San miniato: reflections on an open field of possibilities

polis, with the perfect scale to reinvent the original, active democracy? A field of equal rights, where teachers, researchers and students came together as citizens, an artistic and politically engaged community, deciding, at the end of each day, what they wanted to do the next: what to initiate, what to continue, what do finish, what to recreate, what to celebrate…? Embracing the unknown, glancing at and flirting with mystery and risk. 

In many ways, the days preceding my arrival at San Miniato turned out to be a preparation for experiencing it. I wasn’t aware of this until some time later. So, when I finally found myself there, eight days after the group had began its work process, there was a strong and exciting sense of potential in me. There was an invisible sense of movement I could touch, somehow superficially. Nevertheless, it was pulling me strongly, as a magnetic force towards something my soul really wanted to be a part of: the sort of excitement a child feels when wanting to play with other children. 

So, it was only right that before engaging in my ‘role’ as a teacher – and proposing activities related to my area of teaching: the voice – I would take some time to get a feel of the energy that was already in action. Looking backwards now, I feel very happy to have given myself the time. The energy field I was entering immediately put me in a state of inner quietness and curiosity: something nice was brewing… 

I hadn’t prepared anything in advance, but instead of feeling anxious, I found myself feeling daring! Allowing that, turned out to be very revealing: ideas started to emerge, possibilities of playing, that I normally don’t have a chance to engage with, or even allow myself to. I felt immersed in an energy field of possibilities. From there, my on-going questioning of what the voice can be and do, beyond the realms of technique and optimal performance, found an opportunity for emerging. In fact, this field provided the ground for experiencing the power of questioning - what it does, how it generates an inner movement, which initially involves the mind, but ends up engaging the whole body. A disturbance, a shivering from that state of constancy, which, in reality, if only lived as such, can be limiting and prevent change. 

As soon as I began participating in the activities/ experiments/ experiences everyone was providing, this feeling started to become stronger and stronger. I could play! Somewhere within myself I was as young as the “students”, relating to them as one of them. This was very eye opening: I could be happy there! Relieved from self expectations of having to be a ‘teacher’, I could free that inner part of myself that still carries some weight of having to be “someone who has learned more” or “knows best” or “can show you the way” (Oh, the naiveté of these assumptions…). 
How do you enter a field of unknown possibilities? A space already alive with beating hearts, passionately engaged in the dynamics of playfulness and discovery? A time decided day by day, through a timetable that became the grounding force in the life of Santa Chiara’s Convent, a small
San Miniato was surprising me with the opportunity for truly owning authority, not based on the autistic idea of authoritarianism (which I was never found of, anyway), but in an emancipated notion of authorship, within a social context of artistic research. I see it as a synonym for entrepreneurship. Art can definitely do this, as well! All of a sudden, the four years of hard work of everyone involved in this project had lead us to a place where we could all be authors, creators of learning experiences and enablers of dreams that can, indeed, turn into new realities. 

I was relearning how to play: with materials, with ways of thinking and writing, with specific tasks… all so different, and yet, all so possible. I was discovering that I can arrive at a place, physically and emotionally unknown to me, and find out more about myself by just allowing myself to play. The simple frames everyone was providing in their activities turned out to be the starting point for freedom of expression, a joyous territory for inner mysterious wisdom to arise. We were being surprised and, through that, my intuition was being strengthened: I was finding sides of myself that had been kept silent and could now be voiced… so much potential, so much energy – intuitive energy! 

This was also the feeling I was having while developing the voice experiments: I found myself making risky invitations of research to people (and to myself!) by daring us to face failure, in our voices and in the search for getting in touch with our inner child’s voice. Facing (and trying to embrace!) the embarrassment, the fear, the frustration – with a clear notion of putting it out there, exposed to the scary unknown of emotional research, and letting it be voiced out – is something I had never dared to attempt in my regular ways of teaching. Not like this, anyway… Why was I so willing to try it out, there?... 

San Miniato promoted true free self-expression (not just the good intentions of it!) in ways I’ve very seldom experienced before in my life. Anything was allowed to happen: the joyous, the rebellious, the playful, the frustration of expectation, the surprising, the criticism, the meditative, the ‘going against’, the embracing. The potency for expanding inner self-research – voicing it out, writing it down, smiling it away – can, indeed, become the fulfilment of human development. 

Isn’t this what education is all about? 

I think we are on to something big here. And I feel humbled and privileged to be a part of it. 
1 Javier Atance Ibar Delimitación del término emprendimiento y su evolución histórica en las leyes educativas españolas
2 En él se define como “un fenómeno pluridimensional y aunque pueda estar presente en diferentes contextos económicos u otros, y en cualquier tipo de organización el documento se centra en el espíritu emprendedor en el ámbito empresarial”.
3 LOMCE: Ley Orgánica 8/2013, de 9 de diciembre, para la Mejora de la Calidad Educativa. Publicado en B.O.E. nº 295 de 10 de diciembre.