San Salvador, El Salvador—An educator and bestselling author from South Korea, Ilchi Lee, was given the national award, José Simeón Cañas Slave Liberator Order, at the El Salvador Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 12 at 10:30 AM local time. The award recognized the emotional resilience and culture of peace his Brain Education method brought to gang-violent schools throughout the country.
In a speech before the main award ceremony, Ilchi Lee thanked the 250 public school principals in attendance for their tremendous support for Brain Education. He credits the event to their determined and unwavering efforts to bring peace and wellness to their students.
Ilchi Lee receives award from El Salvador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Castaneda.
Brain Education is a five-step mind-body method that includes brain exercises, meditation, and mindfulness that enable people to use the latent power of their brains to create internal health, happiness and peace regardless of outer circumstances. By helping individuals manage their emotions and feel greater empathy and mental clarity, Brain Education improves interpersonal relationships and fosters positive, peaceful communities.
Brain Education was brought to El Salvador by the IBREA Foundation, an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC that was founded by Ilchi Lee. After attending an IBREA-led conference on Brain Education at the UN headquarters in New York City in 2011, the Ambassador of El Salvador asked IBREA to start a pilot project at a school in Distrito Italia, one of the most socio-politically violent neighborhoods situated just outside of the capital of San Salvador. The school was facing a rampant gang problem that was terrorizing the students and teachers.
The four-month project, which included a group of 39 students aged 14 to 16 and 20 teachers, initially met with much resistance from the students and staff. However, as the students and teachers gained a connection to their bodies and minds with the meditation techniques taught in Brain Education, their attitudes started to change positively. Absenteeism was cut in half, peer relationships improved, and peaceful dialogue increased over fighting. Improvements were also seen in health condition, energy level, stress management, motivation and focus.
Soon, teachers, students, community members, and the government learned of the success of Brain Education in transforming what was deemed an “impossible” and “hopeless” school. In 2012, the Ministry of Education asked IBREA to expand the program to four more schools. With the help of the Ministry of Education of South Korea and the Global Cyber University in South Korea, the IBREA Foundation brought the program to 12 groups of teachers and students in four schools.
One of these schools was a notoriously violent one: Joaquin Redezno. Gloria Müller, the school’s principal, said that after taking on the role of principal, “I was able to secure the safety of the students. But after that I did not know how to tell these kids how to live. At that time, Brain Education came to our school and taught the students how to live by utilizing their brain.”
After seeing similarly positive results in these schools as Distrito Italia, more school administrators and community members worked to spread Brain Education to other schools in El Salvador. By the next year, through a partnership with the Salvadorian Institute of Educator’s Wellbeing (ISBM), IBREA Foundation was providing the Brain Education program to 230 principals and teachers annually, as well as to medical doctors, psychologists and other staff who serve educators. It also certified educators as Brain Education trainers who helped to bring the program to other schools. Now, seven years after it was first brought to El Salvador, Brain Education has been implemented in 1,340, or approximately 25%, of all public schools in the country.
The Principal of Francisco Morazan School, Edis Margoth Cañas de Amaya, herself found relief through Brain Education. “I had witnessed my sister die from the hands of gang members, and a few days later, her daughter was decapitated. Needless to say, I was under immense stress and trauma, and Brain Education gave me the tools to overcome this horrible situation.”
Soon after the main award ceremony, Ilchi Lee met with Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén and discussed Brain Education with him and also with ambassadors to El Salvador from Honduras, Panama and Argentina.
Lee hopes that more schools in El Salvador can experience a peaceful change in their school environments through Brain Education and believes that El Salvador can become the symbol of peace in Central America.
About Ilchi Lee
Ilchi Lee is an impassioned visionary, educator, mentor, and innovator. He has dedicated his life to helping people harness their creative power and potential. He has developed many successful mind-body training methods, including Body & Brain Yoga and Brain Education. Lee is a New York Times bestselling author of over 40 books and a well-respected humanitarian who founded the Earth Citizen Movement and works with the United Nations and other organizations for global peace. Lee serves as the president of the University of Brain Education and the IBREA Foundation.
About IBREA Foundation
IBREA Foundation was established as a non-profit organization in the United States in 2008, with the vision of raising awareness of the great value of the human brain and unleashing its capacity to create the world we all wish to see. It does this through educational programs and seminars on brain-based holistic education methods that include body movement, stretching, meditation, breathing, artistic expression, group work, and community action, among others. These methods are applied through projects in different countries, such as El Salvador, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, and Costa Rica. As an NGO with Special Consultative Status in the UN ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), IBREA strives to offer its program as a tool to advance the United Nation goals of development and peace.
Pure love and peace come without condition.
Conditional love and peace are imperfect.
Peace comes in the moment we smile.
Smiling is the gateway to encountering peace and true love.
True love and peace are found within;
they don't come from the outside.
You can become one with all life through smiling.
Peace comes without condition in this way.
Peace is not somewhere far off.
True peace isn't something massive.
For the essence of peace is found in our hearts.
True peace is very natural, not artificially created.
Peace itself is a true picture of our lives.
That's why we want peace.
We humans have lost the peace we once had.
We try too hard to find that peace.
We long for artificial peace.
We seek that peace from our neighbors and the people around us.
That's not the original peace.
The original peace is found in your heart, not in others.
Let's no longer beg for peace.
Let's not try to get peace from others.
Real peace is inside you.
Those who have encountered the peace within
have genuinely encountered the soul of the earth.
True peace is in our hearts. Seek and find that peace.
On April 5, 2019, the governor of New Mexico signed a bill allocating up to $100,000 to train public school teachers in Ilchi Lee’s Brain Education method. These funds will be implemented in the new fiscal year in July 2019 to train teachers at five public schools.
The bill was championed by house representatives Linda Trujillo and Christine Trujillo with support from state senators Nancy Rodriguez and Linda Lopez.
Left to right: New Mexico State Representatives Christine Trujillo and Linda Trujillo and New Mexico State Senators Linda Lopez and Nancy Rodriguez
A five-step process of brain training for self-management, Brain Education had already been tested in New Mexico in a three-month pilot program in 2013 with seventy Zuni Pueblo middle school students led by local Brain Education instructors with the IBREA Foundation. After the program, the school reported marked improvements in academic and social behavior, as well as increased attendance. A Brain Education pilot project was also run at the Santa Fe Juvenile Probation Day Reporting program by instructors from Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi in 2015, and in 2018, Body & Brain ran a demonstration project during the spring semester at three schools chosen by the New Mexico Department of Public Education. Afterward, one teacher, Jessica Forbes, said, “I hope the program continues in the district and teachers continue to use the activities and strategies because it helps with classroom culture and team building as well as improve student achievement and performance.” So far, more than sixty Santa Fe public school teachers have already been trained to use Brain Education in their classrooms.
Zuni Pueblo middle school students practicing Brain Education exercises.
Further evidence of Brain Education’s efficacy came from documented results in schools in New York City, El Salvador, South Korea, and Liberia, where it helped to improve concentration, academic performance, stress levels, emotion management, and relationships in students and teachers. It was recognized by the government of El Salvador in September 2018 for bringing a culture of peace to violence-ridden schools there, and Brain Education days and weeks have been declared in different U.S. cities and states. The most recent Brain Education Day was declared by the New Mexico House of Representatives itself on February 27, 2017.
New Mexico House of Representatives
In spite of the evidence for the marked improvements Brain Education has brought to schools and communities, the road to being awarded this budget was not short. Brain Education was first introduced in 2012 by State Senator Linda Lopez and then again in to the Legislative Education Study Committee in 2013. Funding bills for Brain Education teacher training were proposed in 2014 and again in 2015, but were not passed at that time. However, proponents of Brain Education persisted with conviction in its benefits.
When Ilchi Lee heard the budget bill had been passed, he sent a message to those who had worked on it saying, “I congratulate you with all my sincere heart. Because I know what kind of mindset you focused with, it’s even more touching, and I feel a thrill of exhilaration in my heart.”
New Mexico has prided itself on finding innovative education solutions, despite its ongoing challenges. The state has consistently been ranked next to last in education by the annual Quality Counts report of the national Education Week magazine and was even ruled by a state judge that it was “violating the constitutional rights of ‘at-risk students’ by failing to provide them with a sufficient education,” according to the Albuquerque Journal. One of reasons attributed to the state’s low performance is a 29 percent poverty rate among the state’s children, one of the nation’s highest.
This year’s Quality Counts report, however, showed small gains in the number of children enrolled in early childhood education programs and in its high school graduation rate. To multiply these gains and continue New Mexico’s tradition of innovation, the state’s new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and its congress increased the state education budget by 16 percent ($447 million) this year. The new budget will fund higher salaries, more days in school, and new programs such as Brain Education.
The new changes introduced for the coming year have made many educators optimistic according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Farmington Municipal Schools Superintendent Eugene Schmidt said in response, “New Mexico is at a tipping point, and all of these opportunities will turn that tipping point into balance, and that will pay off for kids in the classroom.” The general sentiment was summed up by one seventh-grade math teacher at Kirtland Middle School, Cherylnn Lee, who said this year has a different feeling than years past: “That’s what everyone is feeling—that there is hope.”