Teacher

November 5, 2013

I think we all have someone, or many someones, who we would refer to as a “teacher”.

Maybe your kindergartner teacher comes to mind. Or your minister, therapist, boss, friend, grandmother, father….

Some of these are spiritual teachers, life teachers, vocational teachers, educational teachers. Teachers, teachers everywhere.

” A true teacher is someone who can offer us a map,

a question, an insight,

or simply a listening presence that sparks a fire in us. “

Joan Tollifson

I read something recently, and I will include the link at the end, that called into question the label of “teacher”, and the value, power, importance we place on that person. Sometimes we put them on a pedestal. Sometimes they put themselves on a pedestal.

But who IS a teacher? What is a teacher? How does someone become a teacher? Are we all teachers? Could we be? Should we be? Is a “teacher” finished being a “student”? Can they continue to learn from others?

What do you think? Who are the teachers in your life? What kind of teachers are they? Are they the kind of teacher that have some kind of piece of paper that says they are a “real” teacher, or have they become a teacher through life experiences? Do you view them as “different” from you, “better” than you, “smarter” than you? Do you regard them as someone “special” or “gifted”? Do you feel you could never be “as good a teacher” as they are?

Are you a “teacher”? To whom? About what? Do you think you’re “pretty special”? Do you feel as if you are a “student” too?

What happens when we stop being a student? What happens when we see ourselves as “above” someone else, or “better” than someone else?

I am a teacher and a student. Right now my most significant teachers are a group of three to six year olds. Sometimes I feel like they look up to me way too much, figuratively and literally, so I often sit on the floor. I am not smarter than they are. They teach me important things: “Just be kind” they say. To them that’s the answer. To almost any question they face.

I hope you have good teachers in your life. I hope you still see yourself as a student. If there is a pedestal involved I hope you can gently remove it.

“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way.

I pointed ahead- ahead of myself as well as you.”

George Bernard Shaw

http://www.joantollifson.com/writing18B.html  Go to entry 10-30-13, scroll down

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It’s a bit of a lazy, rainy Sunday. I’m re-energizing after not feeling so well yesterday. Makes me grateful for the rain today because somehow the rain reminds me it is OK to go slowly and not worry or hurry.

I haven’t made a posting in quite awhile…there simply was nothing calling to me loud enough to make me think and share.

Today, however, while rummaging around Facebook I read something. This something made me think about another something and here I am trying to get it to come together.

The Facebook “something”:

“Some might counsel you not to let your past define you, but the events of our loss, the discrepancies in our upbringing, the deficits in our making – are what shape us uniquely. Our limitations are which give rise to the holy imagination, and regrets are the only stepping stones upon which wisdom can be reached.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa

The other “something”:

The last Christmas my father was alive he gave a Christmas blessing based on an article in Process Theology about being what you “eat”. In hind sight this was interesting because it was the last time the entire family was together….in some measure, all of us being who we were then because of the people next to us in the same room, at the same table. We “eat” and are made to grow by the people we meet and surround ourselves with and the experiences we live.

Whether we are present enough to be aware of it, every person we meet, every word that is spoken to us or heard by us, every stumble we make, each summit we attain, the words we read, the lyrics we memorize, every single thing feeds and gives life to who we are. We are fed and molded by a smorgasbord of things outside of us.

We do, however, have some say in the matter.

transform body and mind

What has fed and molded you? As you reflect, is it the regrets and flaws that have had the most impact on you or the joyful uplifting experiences? Or both? As a result did you change something? Have you chosen to be fed something different? Figuratively, do you shop for the ingredients for life at a discount, basic food store or a farmer’s market of fresh, locally produced food? Do you fill up you bags with processed foods, natural organic food or exotic food?

Tell me, who are you. And why? What do you “eat”?

 

 

What The Hell Is Water?

June 22, 2013

Please just watch this.

http://www.christinecarter.com/community/blog/2013/06/friday-inspiration-this-is-water/

From a commencement speech.

Have a beautiful weekend.

I live a life that mostly revolves around my job. I work with preschoolers….little 3, 4 and 5 year olds. There is a daily routine, a fairly unvarying menu of social, emotional and developmental scenarios. There are the predictable dramas of someone not wanting to be friends with someone else, someone calling a 4 year old a three year old, and similar grievances.

My days are very ordinary. Predictable.

Yet, as I reflect back on the day’s events I am often amazed at how clearly, how assuredly my own perspective has a direct impact on whether my ordinary day is, well, ordinary, or whether my ordinary day is magic. It’s all me.

So now, as I go about my morning at home I give myself a pep talk. “What surprises will there be today?”. “How am I going to get so-and-so to do such and such”. “How can I make someone laugh, or light up their eyes?” We have to remember:

 “You may think that in life, a lot of things happen to you along the way.
The truth is, in life, you happen to a lot of things along the way.”
–Dr. Shad Helmstetter

Sometimes the pep talk includes reminders of traps I don’t want to fall in to. Familiar ruts that take me to the same dull places. We have to break free of established patterns of response and thinking in order for new ideas and solutions to be born. Some days I feel like I am on auto-pilot…..reacting the same way to every situation, and it doesn’t always work in life. Some days I have to make the conscious effort to turn the auto-pilot OFF.

I ask my self “Why?” or “why not?” more often. Why do I do the same thing over and over the same way? Why am I surprised when I get the same response? Is that the response I was looking for? Why not approach the same thing differently and see what happens? Why not try something outside of the box?

I give myself reminders:  pause before responding so my responses are not reactionary, but of value. Reminders that everything that happens is not a personal attack on me…on my ego. Funny to think that a 3 year old could make me feel that way….and sometimes it’s the adult co-workers!!

“How you choose to respond each moment to the movie of life determines how you see the next frame,
and the next, and eventually how you feel when the movie ends.”
–Doc Childre

Reminders to pause as to whether my response brings something to the table (necessary) , is it kind, is it truthful?

“When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” ~ Buddha

When I am thoughtful about the choices I can make during the day, my day is “different”. When I practice patience and kindness, compassion and creativity, others respond differently too. It isn’t hard. It just takes some practice and being mindful. It requires I give up reacting, and instead respond with something thoughtful.

Ordinary days become magical. Ordinary days become extraordinary days. Ordinary days become a gift. Something to look forward to.

Ordinary-Day

Only For Today

May 24, 2013

I always look for new ideas on how to be more mindful of the present moment. Sometimes it is so very difficult to do that. There are always thoughts jumping ahead to what is scheduled next, what might happen, what will never happen.

Today I ran across a little article that was directed instead on focusing on the day today. As I thought about it, I felt that really that is what I try to do. I keep the day as a whole in my head, and as I wind my way through the hours and events, I then focus on those specific things as they are happening.

The Ten Simple Rules for Daily Living came from the website Greatfulness.org

DSCN0499

(photograph by me: Oregon coast)

Here are the thoughts, in my words:

* Only for today, I will live the day being positive and not try to solve the problems in my life in one day.

* Only for today, I will be mindful of my appearance. I will dress as if my appearance is an expression of my thoughts and values. I will not raise my voice. I will be kind and compassionate to others. I will not criticize others. I will not judge others.  I will only work on improving myself.

* Only for today, I will remind myself that I have within me the capacity to be happy. To be content.

* Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances around me without requiring that all circumstance adapt to my own wishes.

* Only for today, I will commit 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering to feed my thirst for learning, knowledge and understanding.

* Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

* Only for today,  I will make a plan for myself. I might not follow it exactly, but I will do my best. I will be mindful of hastiness and indecision.

* Only for today,  I will remind myself that today is a gift.

* Only for today,  I will have no fears. Within the hours of the day I will focus on each moment.  In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness and compassion.

 

I read this article a little while ago:

http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/170

It made me sad and then it made me think: how many people do I make invisible by not “seeing” them? Why?

Have you ever walked along on the sidewalk and noticed someone just ahead of you walking towards you….and you look to the side or down when they pass? I have.

Have you ever thought about “what part of town” your walking through? Have you ever felt embarrassed looking at someone and kind of wishing they really weren’t there? I have.

Has your heart rate ever increased as someone approaches you? Have you ever crossed the street to avoid someone? Yes.

Are there people you come across during the day that you try to make “invisible”? Just like a child who covers their eyes so they don’t have to see something? Yes.

invisible_people_

Why do we do this? What do we fear? Where has the fear come from?

If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.”

A couple of years ago I was walking during lunch and notice two men near the corner where I was headed, engaged in a very animated conversation. It looked like they were laughing, but it was pretty intense. I could feel myself reacting, but I just kept going. With my eyes looking elsewhere. As I got closer I could hear snippets of the conversation  and it was about race. I tired to make them invisible. I was nervous. This is hard to admit even to a bunch of readers I don’t even know!! Then I heard it: “Let’s ask her”. I was her.

I had to look up, to make eye contact, to smile. One man said, “My friend and I here are having a conversation about people. He thinks you won’t hug me if I ask you to because I am black. What do you say? May I have a hug?”

What could I say? “Of course I will give you a hug.” And I did. He laughed and I got a great big bear hug. The other man asked why I had said yes. “Because he is just a person asking for a hug.” Inside I was realizing how hard that had been and was upset at all the reasons of why that were going through my mind. Irrational, stereotyped, fearful…so many negatives.

“Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.”

I got a hug.

Now I am mindful of my eyes, my body language, my thoughts and choices. I walk where I am going without thought of who I pass by. I hold my head up and look at people and smile. I say “Thank You”, and “Hi”, and “Have a good day”.  Yesterday I thanked the eye doctor for being open on Saturday. I take for granted places are open on Saturdays. I thanked the man who was sweeping the sidewalk and his face lit up. I thanked the grocery clerk bagging my groceries. I tell the cranky parking attendant “thank you” and wish her a good evening. I am committed to making the people I make invisible, visible.

Years ago when I worked downtown there was a young man who participated in the programs of our mental health clinic. He was physically not healthy. He received services for mental illness. He was someone who could easily be made invisible, and many people in fact did not see him. But he was happy. He laughed, he smiled. He tried to engage people in conversation. Generally they did not see or hear him. I began to respond to him. I had short conversations with him about the weather, the trash, whatever he brought up. One day I noticed that wherever I seemed to be in a 2 or 3 block area downtown, every time I came near a door, he was there. To open it for me. One day I said something about it and he said “I like to do this for you. You’re nice to me. You don’t have to be but you are.”

There is another woman named Caroline. She also struggles with mental health issues. Some days she doesn’t do so well: you can see it in the way she dresses, the way she grooms herself. On “better” days she initiates eye contact. I invited her to sit and have coffee with me sometimes. We had nice little conversations. Sometimes  even just the next day she wouldn’t even recognize me. One day in our local bookstore Caroline walked in. The owner greeted her and she handed him a small pile of books and thanked him. He smiled at her and said something and they laughed  The woman I was with asked him who she was and why she had given him books. He told my friend Caroline’s story and said he lent her books to read, commenting that she was a very bright person going through difficult times. He said she loved to read but couldn’t buy books and couldn’t get a library card. My friend said something like, “I would have never guessed.” Caroline was someone who was easy to make invisible.

“If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.”

There is so much fear, distrust, apprehension, suspicion about “others” these days…………there are lots of invisible people out there. Do you have any? If you don’t, do you still have a responsibility to help others see these people who are just folks waiting for a hug, a cup of coffee, a short conversation, a kind word, a smile, or a good book to read?

Let’s accept this invitation:

“Here’s my invitation to you: let’s take a month and intentionally notice those we would normally not see. Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.

So let’s say “Hey” to someone new tomorrow. I’ll bet we have conversations that surprise us. I’ll bet we learn something new.”

” Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

garlands in india

In cultures where flower garlands are used, the garland maker chooses the flowers not only for their color and fragrance, but also for their meaning and sentiment.

“Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.”

What if we put purposeful thought into how our lives were being “fashioned”? What if, instead of making our garland of flowers, we created ours out of beautiful deeds? What would your garland look like? What would you want it to look like? How much effort do you put into your thoughts about the kind of life you lead? How much thought would you put into choosing beautiful deeds that reflected you and your life choices?

What beautiful deeds have you already done in your life? What ones are currently ongoing? What ones do you envision or hope to happen in the future? How long will your garland be? What colors will we see? Will we know the names of the deeds, or will they be private, hidden and known only to you or those you initiate into this part of your life?

kindndess sign

It’s a New Year. The perfect time to start a fresh garland of good deeds. Give value to doing one act of kindness each day. Maybe let the world know in a small way: a sentence on facebook, a short tweet. See what happens. Take action on that urge we all have to help someone out, to be kind with no thought of personal gain. Many times these feeling are spur of the moment, but you can plan ahead too. Make a little list if it helps.

Watch as your garland grows. Watch as the beauty of it begins to reflect on your face with a warm glow. Watch how your life changes as you complete each good deed, each act of kindness, and bring someone else a small moment of joy.

Have a Happy New year!

Are You Ready For This Day?

October 21, 2012

I came across a guide for preparing for the day. It is based on the chakras, but I think that even if you do not have interest in chakra work, the general idea is one worth considering.

It starts by reminding us that each day is a new beginning. The task for  today is to learn the practice of consciously entering your body and your day. Begin by focusing attention on your entire day from morning to evening.

Review your plans for today:

  • Think about where you need to be and with whom you need to be.
  • Do you feel stressful about this day or do you feel comfortable?
  • Do you feel prepared for today’s events?
  • Are you projecting fears and expectations into this day?

As you gather yourself and plan for the day, add these thoughts to the process:

  • Identify your fears for today and pull them into your consciousness.
  • Acknowledge the strength of the energetic circuitry connecting you to all life.
  • Visualize that strength replacing your fears for today.
  • See yourself standing tall.
  • Work: What am I going to do today?
  • Creativity: What am I going to create today?
  • Focus on your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself today:
  • Am I feeling strong? Frightened?
  • Do I need someone’s approval today?
  • Will I need to be courageous?
  • Remind yourself of your boundaries, dignity, inherent honor, and integrity.
  • Make an internal  promise in terms of how you want to live your life today.
  • Reaffirm to yourself  that you want to look at today through your heart and not through your fears; that you want to feel gratitude for events that do or don’t happen as they should.
  • Keep your attention on the right way to walk into this day, with compassion and patience.
  • Define your needs and desires for today and let go of doing the same for others.
  • Envision choices that result in positive attitudes and feelings about yourself.
  • Vow to express yourself honestly.
  • Prepare your mind to enter the day feeling good and not generating fear or doubt.
  • For today, release old grudges, beliefs, attitudes and patterns that no longer serve you.
  • Remember that everything in your life is there for a reason and to teach you something about yourself and others.
  • Pull your attention up and out, and hold the idea ‘live in present time.’
  • Let go of the past and do not anticipate the future.
  • Find moments of gratitude throughout the day.

At the end of the day, pause for a quiet time to reflect on the day, and put it to bed also.

  • Think about how you feel about yourself and your day now that it  is over.
  • Reflect on the million things that happened to you today and be appreciative of them all.
  • Remember that everything has the potential to be a valuable learning experience.
  • Look at the positive things you invested in today and be grateful for them.
  • Were you able to make choices that enhanced your life today? If so, acknowledge those choices, take a deep breath and decide to put your energy into more of them.
  • What choices drained your energy? Commit to changing those choices in the future.
  • Ask yourself “Did I speak with honesty and integrity?”
  •  How have you done with forgiveness today?
  • Were you judgmental or critical of yourself or others today or did you extend kindness and compassion?
  • Release your fears and doubt.
  • Breath and allow yourself to prepare for restful sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.

Namaste.

 

 

Turning the Wheel

July 8, 2012

“Turn the wheel of your life. Make complete revolutions.

Celebrate every turning.

And persevere with joy.”

~ Deng Ming-Dao

I have been on vacation. To Oregon, it’s coast, and the California Redwoods. I have been watching and listening. To Nature, to people, to body language, to the voice inside of my head.

We (okay, I) miss out on so much by worrying about things that really should not be worried about.

What would it be like if we consciously turned the wheel of our life, making a complete revolution each time? Celebrating everything. Persevering with JOY!!!!!! Admittedly, “persevering” may be a key word in some situations.

JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY

Could you do it? Can you do it? Can I do it? I have my doubts that I can do it . But I can give it a whirl. Because I like the thought of joy instead of fear, worry, anxiety. And I have the power to choose…or to begin to learn how to choose differently. I imagine if I keep trying I will get better at choosing joy.

Will you join me, and give it a try?

“Take more time, cover less ground.”
Thomas Merton

My life isn’t even that busy or compartmentalized, but I often feel rushed. I was at a conference last year and the speaker asked the audience: “How many of you feel like your life is out of control in terms of responsibilities and things you have to do?”. I think I was one of two or three people who didn’t raise their hand. So, why do we do this to ourselves? What is so important that we have to feel “out of control”?

What would happen to you, your day, your life, your job, your family if you took more time to do some things, but overall, covered less ground. Would everything fall apart? Would you fall apart? Would you fail at something? Do we have to get everything done all the time, every day?

For so many of us there is a pressure, an expectation to hurry, hurry, hurry. There always seems to be a list of things to get done…that never seems to get done. Something is always hanging over our head, on the back burner, nagging at us when we do try to relax…The list in our mind is always being modified, but never seems to go away.

One thing that seems to ensure our list is always long is that we find it difficult to say “no”. At some point we each have to understand we just cannot say “yes” to everything.

I love my computer and the internet. It keeps me connected and informed. It provides information and entertainment. But it amps me up.  And I also “loose” time, sometimes hours, by just “tootling around” for no reason or purpose.  I have a personal agreement to turn my computer off by 8 pm in order to focus on winding down.

I am lucky to work at a place with a wonderful circle of maple trees in the yard. When weather permits, I grab a blanket from my car and spread it out under the trees and sit or lay down and do nothing. I stop. No errands. No phone or laptop. No “catching” up or getting one more thing done. I just stop. And when I get up after a little bit, I am a better person all around. Take a break….a real break. With nothing to do.

If trying to slow down is something important to you….you have to change the way you think. Often I hear friends say: “Oh, I can’t sit down, that just wastes time and I have so much to do”. Taking time is not wasting time. Unscheduled time, quiet time opens doors both to yourself and life.

By making  conscious choices you provide the potential for rich and meaningful things to happen in your life. When life becomes more dictated by lists and the chaos of frenetic energy and activity we don’t even have the time to see the potential as we zip right on past it.

Take more time. Cover less ground.