It’s time to meet my inner Organizer.
I need her now, to stand in her full light, full abilities and efficiency.
There are tasks that must be immediately addressed. Oh, Inner Organizer, appear!
I’m not joking. This is serious. Just look at this list of items that are carouselling in my head.
Task One for Teaching Puppetry for Excellence to pupils aged 9-12
Break down the steps of puppet building in order to create a series of visuals. This needs to be ready by October 12th.
Make a list of all the supplies required to teach 60 pupils in 3 puppet workshops. By Monday!
Decide which items can be donated from my own supplies. This would be good: an act of de-cluttering while offering generousity and compassion.
Task Two for Teaching Mindfulness, the Language of Attentiveness to 8th Graders
Organize the Mindfulness classes into pleasant cue-cards for easy reference.
Potential further task: Home Check:
Would be nice category: What needs doing in the house – decorating, rearranging, acquiring, repairing. Prioritize and make a list
I know it’s time to call in the Organizer
For her everything is basic logistics. She takes the necessary facts and arranges them nicely into viable and comprehensible steps in order to arrive at a desired result.
The Organizer is so very skilled that she attracts energy and light and makes everything line up into clearly doable chunks.
She brings relaxation to fight or flight jitters. Calm replaces chaos.
Who wouldn’t love working with her?
It’s time for a visual as I call her forth.
I call upon my inner Sandy Maynard: Life Coach extraordinaire.
With her, any task is as simple as eating delicious grapes. Buy them, wash them, put them in a bowl and start in. One two three and you’ve got yourself step four! Yes!
So, awake, ye Inner Sandy! Comb hair. Brush teeth. Wear a clean shirt. Fold arms and smile.
Let’s get started!
(what? first coffee? Okay. Deal!)
September has made herself comfortable on my calendar. She’s brought along new faces, new intentions, new promises to keep.
I knew about September and her baggage. I knew that as soon as I stepped into the educational framework, I’d be automatically drawn to the many stories surrounding pupils and projects. So, I promised myself to meditate, I vowed to walk intentionally whenever I had to move from building to building. I promised to breathe, to drink water before I felt the incursion of teacher-zombie mode. I would not lose ‘it’ but rather be the presence I wished to be.
This year, among other assignments, I have two challenging classes to teach in regular school. One is a grade 7 class with all the fresh optimism of being in a new school and discovering new customs. I witness smiling faces, still unspoiled by threats of bureaucracy or larger, older students.
They want to learn and they want to succeed. This is a fine meeting of minds! What could be more in tune with my plans? I only need to work out disciplinary measures when the smiles turn to bullying or other anti-social disruptions of the velvety classroom atmosphere.
The other class is a 10th grade class. These dear students are in a pilot programme in which we will be working two programs in the time when usually, only one is demanded. We will be studying the English Literature program at two levels of difficulty – first the basic and then the more advanced. My role is to successfully guide them through it. I don’t expect velvety ambience but I’d love to feel student resolve to work with me towards our goal.
Be the presence, I say to myself.
Calm, attentive, rewarding effort and recognizing positive interaction – that’s my task.
But when shouting and conversations about up and coming parties take precedence over ‘George’s character’ in our story, I need to apply counter-measures.
I pull out Whole Brain Teaching techniques (thank you Chris Biffle). When the class gets noisy, I say “Class!” and they say “Yes”. If I choose to say it briskly then they must answer briskly. If I go mellow, then they must respond ‘mellow’. They need to notice me, my voice and my intonation. This is a sound measure to capture attention and refocus scattered minds.
I like it.
I am not required to yell, stand on a desk or speed-dial a Principal in order to secure quiet in the room. I use a stance in the room and one word.
So far, this word has had to be repeated a few times in order to get full-class response, but it still works better than the heavily abused ‘SSSSSHHHHH’ or the slightly more linguistic “QUIET” neither of which seems to be effective for longer than a split-second.
It’s mid-September. I still remember to walk intentionally from class to class. I’m still wearing my Canadian-bought Crocs, which are slightly more stylish than the originals, but are so utterly comfortable that they cradle my step and help me notice my feet on the patio stones that pave the underlying sand dunes of our desert school.
I remember to breathe, but usually only when I wish to remind others to breathe. Their anxiety helps me remember my own!
I drink water. Unfortunately, as I deplete my huge bottle, students deplete their own and I’m forced to reassess upholding the school rule which states that in a double lesson, the students must remain seated for the first lesson and only during lesson two, can they get up and refill their bottles or empty their bladders.
Bureaucracy! (as I feel my pulse elevate, I breathe!)
I’ve also been given an added pressure. I’ve heard through the grapevine of past students that so far, or at least as of last week, I’m considered the ‘best’ teacher in 7th grade, and true or false, that piece of info adds additional weight. What a huge standard to maintain! The best teacher keeps calm, teaches at a few levels to inspire all students, employs different media to allow all students to show off their knowledge or learn new skills. The best teacher is pleasant and utterly human. The best teacher needs to have a pleasant smell and an appearance that speaks for itself (energetic, alive, etc)
Even the second best teacher would be a title I could live with. But ‘the best’? Oy. and ommm.
In October, I have a few more projects and courses to study.
But now, mid-September, I have a chance to pause for Rosh Hashana. Here is time to read a few brilliant writers, enrich my heart, hug my family.
May I have the inner resources to deal with pressures one ion at a time, and in my doings, maintain my effort to be in the present moment.
I wish you the same!
Brambles! Those intertwined dry snappy branches that challenged Prince Charming in his quest to get to Sleeping Beauty. You know the type, not only ever-present but also there to slap you in the face, sometimes with green leaves, sometimes with thorns.
Brambles are also how I’ve decided to represent those ubiquitous happenings that invade my daily dealings and/or also occupy space in the brain as I replay past events, past feelings or future worries. Brambles, those ever-present distractions that I must overcome. (I could list a hundred and I know you can, too!)
Of course, they are there, constantly. And so the struggle to deal with them and get back to what I intended to do is also constant. But it’s not hopeless. A path can be created, if my intention is clear and if my will is able to withstand distraction. (Just remember the Prince! He managed to slice his way to his prize.)
How can I manage to clear away the brambling distractions from my path?
The first step in any good path creation is wanting to do something: wanting to begin, follow through and get it done. Then comes recognizing the brambles. Noticing that they exist. Noticing that they pop up. Noticing that they keep popping up. Noticing when. Then, noticing that they prevent me from getting to where I want to be.
Take a typical morning. I wake up and set off on a course of a number of deeds and tasks to be done before I can open my front door and be on my way. Every morning I do the same things – sometimes in a different order just to keep me alert to what works best. So, here I go again. A new morning. I wake up early and begin my string of activities when, suddenly, an urgent phone message. My help is needed! I must photocopy a document and immediately send it to my son. He’s overseas and needs it right now! His 7 hour time-zone difference can’t wait for me to complete my 5 a.m. rituals.
No choice. I’ve been called to act.
Fight or flight: There’s no immediate danger to my being. Go ahead! My brain wants to break out of the gate and run full-speed ahead. Quick! Where is this document? It could be in any number of locations.
Emotions join the mix: a conversation.
One small voice: Hmm, what about my own schedule?
Another voice: How selfish! He needs you!
A third voice: Just get on with it – all this discussion is wasting time!
Overall voice: I love him, I want to help. I will manage this!
So, first step: A path.
Next: noticing the intrusion.
Then: assessing if I can meet the request.
Follow-through: I step up to the plate.
Bonus: While searching for what he needs, I can mindfully focus and search. I can do the task. I can recognize what needs to be done, be mindful of expending only the amount of energy required – no need for panic or excess drama. No real need for all those inner voices – who are all those people, anyway? Do they always chime in? Another thing to notice!
The whole time, I have my own intention on hold, waiting for the all-clear signal. Once I’ve completed the task, found the document, photocopied it and sent it, I can resume.
One conquered bramble! And in taking self-inventory: no wounds, no slapped face. Only a sense that there’s been a gentle meeting of ‘Task’ and my effort.
Sometimes, the noticing is not so clear-cut. It can be very difficult. As I move through my day, it’s one distraction after another and all occur quite naturally. Someone needs to talk, urgently. Someone needs advice, at that very second. Someone needs help. Someone else needs to hug. Someone on the phone. Someone on the way home. Lots of ‘someones needing something from me’. This is often called living in a society. Okay, I can deal. I know that people constitute a part of my day and I can learn to differentiate between the sweet green leaves and the thorns.
What about all the events that occur? Spontaneous situations? I need to arrange a room, a class list, an appointment. My filling falls out, my laundry needs folding. There are things in life that happen that require attention.
Often the needs of others or the events that crop up offer a chance for positive sharing and good feelings. This is why it’s all so confusing. If it feels good and positive, then how can I see it as a distraction? Life is flow, is it not?
Sometimes it takes distancing from the scene. When my immediate environment is devoid of others or immediate tasks, only then, can I breathe fully, hear myself breathe, and notice that I haven’t been doing that simple yet essential exercise for most of my day. When someone else wants my attention, how automatic it is to offer it on the spot, without that initial breath or being present in my own body, aware enough to take a meditative moment before I leap.
So, this is the time to notice the ‘brambles’, the surprise pop-ups that unfailingly appear. As pleasant as a hug or as threatening as a projectile headed my way, all oncomings are better met with mindfulness.
Meeting the unknown mindfully, aware of my breath, my feet on the ground or my body on a chair, I can better offer what is required of me, or deflect that which is best avoided.
Formal practice in the form of meditation sessions, whether sitting, walking or lying down, all slowly build up my ability to sustain a more awakened presence. And if there’s only enough time for 3 mindful breaths, those breaths have the power to take me to a more mindful place.
Make no mistake, chronological age does very little to make the work easy – it all requires effort. Practice is the key. And so very worth it.
May I learn how to clear away the brambles from outside and from within and carry on to meet my own intention.
ramble on brambles