By Jason Phillips
DVMS Montessori Dad Dr. Neeraj Lakhanpal, MD, is the Co-Chief of Anaesthesia at Milton District Hospital. The Lakhanpal family have three children at DVMS and are always willing to volunteer at events, as drivers, or to slog through organizing the Scholastic order forms. They are also strong supporters of Montessori education, and of holistic, peaceful development — a wonderful match.
Neeraj is a busy man, with a demanding job and three active kids, but he’s always so calm whenever we see him at the school. Read on to find out how he does it, why he and his wife chose Montessori at DVMS for their kids, and how you, too, can learn to be as calm as Neeraj.
You have three children at DVMS; that’s a significant commitment. How and why did you and Amanda come to chose DVMS and Montessori for your children’s education?
It was quite by accident we came to Montessori. We knew nothing about Montessori education before 2006, when we started exploring options to help our shy toddler, Nolyn, be more comfortable in social settings. Having come from a traditional education background we were skeptical at first. Our concerns quickly disappeared when we observed the children peacefully at work in the first DVMS classroom by the Desjardins Canal on King St. E. [Our first location – the greenhouse]. (Tony’s charisma and passion may have had some influence too!). It was a revelation to discover that traditional education forces the child to learn and conform to specific tasks at specific times without any thought to the child’s needs. The result being a narrow understanding and narrow view of the world, compounded with a child that is more stressed and less happy. The Montessori approach is so avant-garde because the child is allowed the opportunity to explore and be creative in a structured environment. The children are encouraged to expand and open their minds to many possibilities creating less stress and happier children with a greater understanding of the big picture. This fits with our experience in meditation, which opens the mind by relieving stress thus allowing space from more creativity and focus. Now, three Lakhanpal toddlers later, we can’t resist continuing to allow our kids this daily joyful school experience in their formative years.
You have a great contribution to our recent focus on development and executive function, can you tell us about it?
We all want the best for our children and no doubt a Montessori education is a giant step in the right direction. Since 2007, our three boys have benefited
immensely from the student-centered approach to learning DVMS offers. In the January Newsletter, the possibilities for further developing executive functioning of the brain in our children’s education took center stage. As a physician, parent, and longtime meditator, I am sharing my personal experience with Transcendental Meditation (or TM at it is referred to) and offering it as a viable means for reducing the negative impact of stress and further developing young minds, which I hope will ultimately be of service to our Montessori community.
How did you become a TM practitioner, and to what extent is it a part of your daily and family life?
Growing up in Prince Edward Island in the 70’s, there were no Montessori schools and talk of executive functioning in education was unheard of. Fortunately, I was born to forward-thinking parents who appreciated the importance of developing the mind/brain beyond the confines of traditional public education. My introduction to TM was at age 4 when my whole family learned.
In our home, it became a twice-daily routine, like brushing my teeth but with profound effects on my body and mind. I think I first fully appreciated the positive impact of TM in my life when my hectic schedule during my residency didn’t allow time for meditation for days at a time. When I finally got a chance to sit and “transcend,” the clarity and energy gained after only 20 minutes was remarkable. I can say unequivocally that 20 minute twice daily TM practice was the single best investment I have made in self-improvement and is the greatest contributor to my professional success simply because I am able to manage fatigue and stressful situations better.
Recently, I have been witnessing the positive changes in my oldest son, Nolyn (10) who learned the TM adult technique in August 2013. Nolyn gets along better with his siblings, is more relaxed, self-disciplined, confident, and focused. In his own words, Nolyn reports, “It feels good to meditate.” As parents, my wife and I feel satisfied Nolyn has the necessary tools to develop seamlessly his inner quality of life (with TM practice) and outer quality of life (with the Montessori method). I think that this 200% of life approach of a fully integrated human being is what we are all striving for in a world dominated by information overload and pressure to perform.
As a practicing MD, do you have any difficulty reconciling perceptions of TM with our culture’s emphasis on science-based evidence?
Not at all, because over 350 peer-reviewed studies have shown TM to be more effective than other meditation and relaxation techniques, including Mindfulness. In particular, EEG’s illustrate that TM maximizes alpha-1 brainwave coherency and integration. Other physiological benefits include lowering high blood pressure, as well as compelling evidence for its use in the treatment of ADHD and PTSD. Practicing TM does not involve any changes in one’s religion or philosophy, and anyone can easily learn this simple, natural technique from a certified instructor.
You and your wife (DVMS Montessori Mom Amanda) have arranged a great event for anyone interested in learning more about meditation, what are the details?
If these few words have sparked your interest in finding out more about TM, I hope you will join Amanda, Nolyn, and myself on Wednesday, Feb. 19th at 6:00pm in the DVMS gym for a further exploration of some of the research documenting the TM program’s wide range of life enhancing benefits. We have invited Peter Cameron, a certified TM teacher, who has been a friend/teacher of our family for over 40 years to make the presentation.
If you want to attend, please RSVP on the event page by clicking here. For more information, visit www.maharishi.ca or email Peter Cameron at email@example.com. (There will be a second, alternate date on Thurday, Feb. 20, at 3:45, in a DVMS classroom for embers of the DVMS community or staff that cannot attend the Wednesday evening presentation.)
Thank you Neeraj, and Amanda, for all that you do for us here at DVMS.