“I now know that I don’t know what any particular tree will look like without first seeing it, and even then it is likely to be more than I see.”
-Ellen Langer, Mindful Creativity
A few weeks ago, I went camping with my kids and husband. Previously, I have been reluctant to engage in such endeavors because:
- I loathe and fear mosquitoes
- I am a little weird about how I sleep (fan must be on, three pillows must be available and placed in specific places, must have something to cover my face while I sleep etc.)
- It has given me a bad case of my own version of FOMO (fear of missing out) which I shall call FOBU (fear of being unnecessarily uncomfortable);
This last fear is not unwarranted. On one of the few experiences I have of camping with my husband and oldest son, we decided to camp on the beach. Idealization of this included romantic beachside campfires at night, stumbling out of the tent into the water by day. Reality of this: immediate sunburn followed by no shade available ever, massive swarms of aggressive insects in the single available restroom, sand everywhere…everywhere… all the time.
However, over the last year I have come to appreciate and crave my time in nature, and I wanted the opportunity to share this time with my family, to stretch our range of experiences, to revel in the natural silences of outdoor spaces. For all of these reasons, I got over my hang ups and decided to go camping.
In my role as Educator-in-Residence in the wonderful and amazing Pages program with the inspirational Dionne Custer-Edwards I have been teaching Mindful Creativity. We began on day one with an introduction to mindfulness, and I received some good questions from teachers about personal mindful practice, implementing mindfulness for students in the classroom, and how to talk to people about mindfulness in order to build more acceptance. Here are some questions from teachers and the responses I gave with links for further information.
I absolutely love and am inspired by every interview I hear of Krista Tippett’s show On Being. Her work to create a non-polarized dialogue in modern society through her Civil Conversations project was inspiring enough that I included it in my graduate school scholarship essay, and her gift for asking the right questions and being a presence with whom her guests can sink deeply into themselves and the world most important to them is aspirational for anyone who seeks to mindfully listen and understand others.
I just listened to her podcast with Mirabai Bush, a meditation teacher who helped create the training program used for Google employees called Search Inside Yourself. In the interview, Bush states a fascination with Joan of Arc as a little girl, and how she thought it would be nice to know what one was expected to do in this “complicated world” as Joan of Arc did. Later, when she found contemplative practice as an adult, this wish became more of her personal reality.
“Somehow that stayed with me [from childhood]. That sense of wanting to be able to hear clearly what it was I should be doing with my life. And later, when I began to learn various contemplative spiritual practices… I realized that what I loved about it was that they helped you get calm, clear, open, better able to hear… I feel like I am better able to hear what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life, and then, you know, doing it.”
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner- what is it?
if not the intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.
– Rilke, via Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach
So, I believe this post is about human’s desire to connect and the many and varied ways we fail and succeed to do so, but I found myself winding and weaving through various sources of inspiration I have recently encountered, so bare with me! It will be an interesting and (slightly?) tangential ride. (I hope.)
I recently joined a book club, and due to some procrastination on my part, I went on a three-day reading binge this weekend to finish Delicious Foods by James Hannaham for my first meeting. I am an empathetic reader, so engrossing myself in the world of a book that begins with a teenage boy escaping an unknown but clearly terrifying situation in a car he is trying to drive without his recently dismembered hands was not an easy read.
When I began my daily mindfulness practice a year and a half ago, I also began daily journals reflecting upon my practice and my life experiences. These books have become some of my most beloved possessions. I have used them in my writing to capture a moment in time that has passed, and I have used them to gain a new perspective when I was unsure which way to more forward.
They are a record written in my most personal moments, and yet strangely, they are also a source of objectivity for me. There are moments when I go back and review the pages to find kernels of wisdom I need at the present moment or to gain a sense of “what it was really like” when I feel like a time was particularly “good” or “bad” in my life.
My journaling has changed over time. My research on the benefits of gratitude evolved my writing to include more positive experiences. In short summary, individuals with a gratitude practice have more positive emotional experiences overall and live seven to nine years longer on average (Graham).
-Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
There are times in life when a choice is made to “expose ourselves to annihilation” as Pema Chodron states. We make a choice to let go of a relationship that no longer works, to be vulnerable with someone we love, to expose a secret we have worked hard to keep, or to let go of a job in order to move into a next phase of life.
There are as many other times, however, when it takes no bravery at all to fall past the cusp of difficulty into the darkness of total annihilation. We have made no choice, and yet everything is different, harder, worse, and it seems it may be that way always.