A Mindful Look at Higher Education

A Mindful Look at Higher Education

This is a guest post by Cori – a freelance illustrator and designer and full-time student of the world. She doesn’t use social media all that much, but feel free to drop by and say hi on her instagram if you wish.

There is a product which has been sold to each and every one of us as the be all and end all for securing a future of financial stability. That product is higher education.

Minimalism does not lend itself to only small amounts of physical possessions, but also to mindful, deliberate living. However, due the effects of the status quo, many of us are unable to consistently live in a mindful fashion. Higher education is just one example of this phenomenon. Many of us think of college as just a natural step in the process of life and do not stop to realize that it is simply another well-marketed product. 

While higher education is not toxic to all people, it can be poisoning to some. In the same way that we must be mindful of what we eat, we also must be mindful of how we learn. Education, after all, is something which you consume. In the end, being a dropout (as long as you’re the right kind of dropout) is actually a viable option.

What’s in an A+?


What does it take to achieve the ultimate grade? Too much. According to a recent study implemented in the Fall of 2016 by the American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA IIc), stress is the leading cause of negative impact to academic performance. Anxiety follows in second place, and depression places in fourth.

According to the study’s findings, 50.9% of students felt things were hopeless; 86.0% felt overwhelmed by all they had to do; 60.6% felt lonely; 38.2% reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function; 60.8% felt overwhelming anxiety; and 48.4% of students described academics as being traumatic.

Success in academics is achieved at the cost of time, effort, and money. However, it can also come at the cost of your mental health. Many do not register this as an actual negativity because society’s general consensus is that higher education is of extreme value and importance. Because of this, many will willingly drive their mental health into the dust just because a consumerist culture claims that there is no other option.

Education vs. School


In my country, school is simply a process of memorizing facts for a test and then turning around and forgetting said facts as soon as possible in preparation for the next test. Information is rarely retained, and the student becomes a machine which is programmed to take input and give an output in accordance with what the system wants.

This is not learning or education. This is regurgitation.

Real education happens when a student pursues knowledge as a way to better their life. It is a mindful and deliberate action made out of self-improvement or self-preservation. It is this inner motivation which will allow the student to not only retain information but also make the necessary connections needed to apply what they have learned to the world around them.

Can education happen in a school? Yes, of course. But not every degree or diploma is a result of education.



It is a feared word with a lot of stigma. However, being a dropout is really not that big of a deal — as long as you’re the right kind of dropout.

Dropping out of school so that you can nap on a couch and binge watch your favorite television show is one thing. Dropping out of school so that you can learn by living, build your life on your own terms, and launch into a career is a completely different animal. See the difference? One is a potato, the other is a strategist.

The status quo claims that those without higher education are unfortunate souls who will have a harder life ahead of them. Many will blindly follow this teaching, failing to realize that education is a choice as well; and where there is a significant choice at hand, mindfulness must be at the forefront of our minds.

I am not advocating that absolutely no one should pursue higher education. If you have the will and opportunity to pursue a degree of your choice, by all means, go for it. However, when done intentionally, becoming a dropout can actually be more educational than a degree from any institution of higher education. When you allow yourself to learn and grow by being and becoming, your mental and emotional health and character are able to grow and flourish. In reality, you simply remove the four walls of your school, and your classroom becomes the world.

Taking Back Control


Higher education is well-marketed, yes, but it is still a product — one that can greatly affect your mental health. It is one of several children borne of a consumeristic culture and status quo which can be limiting when not carefully examined. However, when we take the time to consider the hidden pockets of alternative routes in life, we can claim back a piece of our lives which was lost to the negative impact of our culture.

Have you ever felt disenchanted with the circus of hoops our society has labeled as a school? How have you mindfully educated yourself outside of a classroom? What other limits do you think the status quo imposes on our mindfulness as individuals? Let me know in the comments below.

2 comments… add one
  • K 29/09/2017 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. A college degree doesn’t necessarily equate to “educated”. I worked as a consultant for many years and a number of those I worked with, who went to the “best” schools, were some of the least intellectual people I have ever met. The concept of higher education should include certain certification programs and trade schools as well. An electrician who has completed a program and worked as an apprentice for many years before embarking on an independent career is arguably more educated than someone completing 4 years of nothing but lectures and theory with no practical experience. Very little in my 4 years of college prepared me for business. I actually feel that direct experience along with some of the continuing education classes I have taken over the years, have resulted in more tangible growth. I have told my own child that they may want to go to college if they have a specific career in mind, or they can explore other programs that could be more beneficial to the path they wish to take. Either way I want them to continue with their education post high school, but that may not need to be according to societal expectations. Great topic that more people should discuss.

  • A 13/11/2017 Reply

    Although pursuing degrees in higher education shouldn’t be an expectation for everyone, and those who do not wish to pursue it should not feel said pressure, this post makes it seem as though higher education is not necessary, and in fact detrimental, for many. Yes, institutions do acquire monetary gain from high enrollments and it is a societal expectation that all go to college (and it shouldn’t be), but the experiences you gain in college are not akin, or a symptom of, our consumer culture (education you gain from a degree does not = an extra pair of jeans). I have a couple of alternative views for some of the text given in this post.
    – Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life when pursuing something of value, which requires hard work. When studying for a test, or writing a paper for class, you will experience stress. It is part of the learning process (i.e., when you do not understand a concept, you must work hard and sometimes seek help to gain understanding). A more realistic issue is how to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression, not avoid it. Most universities have counseling services that can provide coping mechanisms for such an event, which will be beneficial for other experiences in one’s life.
    – Yes, academic success is at the cost of time, effort, and money. It’s worth it! The pursuit of knowledge and learning will empower you and allow you gain a better understanding of your world, and you will be more successful, personally and professionally, for it and hopefully spread your insight into those that you meet. You can educate yourself through community college courses or smaller state universities (don’t go out of state!) that are more affordable. There may be some courses that are taught by those that believe in memorization, but in many courses, you learn critical thinking skills by experts trained to teach such skills. This is an invaluable experience that you will likely not gain unless you come in contact with such an environment.

    I feel this was written by a person who had a negative experience in college and wanted to find reasoning for it. Please, do not advise our children to not pursue higher education as, from a person who has taught university courses, most people are capable of pursuing it, and it will enrich their lives, if they desire it. Good topic, but feel post is a bit misguided.

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