Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sometimes you do

P1070652I woke today in anxiety. There was no big reason for it. It was almost a surprise in its physical manifestation of sensations in me but it was there. I had to begin my day of mindfulness by accepting that reality and choosing to do what I needed to do to fulfill my commitments that could not be changed.

P1070678Unexpectedly, a note from a writing friend,  “Good morning. Just wanted to wish you a very good day.” In light of what concerns I had for the day ahead, it was like cool water on a fevered brow in it’s comfort.  I looked with more anticipation toward the day ahead and it went fine.

Nonetheless, the anxiety kept growing and part way through the day I had to acknowledge its effects on my concentration and take a second anti-anxiety pill. They did their job along with my quieting thoughts through acceptance of them.

P1070682bIt is a balance. I am sure the anxiety could teach me something I need to be aware of but mindfulness also allows us to look at the priorities when we notice thoughts of what we need to do. Attending my meeting today mattered in the grand scheme of things and I have no regrets in choosing to go even if it took anxiety pills to get there and get through it.

There was and is something I need to listen to though in whatever it is inside which raised this anxiety. At my counseling session tonight, though I didn’t feel overly sad, I could not stop crying. Trying to figure it out or stop it just increased the tears and anxiousness even though my outer self could not understand the reason for them. Oh, I could feel the answer tugging on the edges of my mind but my mind was not ready for even mindfully listening.

P1070679Maybe, encouraged my counselour, you can allow it to come out in its own time. Just accept that this is what you are feeling and be at peace with not knowing the whys right now. Sometimes you become anxious. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you understand the whys and sometimes you don’t.

There is only one more day in my Mindful May writing. I think my mindful gift today is living with the questions, letting them sit lightly in the heart. As my favourite quote from Rainer Maria Rilke says,

P1070695“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually then , without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

 

*All pictures were taken on a walk right before the appointment. I find it interesting that I was focused on the greenery with the spaces for human living hidden behind them. It seems a good analogy for the idea of questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming More Accepting

This is the kind of moment which tests the practice of mindfulness and strengthens it. It isn’t a moment of high emotions of any kind. It is a moment when I am just out of sorts, feeling restless inside yet not ready to spend time with others. My mind wants to circle the things I need to get done and sitting in the moment with where I am is to sit in this unrest.

My old models of dealing with moments like this champ at the bit to kick in and take over spiraling me into anxiety. So I am calling their bluff. I am not going to fight them over this moment. I am simply going to capture them in words, unmask them, so to speak. I am not going to try to win. I am simply going to say hello to the feelings and offer them a seat and a nice chilled ice tea to cool off from all the heat outside and the heat within those parts of me, champing at the bit to get busy in so many directions that nothing would get done.

I read somewhere that writing about what we are going through makes for bad blogging. If so, then this might just have to be a bad blog moment. Only, I think of other writing friends and the guilt and drive so often held up as a problem when they have bad blog moments like this. I smile at the thought. My guilt being awakemodel was spiraling me into a shut down but my lovely honest writing friends pulled me out just by the memory of sharing their words.

So today is a day when my mindful gift is simply what I am learning about mindfulness. Here is a thought out of my little day to day guide on mindfulness called “Letting Everything Become Your Teacher” by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

“As the mind develops stability and is less caught up in the content of thinking, we strengthen the mind’s ability to concentrate and to be calm. And each time we recognize a thought as a thought when it arises, and we register its content and discern the strength of its hold on us and the accuracy of its content, each time we then let go of it and come back to our breathing and to a sense of our body, we are strengthening mindfulness. We are coming to know ourselves better and becoming more accepting of ourselves, not as we would like to be but as we actually are.”

 

Father-Daughter Dance

There were two hoop dancers at the special fest in celebration of graduates at the high school. The sun shone hot. There was even a partial circle of rainbow around the sun. It was a day of encouragement, of watching young people lead out and be rewarded for work well done.

The youngest hoop dancer could not contain her anticipation. When the Metis fiddler played she jigged. She had to be reminded to wait when other dancers were in the circle.  Her feet lightly danced whenever she could find the space to move them. If she wasn’t supposed to show she would go behind a white stand in front where her feet could be seen spinning and stepping in time to the drum. She was a joy to watch, uninhibited in her P1070605bco2exuberance, responsive to the music.

When first they announced the hoop dancers, they said there would be a separate song for each of them. Then the change came over the speaker. The dance would be done together. The father, a champion for our province, would share the public dance for the first time with his daughter. Watching them was a perfect highlight for the day.

Within aboriginal teaching, modeling is an important factor. The learning by watching and experiencing was marked. Her eyes went between her father and the pink thick hoops she was using to perform. Her father patiently P1070632bco1waited as she got her hoops into position before unfurling the next hoop image. When the number of hoops in his design were more than his daughter had, she danced around him as he created his new array.

Each shape has names I do not know. But the beauty shown in the teaching and celebration right where she is at was something beautiful to see. She is a hoop dancer like her father.

My mindful gift today is that beautiful lesson in modeling and encouraging as father and daughter shared their dance together.

 

All is Quiet

“Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content,
The quiet mind is richer than a crown…”
― Robert Greene

Greetings or best wishes past, the day grows to a close. Life has gone on for those I love and I just didn’t have it in me to take in a movie alone. The air feels quiet around me. There is the sound of passing cars, the hum of the computer, the clicking sounds of the keys as I tap dance my words onto the screen. There is no music, no television in the background, no words. The whispers of melancholy come and go. Somehow they can’t get any rise out the quiet so look elsewhere for entertainment. I will sleep soon, my golden birthday done, never to come again.

But my home page on social media is full of memories as I look at the names of those who left a greeting. My best friend called from up where he lives and the whole group watching Canadian Idol together stopped to sing. Though, on the whole, it was an alone day. It wasn’t a lonely day. My eyes scanned the faces of the students I teach collaging them for our school remembrance book. Though within there is the small wish that some part of this day would have been spent with those I care for (My work day was even a professional development day with teachers I barely know), we had the fun of singing and playing instruments together. Perhaps new bridges have been built for us as we work together for our division in the coming years.

Today my mindful gift is this quiet inside, a settled feeling for a year well ended and the new one to come. A quiet as I let both stand at the edges while I live in this moment that is with both its joys and regrets, without censor. Just being in this now.

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Celebrating Connection

mirth n laughterThis post will come out on my birthday. Born in 1957, I am 57 this year. I call it my golden birthday but I have no plans for the day. It has been that way for years. My birthday is a quiet day to reflect on the year that is past. It is always a celebration because it is a day I think of those who have touched my life in the year past. It is a day I look back and intentionally notice the growth in the year.

This past year, in January, I had another bout of anxiety that took me down a bit. And yet, it was nothing like what I have dealt with in the past. 2 years ago when I had a stronger break after the death of my dad and a major surgery of my closest friend, learning about mindfulness was a part of the healing process. This time around, mindfulness was something like the exercise I learn in physio if I get an injury. Though my mindfulness muscles weren’t getting as much training as they needed, the knowledge of it was there to support me before the anxiety took me down further.

The anxiety was not as bad a thing as it sounds. It was a wake up call. I had allowed myself to isolate in become unbalanced in my self care in order to put my energy into my full time teaching job. I had allowed myself to put my blinders firmly in place so that I was ignoring the warning signs along the way. I was putting on my deity hat again, trying to take care of all the things in my life. It wasn’t a conscious choice to do this. It was more a choice made by not making choices to move beyond my safe walls.

Mindfulness had taught me to listen and accept my feelings. Joining a writing challenge helped me to articulate them rather than bury them deeper. This blog began for that challenge in January. It was my last ditch effort to break out of the growing isolation that was becoming my life. It has become a joy as it calls me to write and share the mindful gifts in my life.

becomes your teacherSo today, my mindful gift is people —

– Those who wrote with me in the 31 day challenges that has now continued for nearly six months

– The people who welcomed me back into the community of faith I have been in and out of in the past three years because of past history

–  The other teachers in my school who have been encouraging even when anxiety was so much on the surface

– My students who give me joy each day I am with them, sharing with me their enthusiasm and efforts as well as hugs, high fives, and special art.

– My children who keep touch with mom and make sure I am remembered on Mother’s Day earlier in the month

– My grandchildren who fill me up with hugs and stories and let me play with their toys

– And my closest friend who teaches me what it is to be accepting by his acceptance

Tomorrow is a day of celebrating life. I have everything I need to make this day special — connections to people I care about.

“Shade for a man
And shelter for animals,
Planted in your name,
May you be the same
for those around you,
Every year the same.”
― Nancy J. Cavanaugh

 

 

 

A Childlike Spring

P1070500Every Sunday evening, I leave a little early for the worship service I attend. My quieting begins outside the doors where spring perennials and bulb plants are unfurling their colours so longed for in the late spring budding.

The anticipation I feel as I walk the path has the characteristics of opening a present. What new bloom or colour will I see. Today is was the uncurling of new ferns, variety in tulip colour and the leaves finally opened on the small trees there.

As I search for each new opening, something in my heart and mind expands into  a feeling like the ripples of my favorite lake gently brushing the shores of my thoughts. A peace settles over me.

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Crowned with tree blossoms.

The words of my daughter when she was five come back to me as I walk that path. The day had come. Going out to play in the backyard, Meg’s face shone with joy as she went to each newly opened flower and took in the rosy crabapple tree and white apple blossoms. She ran over to me and with a child’s voice of awe and wonder proclaimed, “God must really love me. He made so many beautiful flowers.” Then she was off to explore again.

Over 25 years has passed since that day yet her face and words still stand clear in my mind. The wonder of a child in spring fills my own heart as I look out and see again the beauty of the earth as it clothes itself in colour.

My mindful gift today is the wonderful array of colour that nature brings into our world and the memories that keep me seeing it through the eyes of a child.

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What goes around

We have been circling for years. I met her the year I first got a teaching contract.

my class 1998-9It was a class whose teacher had walked out on them and finding a replacement was hard. The school had gone through a transition that summer taking half of the students into a consolidated immersion setting and half of the resource hours. The thing is, they only took a quarter of the resource needs. This class had a third of the students in resource the year before. With a grant they got a part time support person in the class but most of the planning for that person fell to the regular teacher. It was a large class with high needs in all directions. After three substitutes refused to return, they began asking around for someone who could work with a group with behavioral and academic struggles. I was recommended.

What the next months held was the building of a learning community that sought to empower the kids to take more responsibility for their learning. It was a time of innovation for me as a new teacher with my first term. I had been blessed by the opportunity to work in a volunteer project in the past that focused on the diversity of learning needs. I had also taken courses and professional learning opportunities on my own time in the area and helped out in other schools.  I understood the need to begin with the student and let the curriculum be a guide.

7 wv peace sign2She was one of the students in the class. I will leave most of her story untold. What I will say is that she challenged how I assessed by struggling to turn in any paper that had a mistake on it. Finding a way to reach her meant I spent some extra time working with her outside of class time. She wound herself around my heart in the process.

She gave me a cardboard plaque that year which has held a central place in my home since then. Even when it was painful to read, I kept it safe in my memory trunk. The words have even been photographed to be on display at school and at home.

The summer before I started teaching the class I had begun counseling to come to terms with the need to move from my marriage. However, when the time finally came, I still broke down. I had been given the next year’s contract with the same students and it broke my heart to leave them behind while I had to step aside and heal. I was not emotionally stable enough to do the job. Anxiety and depression, to the degree they hit following my separation confuses the routing of thought. The kids needed more than I could give.

Fast forward another 5 years. I was working at emergency shelters for children, a meaningful job but one in which what I could do for the kids from the perspective of a teacher was limited. I loved the closeness with the kids but was troubled by the inability to follow through in their lives once they left our care. Yet I had lost my belief in ever teaching again so I gave my all to what I was doing.

Then I started to dream. In the basement of my inner home I would be quietly sorting the comfortable cushions and chairs in the room when all the sudden one of them would come to life. Instead of running to hide under something, the living creature would crawl up a wall and lodge under a plaque hanging there. It was always the same one. “To a teacher that made a difference”, the plaque given to me by that young girl. The dreams continued until I listened to them. It was time to go back into teaching again.

To a Teachertitre2I would work in the shelters on a part time basis for another year and a half until my shoulder gave out from the lifting, but my resumes and applications were sent in to a couple of divisions within a month of that decision. Within two months of doing so, in 2005, I had my first long-term contract teaching music. Since that time, there were 6 weeks where I did not have a teaching position lined up. The young girl’s words had left their mark taking me back into the career I loved, the career that fit my spirit.

The children had been 9 and 10 years old that year I taught them. After their graduation from high school, several of them became contacts on my social media page. This young girl, now a woman, was among them. I was able to hear when she formed a stable partnership with a young man I have had the pleasure to meet. I was able to celebrate in words with her when her two little ones were born. I even had a chance to share coffee with her in her home soon after she moved to the town where I am teaching.

Today the news was confirmed. Her oldest child, who begins kindergarten next year will coming to our school. As music teacher, I will be teaching her each year. Having her in my school was a choice. Her child will be taking French Immersion so that my once student can have her dream of having her daughter be taught by me. I am touched to know I made enough of a difference that she treasures the idea of her children being in my classes.

My mindful gift today is the privilege we have of making a difference in the life of others. To be truthful though, this student also impacted my life in the times I needed the message she gave me so many years ago. I am looking forward to getting to know, in person, the young woman she has become. Our relationship has come full circle.