As I sat in the first class of my final MEd course I felt a little out of place. The topic was completely outside my comfort zone: The Contemplative Practitioner and I hadn’t taken an in class course for several sessions now. As I saw a few familiar faces in the room, I was put at ease. We started through the syllabus with the goals and flow.
Then came the assignments.
First on the list: meditate on a daily basis for 6 weeks. The panic set in immediately. I’m the person sitting at the back of the room annoyingly shaking the whole bench, the person pacing while waiting in line, the one who wakes up in the middle of the night with a to do list. How was I going to pause the thoughts in my head to meditate?
Then I remembered I’m an educator and I adamantly believe in a growth mindset (I should have known better right there). This would just be an opportunity to put my beliefs to the test and practice what I preach. I couldn’t meditate yet, but I was going to.
A few weeks later we tried the 8 different forms of meditation in class. Panic washed over me again and it was hard to catch my breath. How was I going to survive this? I found an app that would walk me through, a cheat sheet of sorts to help me get settled into the practice. I would start with 5 minutes a day hoping that I could eventually make it to 20 or 30 minutes. 6 weeks later, I never made it past 10 minutes. At times the scene must have been straight from a cartoon: flailing about, talking to myself. Despite the frustrations through out the experience I leave with several take aways: understanding the need to be more mindful and present, not let the voices inside my head take over and never throw the word YET around again.
For access to my complete journal, CLICK HERE.
The first week I started off with 5 minutes of daily meditation and I surprised myself. It didn’t seem so bad. The app walked me through the breathing process, what to focus on and the timer and reward stickers seemed like a little pat on the back that I was on track. Then came week two.
The Process and a Growth Mindset
Week 2 and 3 were some of the worst. January started off with some unfortunate events that seemed to blanket the month in a sense of rush. I moved up to 10 minutes daily. It didn’t seem like a big jump. How much could it affect the process really? Somehow It seemed to put me over the edge. When we teach young learners about a growth mindset, we often teach them to say they can’t yet- NOT YET. As I struggled through the daily practice I was feeling utterly disappointed. It didn’t seem like it would get better. At this time I stumbled upon a blog post that seemed to capture my thoughts exactly. It was reassuring to see someone else struggle with the process. I think we often quickly throw out the term growth mindset and learning from failure without sharing how much the learning process can suck. The waiting for it to get better, the work you have to put in without seeing results immediately is all necessary. Do we share this part of the process with kids? I was reminded of the need for us as educators and leaders to actually tackle a growth experience, trying something that’s unfamiliar to us so that we can better understand our learners’ feelings.
Voices in My Head
In the weeks ahead the process seemed to be a little easier but there was no quieting the voices in my head. I was reassured as I read St. Teresa of Avila’s process in The Contemplative Practitioner. As she described her thoughts as having a madman in her head, I couldn’t agree more. Some days it felt like I was talking to myself, arguing, justifying, debating. Maybe I just had to wait it out, make it over the first stage while I got ahold of the practice. I decided to split the meditation in half and use one of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayers for a time of contemplation each day. It helped a little. As I have started Dan Harris’ book I wonder if the reason I held on to the voices were due to my ego. Hard to admit but the question definitely is one that continues to nag. He has a great line that states “If I quiet the voice in my head, will I lose my edge?” It seemed to jump off the pages (virtual pages). Had I gotten into such a routine of work and tasks that I couldn’t sit and enjoy the present? Was I afraid that I couldn’t keep up if I took the momentary break? Do I really believe people needed me that badly?
What I Leave With
As this experience comes to an end, I have been reflecting on what I will take away. Saying I will keep up with the daily practice would be a lie but I definitely can see tackling one of the formats I didn’t yet try like walking meditation once or twice a week especially as the weather is better outside. I enjoyed the daily affirmation with St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer and hope that I continue to use it as a daily reminder to refocus, even if it is just putting it on the visor in my car as a reminder. Although I haven’t tamed the voices in my head, I feel that I leave with a greater awareness that they are there and I probably should do something about that. I don’t think I was ever aware how the thoughts of worry, to do lists, and tasks took over my thoughts and that perhaps they are having an effect in my work as an educator and leader. Being at peace with myself in the present moment is definitely on the NEED TO WORK ON list.
Sometimes our learning journeys are quick, other times they take awhile. This is one of those journey’s that has just begun. I might as well settle in with that thought.
For access to my complete journal, CLICK HERE.