teaching them to become aware of when an emotion has arisen in their awareness and they are also learning a technique to objectify and dissect the emotion(s) as a precursor to determining whether the emotion is authentic, demanding a response and not a reaction, or a shadow emotion, demanding integration.

Anger is one emotion we dealt with a lot and we even had the teens break into couples and consciously call the voice of anger and act out a little scene in front of the class so that they could practice the objectification and integration techniques. This exercise also shows the students that the main reasons we cite for getting and expressing anger has little to do with external situations, but our very own repressed shadow anger.  

We also had a very special guest give a lecture by video-skype. Andrew Cohen joined us for 90 minutes of q and a on self and Self development. The kids (and we and special invited guests) loved this class and there we many questions asked and answered.

Again, we thank you for your on-going support of this Critical-Thinking Program.

With warmest regards,

Mick, Debora and all the Team at IHF.

Our class kids with Linda Shaw board member
Our class kids with Linda Shaw board member
Faviola from our class who is seeking a sponsor
Faviola from our class who is seeking a sponsor


Jun 3, 2013

GlobalGiving Gender Project Report - June 2013

Integal Education Class May 2013
Integal Education Class May 2013

Our work so far this year with our 35 teenagers has been very enriching; not only for them but for all of us. Their hunger to grow and evolve is propelling us all forward to explore who we are as and beyond our gender.

And, some of our students are even telling their friends about the classes and new teenagers are showing up and asking if they can be admitted! Their participation is increasing and the wisdom of their questions is beyond what we expected.

For instance; Dinora (16) has mentioned that her understanding of who she is as a human being beyond her gender and culture is empowering her relationship with herself and she is seeing that her behavior around other people is even improving. Now she can be more objective or her actions and reactions towards other people and can be more compassionate when witnessing others.

We want to really appreciate all of the support we are getting from you our donors that is making this beautiful blossom of potential possible.

Also if you think you can help us to reach more support and be able to teach a wider number of students, please do let us know your ideas.

Thank you so much,

The Integral Heart Foundation.

Engaging young minds!
Engaging young minds!
Always asking great questions!!!
Always asking great questions!!!

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Integral Heart Foundation

Panorama, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez, Guatemala

Project Leader

Mick Quinn

Antigua, Guatemala

Where is this project located?