Come Alive

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

It is the 6th day of the 30-day writing challenge and the third time already that mortality has featured prominently in the prompt. 15 minutes to live, one week to live, one place to travel before you die. I get it, the whole “live each day like it’s your last; one day you’re bound to be right.” But here’s the thing…”to do” lists are not meant for the person with one week left to live. While the goal is to live fully in each moment, we can’t always live for the moment. Sometimes we have to live for the future. If I truly had one week left to live, I certainly wouldn’t get a mammogram, my car’s oil changed or my teeth cleaned. I wouldn’t plant a garden, and I wouldn’t have children (if I didn’t already) cause gardens and babies imply hope for the future. I wouldn’t go to work (even though I love my job), and I wouldn’t save my money. “So much of life is spent preparing to live”….really it’s about maintenance. Taking care of our bodies, our houses, preparing food and cleaning up afterwards. The little things. There is nothing wrong with that.

In yoga, we seek the spot between effort and ease. Life is about seeking that same balance. Expand and contract. In general, one feels more pleasurable than the other. But the ease is enhanced, indeed is only truly understood, when it is partnered with the effort. I work so hard in a yoga class precisely for the experience of release I feel in savasana. Working hard during the school year is what makes the summers off so delicious, so expansive. It’s the release from the contraction into the expansion that makes the expansion feel great.

So, while I get the gist of this, I don’t agree that our lives should be spent doing only things that make us come alive. It’s not the right goal. The goal should be balance, an appreciation of every moment in our lives, whether exhilarating or mundane, whether engaged in a necessary task like doing the dishes or enjoying something that makes your heart sing like (for me) skiing a gigantic, rocky mountain on a sunny day with friends.

If I did have just one week left to live I would spend my savings and take family and friends skiing in a beautiful location. I’d eat as much chocolate mousse as I could find. That’s it, just expansion, fun and ease. Doesn’t sound like much of a life, though.

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Travel

If we live truly, we shall see truly. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

I want to visit lots of places. I want to live in lots of places. I love the mountains. I’d like to ski every day. I want to speak Spanish fluently and live where life is relaxed, where “mañana” means “some other time” and no one really cares when that is.

It’s the “one place to visit before you die” that I can’t wrap my brain around. I want to have enough life to do it all, not just visit one “special” place. I want to go back to places again and again.

I’m torn between the desire for deep roots and the urge to travel. If, tomorrow, someone offered me a free trip anywhere in the world,  I’d head to South America.

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Post-It Question

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie I don’t feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie How can I do work I’m passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48-hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them.

Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it.

My Challenges at the Moment-
I’m tired. I don’t feel that I have enough time to do everything. I sometimes lack confidence in myself. I don’t have enough down-time.

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One Strong Belief

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?
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We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”-Gandhi
It’s funny. Even though I always feel kind of “different” from those around me, I can’t think of that one, strong belief that sets me apart from those in my community.

Am I wishy-washy? Afraid to commit? I would describe it more as being neutral. For example, I don’t eat meat. I stopped eating meat in college after reading Frances Moore Lappe’s book, Food First.  Aside from my 10-year-old daughter, also a vegetarian, my friends and family are all omnivores. My actions are based on a belief that eating a more plant-based diet is better for the health of the planet and for my own health. But I don’t think of it as a strong or defining belief.

I guess that what it comes down to is a realization that the choices I make, the actions I take are those that work for me, at this moment. I hope to make good choices, to be a good role model, to have a positive impact on those around me. However, I don’t mind what other people eat. I don’t have a strong belief in the rightness of eating a meatless diet.

I guess that is the one belief- that I can not change anyone but myself. By changing myself, working on myself, trying to improve my own things that need improving -I might just change the world.

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Today

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

It is 8:14 am and today is early. How will I describe it in just one sentence?

Today is full of beauty and possibility. 

 

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15 Minutes

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

15 minutes… All there is to do is breathe. In………..and out. That is life in its very essence. Otherwise, what good is 15 minutes, really? Should I clean the kitchen? Hug my children? YES to that one…cuddle the kids, love them, kiss my husband. And breathe. Otherwise, I would be utterly distracted by my fear of death. Of no longer being. Alive. I LOVE life. And life is breath. What other story is there to tell that could be told in 15 short minutes?

deleting and editing—waste of precious time.

Here it is- the essence of what I’ve learned in all these years:
Don’t take things personally.
Meditate/yoga/clear your head.
Give more than you think you can– money, time and energy.
Treat yourself well.
Be kind for everyone is fighting a tough battle.
Call your dad every day just to say hello and hear his voice; one day you won’t be able to have that simple pleasure anymore.
Cherish moments.
Read.
Don’t be afraid to be blunt, but try not to be overly opinionated.
Listen really attentively and don’t fear eye contact.
When you’re wrong and you know it, say, “I’m sorry.”
When you think you might be wrong, say, “I’m sorry. ”
It’s totally ok to say, “I don’t know.”
I like people who are real and admit that they’re imperfect.
Say thank you and generally be grateful for all the good.
Go with the flow. Surf the wave of what’s happening without fighting it, but still take a stand for things you think are important.
Share yourself, but don’t throw yourself away. Your time and energy are valuable. You don’t have to travel far or do extraordinary things  to make a difference in the world. There are opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives all the time.

There are MO’s and PO’s (Mind Opps and Photo Opps). Sometimes you have to just be IN the moment and enjoy it with your own senses. Not everything needs to be photographed and videotaped and uploaded to Facebook.

And that’s my 15.

 

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Modifications

Today I taught my first yoga class. Please don’t send the yoga police my way- if such enforcement exists- as I am not a registered teacher of yoga. But, as a long-time practitioner, I decided to offer a yoga rotation during our middle school “rotations” (once a week, students choose).

I can see that my teaching-learning-yoga connections are only going to grow as I experience the practice from the teacher side of the mat. After class we had a few minutes to talk. I asked the students how they felt about the class. Was it what they expected? Too easy? Too hard? Etc… One of the girls said that it was too easy for her. She does yoga and she is ready for more. She asked if it was ok if she did dolphin pose instead of down dog.

The beauty of yoga is that it is an individual practice. Modifications are built-in; it is differentiated learning at its finest because the learner self-monitors and takes cues from the work itself. No learner wants to be bored; teachers may fear that students will be lazy, but I believe that our nature is to strive for mastery and greater challenge. Yoga also recognizes that we are not the same each day. As I told my young students today, I notice that on days when my mind isn’t clear, when I am stressed or anxious, I often have a harder time balancing. The body reflects the mind and vice versa. Practicing balance in the body can help bring balance back to the mind. Should I be forced to balance as well today as I balanced yesterday? What if I feel that I need to do an easier pose today because I have other things happening- physically, mentally, emotionally- and I’m just not “there.” In yoga class there are no worries. No judgment. No competition. If I feel tired, I am allowed to curl up into child’s pose and take a break. I am not judged as disrespectful by the teacher if I am not doing exactly what the rest of the class is doing at exactly the same moment. Nor do I have to feel bored. Yoga always provides the next level. I could do yoga every day for the rest of my life and still be challenged.

I think there are implications here for teachers interested in tapping into the heart and soul of learning.

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Learning Through Practice

Yoga is a practice.
What that means is  this: you just do it. You show up and you practice.  You show up the next day and practice some more. You aren’t practicing for anything- there’s no final test, no yoga olympics. Some days you feel so good, so strong. Some days you’re too tired , but you still show up. You don’t judge yourself, and you don’t judge anyone else. It’s just practice. But if you practice regularly you WILL grow stronger and more flexible. You will develop balance in your body and your mind. You will know the sanskrit names for many of the postures. I guarantee this. Because practicing IS learning.

You do not have to break yoga down into little pieces in order to understand it. You just have to practice.

In school classrooms, we break the learning into parts. Instead of practicing reading and practicing writing, we try to break reading and writing into pieces and parts, skills and standards. I wonder why we don’t just practice what we want to learn in its entirety by showing up and doing it- just reading and writing every day.

In yoga class everyone is different. I like inversions and balancing. Those postures are fun for me, and I like challenging myself as I build strength in those areas. I’m not very strong in my core, though, and I often have to rest during the abs series. It’s all good. I’m improving in both my strengths and my weak areas. I know what I’m good at, and I know what I need to work on. Other people have different strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter, and we are all focused on our own practice.  Everyone grows and develops at their own pace. But everyone tries and everyone challenges themselves.  How do I know this? Because it is human nature to challenge ourselves in learning. When you have practiced something for a long time it starts to get easy, and you naturally want to move onto something harder.

How does the teacher guide the practice? The teacher models what can be, how a posture “should” look. She might offer an “assist,” a gentle correction of a particular skill. She offers modifications for the postures, but it is up to the students to “differentiate.”

How could this work in a classroom? I can already “hear” the arguments — the testing! the parents!  How can we trust children to challenge themselves? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do believe in practice. And I do believe that this model would work with children. Put in your hours of practice and you will pass the test. You will learn. You will figure out what YOU need.

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The 7 Spiritual Laws of Yoga

I just finished reading The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra and David Simon. The 7 laws are the same as Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, but here they are combined with information about yoga, meditation and pranayama, as well as descriptions of how the laws are naturally applied in a yoga practice.

I like the suggestion to focus on one law each day of the week.

Sunday- Law of Pure Potentiality (cultivate stillness, practice non-judgment)
Monday- Law of Giving and Receiving  (a sense of gratitude, have the intention to create happiness, give and receive joyfully, no blockages)
Tuesday- Law of Karma (or Cause and Effect. Listen to your heart/body for guidance)
Wednesday- Law of Least Effort (practice acceptance, take responsibility, do not waste energy defending your point of view or attempting to convince others, remain open)
Thursday- Law of Intention and Desire (be clear about your intentions and desires, surrender the outcome to nature.)
Friday- Law of Detachment (practice detachment, embrace uncertainty, cultivate an attitude of curiosity and innocence)
Saturday- Law of Dharma (purpose in life. become aware of your unique talents and passions. Ask: “How can I help?” and “How can I serve?”)

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Effort and Ease

In yoga, the word “asana” refers to the physical postures. Most of the sanskrit names for the postures contain the word asana, as in trikonasana (triangle pose) and halasana (plow pose). In each asana, the yogi seeks the balance between effort and ease.I have been thinking about this idea in my “off the mat” life, specifically work. I need to find the balance between effort and ease in my professional life.

If you read my blog, Edtechworkshop, you already know something about my work and the changes that have been occurring at my school. When I compare the use of educational technology at the school today with when I started working there four years ago, I am pleased and a bit amazed.

Everything at work is great. We have a new head of school who really “gets it.” I get to work with Silvia Tolisano, who is brilliant, and I learn from her every minute we spend together. I work with my good friend, Kim, the best technology assistant in the world, bar none (really, assistant is the wrong title for her, she is so much more than that). Our teachers are blogging on brand new macbooks, our website has evolved from a static site to a dynamic hub of communication, I am charged with the exciting task of working with students and teachers to begin the process of digital portfolios. I have increased my skills and abilities to the point where I could go almost anywhere from here. In short, I have gotten pretty much everything I ever wanted. So why do I feel stressed and overwhelmed? And what am I going to do about it?

I need to find that place between effort and ease. There is so much to do. I have long lists of blog posts I want to write. My google reader overflows. I can not keep up. I want to do have the time to do things properly. Every task takes time. I feel rushed and pressured, and I feel that my co-workers don’t understand why I can’t always stop whatever I’m doing and run to show them, for the 50th time, how to reset an airport when the signal goes weak or rename a printer that has lost its network connection. And before you suggest I create a “how-to” sheet, please understand that I did that years ago.

I love my work. What I don’t love is the feeling of anxiety that keeps me up at night, the feeling of being spread too thin, my energies scattered. My eyes hurt. I don’t even know if I believe in the power of educational technology as much as I once did.

Effort– I work hard every day. I try to keep up, keep things working, and continue to grow. I learn from my mistakes. I reflect after every lesson, every encounter, every situation. I am there to help, and I try my hardest to respond with patience to every person who approaches me. I am a team-player, and it is not just luck that I get to work with people of the caliber of Silvia and Kim. My to-do list overflows. I do my best to prioritize, strategize, and share.

Ease– I remind myself to stay in the moment. I breathe in and out. I try to remember that, ultimately, my job is not so much about technology (try to tell me that when things aren’t working, though); my purpose for being where I am is to build relationships. It is about helping people. I can only do so much. I need to have faith– in myself, in the students, in my colleagues. I must make time (and space in my brain) for rest and relaxation. Worry has no place in the picture. It doesn’t add to my productivity. If people don’t understand what I do all day, that is not my problem.

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