yes, please: my reflection on the learning and the brain conference

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to represent Graded at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco. The focus this year was on Educating with Empathy. Yes, please.

If one of the goals was to make my brain hurt, it worked. Terms like neurons and amygdala and periaqueductal gray and neuroplasticity and vagus nerve and lizard brain and lions and tigers and bears oh my are just running around my cererbral cortex.

Ouch.

But it was all worth it. Ultimately, I left this conference feeling validated, inspired and concerned.

It’s always a good feeling when you’re listening to the experts telling you what to do and you’re like, “Holllllah! I already do that! And that!” Many times throughout the conference, I felt that way. For example, the bedrock of who I am as a teacher is that students must feel good in my classroom. If they don’t, they won’t learn. I remember reading about this when getting my Masters in language acquisition. But more importantly, I have seen this, day in and day out in my classroom. At this conference, I learned even the brain research supports this idea. If students do not feel comfortable in a classroom, the part of their brain responsible for learning literally shuts. off. (What part of the brain? Yep, good question. That’s in that soupy swirl somewhere in my head, but I’m sure you can Google it.)

Even more validating though is my work with mindfulness in the classroom (See here.) I do it every single day with students to start class. If I don’t immediately begin with it, students are like, “Ms, aren’t we doing a mindful moment?” Sometimes, my students lead it, and that is just breathtakingly beautiful. One of the greatest joys is to see the student survey data: for example, from last year to this year, more students report doing mindfulness on their own outside of the classroom. Ugh one more, yes please!

The brain research is aflame with support of mindfulness practices; mindfulness has been shown to correlate with increases in empathy, health, productivity and memory while decreasing stress. One more time: yes, please! Especially important is the research into metta meditation, or lovingkindness mindfulness, which has been shown to improve the outlook of teenagers toward other humans. All together now, yes please!

But of course, the conference wasn’t only validating, it was also inspiring. I walked out of Douglas Fisher’s session on collaboration with concrete strategies on building effective collaborative models in my classroom. Did you know, his district is one of the few to do well on high-stakes testing (ugh, not everything, but something) even through changing multiple administrations. When thinking about why, he said two things: 1, our kids always know WHY they’re doing what they’re doing and 2, the majority of classroom time is spent on student collaboration.

Here we go again. Yes please.

I also learned some concrete strategies from Jeff Zwiers about how to foster meaningful academic conversation in my classroom. Sometimes in my class, I feel like student conversations are just 52 or so different mic drops, with nobody listening and responding to each other in an authentic way. Zwiers talked about this in terms of building ideas and how you teach students to do that. It was very helpful. I plan on using this with Socratic seminars for sure!

Even with all this validation and inspiration, I cannot stop thinking about the heavy weight of one of the last presentations by Dr. Sara Konrath I attended called “Are Teens and College Students Becoming Less Empathetic?” Wow. Just wow. Without citing a bunch of studies, let me just give the gist of our current teenage situation…

Increasing: narcissism, dismissive attitudes, materialism, volunteering rates (associated with a rise in requirements), mental health problems, GPAs, IQ, ACT scores, self-control (yep, you read that right), ambition (although not attainment), and perfectionism. Aren’t you just exhausted reading that list? I am.

But…wait…here are the declines: security, empathy (both in perspective taking and concern), care for others, the pursuit of meaning in life, socializing with others outside of family, and donations to charities.

These lists are depressing. And I am only reading them.

Can you imagine what it feels like to be a teenager today?

I didn’t leave that session with many answers. Just lots of questions. How can I support such a uniquely pained generation? How can I set them up for success? How can I change the culture so that they change their families so that they change the future?

And it just comes full circle, doesn’t it? Compassion. Mindfulness. Teaching the heart, and not just the mind.

Yes, please.

grace: microscopic new beginnings

There is something so dramatic about New Year’s Eve, isn’t there? Even the fireworks declare, “hey, even you can start anew?”

I like those kinds of new beginnings. They are easy. They are believable.

Not so easy when it’s, say, minute 4 of meditation and I’ve been struggling to be present for the last 3. I just want to quit. Escape. I don’t want a minute 5; I need a New Year’s Eve: a dramatic restart, a new year, a grandiose gesture that I can start over.

But I realized on my most recent meditation retreat that it is minute 5–not New Year’s Eve–that truly encapsulates grace.

[bctt tweet=”Grace, at its most glorious, is the tiniest of new beginnings. Imperceptible to others. Almost invisible to even me. But under the microscope of my heart, when I am still enough, and small enough, I can see it. I can be it.” username=”@eternitymod”]

And that’s all that matters.

As I wrote about, I meditated every. damn. day. last year. And I kept it going this year!

Until, July 10th. In a cabin in Breckenridge overlooking the Ten Mile Range, I completely forgot to meditate. I just forgot. I didn’t even realize it until the next day! And oh how my heart broke when I broke my streak of over 550 consecutive days.

But, alas, there was no New Year’s Eve on the horizon.

I had to start over, on a nondescript day in the middle of an ordinaryJuly; I didn’t even get a glass of champagne!

Grace. Tiny grace. Microscopic new beginnings.

I’ve learned a lot this summer about myself. About my heart. About how I treat other people. About how I care for my own soul. About how I connect with God. And with another school year beginning, I’m sure I will revert to some of my ugly ways. Probably on a daily basis.

And I will want to wait for a New Year’s Eve to start over. Because it’s so much easier. And more believable.

But.

Grace. Tiny grace. Microscopic new beginnings.

 

 

gates and guardians: a reflection on the state of a sorrowful heart

Dave and I have spent the last seven days in silence.

No, we’re not in a fight.

Well…

Not with each other at least.

Rather, we have spent the last week at a six-night meditation retreat. I did something similar a few years back and wrote about here (in prose) and here (in verse).

This retreat was a completely different experience and style, but no less impacting. Reflecting with Dave on the way back (finally out of silence!), I remarked on the oddest thing: to see forty people sitting in various states of stillness–some on cushions, some on chairs, some on benches–all poised like little perfect, quiet, quaint Buddha statues. But beneath that serene image, a war wages! Thoughts, “come back to the breath,” distractions, “be here now,” stories, “just breath,” narratives, “what am I aware of?,” memories, “inhale, exhale,” plans, “damn it, just stop thinking already,”–oh my! It is like this most placid, peaceful lake, but below the still surface, sharks are devouring triathletes piece by latex-laden-one-piece swimsuits (oh, can you see what I’m worried about…).

I spent a lot of (uncomfortable) time sitting at this retreat with these questions:

How is the quality of my heart? How open is my heart?

It wasn’t pretty.

After an emotional meltdown the final day of school, for some reasons fathomed and others only felt, I have been thinking a lot about a sense of deadening I have had lately. My highs aren’t quite as high and my lows aren’t quite as low. I wondered if this is a result of my solidifying meditation practice? I mean, that can be a good thing, right? But what I know to be true about my most authentic self is passion: rip-roaring laughter followed by belly-aching bawling (not to mention a few pants-splitting farts; did I mention this retreat was vegetarian and I’ve had a lot of roughage lately?!).

Anyway, back to the matters of the heart. Literally (how about that transition?).

I also reflected on the quality of my relationships with people. After all, isn’t this the sign of an open heart? I care for people–it’s my job after all–but all too often, it is on my own terms and when I can control it. I’m not very good at accepting gestures of kindness or affection (as demonstrated on this retreat, where I felt guilty and lazy [“I must not be working hard enough,” she thought to herself, “oh wait, stop thinking…”] because it just felt too nourishing–what IS that?!).

And though I’m still sitting with it (yep, trust me, my butt hurts, and brain, and heart), I can only explore the answer to these questions (at least at this point) through the lens of grief. My mere third decade of life has been defined by the razored edges of loss and grief. Prepared, but no less heartbroken, I lost my dad in 2011. Unprepared, and all the more heartbroken, I lost my mom less than two years later. Then our very old cat. Then our very young dog. (Which, really, come on, pets? What does that matter? But when the wound is open and raw, even a faint breeze stings deeply. Not to mention the odd parallels between my parents’ and pets’ deaths [read about that bizarre connection here]).

Who am I?

am grief.

And so, I coped. I’d like to say pretty well. I have not lost the roots of gratitude nor faith to the black hole of bitterness.

But I come back to the questions at hand:

How is the quality of my heart? How open is my heart?

How could I not, on some level–hidden, deep, essential, true–close my heart after all that heartbreak?

Perhaps the loss-womb birthed a Guardian who stands at the entrance with an iron grip on the pulsing blood-veined gates.

He is fierce. He is loyal. He is protective.

But maybe it’s time I bid him farewell. In peace. In gratitude. In honor.

Dear Guardian of my heart, you came unbidden, but ached for.

Thank you for the gift of one sure, slow step at a time in the dark, tear-damp forest of the grieving soul.

Thank you for the preservation of what is good while so. much. bad. gnawed at my bones.

I bow to you. But, alas, it is time I send you on your way.

May you protect another vulnerable heart.

But for now, it is time I open the gates.

I open the gates.

I open my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

taking attendance (or practicing presence: part 2)

Present.

I sit this morning in stillness, reading a soul book a soul friend gave me.

Present.

I sit this morning listening to the song of birds. One little fellow is having himself a good ol’ time: a solo act of twirps and tweets and toots among the branches. I practice mindful listening, acting as a conscious port of entry for guest-sounds that come and go.

I don’t attend to this mental door enough.

Just recently on the way to school, I asked Dave a question. Next thing I know he’s saying something vaguely in the background. And by background I mean the screen of my email and the work issues I’m already addressing mentally. I literally asked him a question yet did not wait long enough to hear the answer!

Absent as a wife.

Sometimes I will stare at a student while they talk, even nodding at appropriate moments, and then a minute later realize I have no idea what they have just said. Instead, my mind is on the treadmill of lesson plans and grading and emails and policy frustrations and colleague conversations and…

Absent as a teacher.

Sometimes, a coworker will be talking to me, and I will literally still be typing an email while thinking about a different email I need to send. I sacrifice presence for the sake of productivity.

Absent as a colleague.

More times than I’d like to admit I’ve found myself saying to a friend who is in the middle of a story: “Oh yeah, I do remember you saying something about that.” Vaguely. But just as I didn’t fully attend to the first conversation, I will later only vaguely remember this one as well.

Absent as a friend.

While I was reflecting on this, I went through past pieces I’ve written about mindfulness. When I stumbled upon this one, I sunk under the choking weight of repetition. I literally wrote about the same. exact. thing. in 2014.

I’m even absent as a writer!

But, since mindfulness is a constant, kind returning, I do just that: return.

I take, and retake, attendance.

Present.

In this present moment, I am grateful.

I am grateful for vacation, a break from work, a time when I don’t need consistent attention to my phone (though, do I ever, really?).

I am grateful for our upcoming 6-night silent meditation retreat, a chance to reset.

I am grateful for summer, a time to reconnect and refuel.

Present.

sitting with it: my year meditating daily

The summer of 2016, I spent five nights at Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center in what felt like perpetual, never-ending, extended, are we there yet? meditation. Prior, I had been experimenting with the practice, but never with such intensity and rigor. From dawn to dark, we spent thirty-minute increments either in sitting, walking, or eating meditation sessions. It was intense, to say the least. At times during the retreat, my heavy skin crawled with a suffocating desire to flee…me, my thoughts, and I. But, alas, I couldn’t escape; there was nowhere to go. Now, however, when I look back on that retreat, I see it for what it was: a monumental gift. [To read more about my experience at Vallecitos, see here (prose) or here (poetry).]

After that, I continued to dabble in meditation, albeit with a bit more consistency. Yet all that changed in December of 2016 when my beloved and trusty meditation app, Insight Timer, suggested a year of meditating daily: the 365 day challenge. No ifs, ands, or buts. No excuses or diversions. Every. damn. day.

Yes, please.

And here I sit on the first of 2018 grateful and humbled and honored to say: I did it. Every. damn. day. No ifs, ands, or buts. No excuses or diversions. 

So, here’s a look at my year sitting with it:

  • How. The app offered a curated list of daily meditations grouped together by weekly themes. Though I began with this, I quickly learned that sometimes I don’t jive with the style of the teacher. More often than not, I searched the app’s library for a guided meditation based on my internal landscape: grief when I was mourning the loss of my parents; guidance when I was deciding whether or not to move abroad; peace when my anxiety was kicking in; metta when I needed to send love to some people; compassion when I was raining criticism down on myself. No matter what I was going through, I could find words and light and space to sustain me. Sometimes, I sat in silence with my own breath, training the monkey mind to sit, stay and be.
  • Where. I bought my own set of cushions for ease in the body. Let’s get real: meditation can get uncomfortable… especially for an already, ahem, cushioned girl like myself. An upright, slightly forward spine with ample but soft support for the knees is essential. Those cushions have traveled with me across different homes, hotels and, now, countries. They have been outside a tent and under a staircase. They have grounded me, sustaining my practice.
  • When. On motivated days, the quiet darkness of the morning found me on my cushions. On stressful days, the evening light held my hands as I sat on my cushions. On travel days, an airport floor or the passenger’s seat substituted for my cushions. Often, though, the overwhelming pace of life sprawled me out on my bed, where I fell comfortably asleep with the soothing voice of a meditation teacher in my earbuds.
  • But. Meditation, like life, is a journey. Though I am so proud to say I did it every. damn. day. last year, I also recognize the shortcuts I took. Like fleeting thoughts or experiences, I notice and observe without biased criticism; in this, I gain insight. Moving forward, I want more time meditating on my cushions and less time meditating on my bed. This is a choice. Moving forward, I want more time in silence working through my own mental training and less time being guided by an outside teacher. This is a choice. These I will choose.
  • So What. A friend recently asked if I’ve noticed a difference. It is a profound question that confounds me, for mere words fail to describe how my year sitting with it has transformed me. I long to open the curtains to my heart so people can feel what I feel and know what I know. But, I can, and do, offer evidence. I have lost both of my parents and both of my pets within the blink of six years, yet I am not a bitter person. Fights with my husband have reduced their average running times. The weight of work problems has lightened on my shoulders. Anxieties used to paralyze me with their crippling hold; now, I live in a foreign land (!), embracing the unknown and welcoming adventure. And, when worries do arise, they do not Tasmanian-devil-spiral me into a dark abyss from which I can’t recover. I fight the urge to copy and paste those last two sentences a dozen times because it is all. the. things.

Have I noticed a difference?

am different.

And that, I will gladly sit with.

 

 

 

the untethered expat: culture shock

I’ve been a bit off lately.

I’ve seen it coming, and I recognize it for what it is, but nonetheless, it’s unsettling.

I felt it on our school trip to Belem. The last presentation–the culminating speech–was in Portuguese. Again. Chaos erupted across the room as Brazilian friends leaned in to translate for their foreign peers. Someone leaned over and began translating for me. I was hot. I was itchy. I was tired. I was annoyed by an earlier rude interaction. I couldn’t focus on the speaker, I couldn’t focus on the translator, I couldn’t focus. My skin crawled. I left the room with a wet face and huddled in a bathroom stall, a secret fight with my tears.

Culture shock.

I felt it on our twelve-hour commute home from Ihlabela. The sky leaked, the traffic crawled, the language blurred–all closing our access to “normal” road trip conveniences: a bathroom where I can flush the toilet paper, a restaurant where I can read the menu, a map where I can navigate the alternative routes. No one looked like me. No one talked like me. I was trapped in a car on a road going nowhere, literally, in a foreign land.

Culture shock.

Those moments were sudden and striking compared to the undertone of malaise I’ve been experiencing lately. A sense of floating pervades my daily experience. A lack of connections confounds me. A tangled web of “what was” and “what is” and “what will be” constricts my access to air. And I already wrote about the plague of insecurity.

Culture shock.

1_8NUOaTClmFPvDi9U4HpscwRecently during some circle conversations and mindfulness moments in class, I’ve asked kiddos:

What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for?

Like always, I was moved by their responses. However, unlike always, I was also moved by my response. Not in a good way: it took me so long to think of who or what I was grateful for. For a while, my mind was completely blank. This is not like me. I’ve written about gratitude often (see: here or here or here or here). It is important. It is foundational. It is me.

But there I sat, a silent vacuum.

Culture shock.

All of this–my response to and experience with culture shock–has been on my mind constantly. It guides my meditation practice. It is the source of dinner conversations with Dave. And I’ve come to realize that my lack of gratitude is rooted in, well, my lack of being rooted.

It honestly hurts my heart to call to mind people or things or experiences back in the US. I’ve “left.” My heart aches with a sense of abandonment.

It’s as equally challenging to root into what is new and express gratitude for the here and now. My heart aches with a fear of surrender.

And I know it doesn’t make sense.

Culture shock.

And so, as always, I am left with my breath. Gently noticing this experience, observing what it feels like from head to toe, from heart to soul, and ultimately letting go.

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mindfulness in the classroom: for them, for me, for the world

This past summer, I took the course “Mindful Educator Essentials” from Mindful Schools. I knew from personal experience the power of mindfulness to steady myself, as well as to benefit students coming from traumatized backgrounds. But I was also looking ahead.

My future students–now my current students–would largely represent the opposite demographics of my entire teaching experience: wealthy, advantaged, political, prominent. And those kiddos have parents in the same category. And with such privilege comes an enormous amount of weight: the strongest drive to get the best grades and the most extracurricular sports and activities to get into the elit-est schools. Just typing that sentence stresses me out, much less living beneath its sagging reality on a daily basis.

Screenshot (5)

On the left: all the mindful practices I’ve incorporated so far in my classes. On the right: the guidance for “metta mindfulness” we are practicing this week.

And so, in an effort to provide my students with tools–and also because I like a classroom that feels like home for the heart and not just school for the mind–I’ve incorporated mindful moments everyday since the beginning of the school year. It is entirely new for me; yet it also feels uniquely ancient. And no, it isn’t exactly the Mindful Schools curriculum; however–better–it is that plus what works for me minus what is cumbersome adapted to the personalities of the students seated in front of me, breathing next to me. So much so that on a regular basis I hear:

Miss, aren’t we going to do mindfulness today?

I really need a mindful moment right now.

Guess what Miss, I did mindfulness before my game!

Um, yes please to all that teacher-soul-goodness.

This week, in alignment with the school’s kindness drive, I introduced the practice of metta mindfulness which offers loads of benefits. Metta mindfulness entails a dance of breath and phrases offering goodwill, starting first with ourselves, and then extending outwardly to those we love, those of neutral interest, those with whom we have contention, and eventually the whole world. At first, we only started with ourselves and with those we love. But today, with hands on our hearts, I prompted those who felt comfortable to call to mind someone with whom they have tension: an ex-friend, a challenging family member, or a politician.

Afterward I checked in with kiddos about their experiences. I asked about the level of difficulty in offering goodwill to someone with whom they feel tension.

One kiddo’s brief, but passionate, response said enough:

Yeah. Temer.

And never have I felt so connected to a kiddo. Because here I was:

Yeah. Trump.

It is no secret I am no fan of Trump. But today, I mustered up all the deepest parts of me to send him goodwill:

May you be safe.

May you be healthy.

May you be happy.

May you leave with ease.

And while parts of me revolted, screeching NO to such an offer of goodwill to someone I just… well…

the light in me, the love in me, the peace in me recognized that in my vitriol disdain for “the other,” I contribute to the problem.

In conclusion, I mindfully surrender to Martin Luther King Jr’s words:

veutgiyyhqox

 

 

 

what our staircase teaches me about mindfulness

When we were searching for apartments in Brazil, we were drawn to those with two floors. When I stumbled upon (pun intended, you’ll see why) the one we are currently living in, we fell in love and just had to make it ours. When people saw the pictures, they all exclaimed the same thing:

That staircase!

We always wrote it off and said it would be fine, and it is, as long as we’re fully present in the moment when going up or down. It has already taught me quite a bit about being mindful:

  • Slow down. The first couple of times I went up and down the steps, I zoomed. Just as I do all things in my life. Big mistake. Because the stairs are not linear nor the same size, a quick climb could result in a VERY quick descent. So it goes in life. I so often get into business mode (in fact, I’m struggling with that very thing today) and want to go, go, go which can result (as it is today) with disruption to my state of peace. But as with the stairs, if I take my time instead of rushing, I’ll be able to do things once instead of twice, with more intention and quality, without scrapes and bruises.
  • Be here now. There have been times on the stairs where my mind was somewhere very different than focused on my feet. And sure enough, I have slipped. The only thing I have to do or can control when climbing the stairs is climbing the stairs. There is no such thing as multi-tasking. There is here and now. So it goes in life. The only thing I have to do or can control in this very moment is this very moment.
  • Be careful where you plant your steps. I have learned, through some staircase-induced-pain, to watch my feet closely as I put them on the step. This is of utmost importance toward the top and bottom where the steps are not even the length of my foot. If I do not pay attention to the placement of my feet, I will slip right on off. And I have. So it goes in life. There are many grounds in which to plant roots and many forests with trees of which to call my neighbors and many skies under which to warm my face. A lot rides on which of those I choose and which of those I actively and/or passively avoid.

Currently I’m scheming about where to put my meditation place in our new home. Since there is a cubby/den/area of unused space right under the stairs, I’m pretty sure that would be apropos.

And the cushions sure would make for some comfy landing gear.

For a (very amateur) video of the stairs, click here.

 

arrival journal: day three

As I write this, I sit on my balcony enjoying the interplay of stars above and apartment lights around and headlights below. Dave and I just shared some conversation about our separate days’ experiences (the first we’ve been apart in awhile) on the balcony while sipping out of cherry blossom mugs the whiskey we packed into our overseas luggage.

As you might be able to tell, I am in a much better place than yesterday.

My temporary meditation space.

Today started with the first of many back to school alarm clock appointments followed by a meditation about going with the flow of life’s direction. And for the first time in a while, I actually put effort into getting ready. As my mother-in-law would say, I put on a face. It’s amazing how a little bit of eyeshadow and eyeliner can brighten the outlook.

On the agenda for today was some good old-fashioned team building (name game, line game, etc) for the newbies. If you know anything about me, you know I am a sucker for these things. Partly because they remind me of camp. Partly because they do the trick. Partly because they align with my corny nature. The line game here at Graded was very different than my normal experience though. In the past in urban education when people had to line up according to years of teaching experience, the weight of the line was on the inexperienced side. Today, with my ten years of teaching, I walked to that inexperienced side, realizing that where I would have been a dinosaur (a decade!), now I am an infant. It felt equally intimidating and refreshing.

After that, the obligatory opening remarks by the superintendent that somehow felt different, here, now: students first; we value you; influence is not abused here; the teacher-student relationship is the priority. Yes, please, and obrigada. Then we met with just our high school group where we did the opening rounds of getting to know one another and the school. Here, inspired by the initial authenticity of our principal: “I am such an introvert this week makes me want to run away from you as fast as possible,” followed by more authenticity about humor as defense mechanisms and fear over a lack of meaningful connection and impact with students had me at the cusp of an emotional breakdown. Which I promptly had when it was my turn to share.

I shared, in embarrassing sentences broken by tears, about my experience this year where one of my toughest students broke down and was so beautifully and publicly supported by a peer. This is why I teach. Stories. Connection. This. I then shared that I was overwhelmed by all the extroverted appointments we were doing, and I was completely new to working in this healthy school environment where everything is not life or death, and how authenticity matters to me, and how I was a mess. Literally. Thankfully the group responded with the space of grace, the place to just let it out. It was cathartic, and probably exactly what I’ve been needing.

After this, we took a tour of a campus that is more than I could have ever dreamed. I honestly felt some guilt. I have taught for ten years in places where resources were limited and where students came to school hungry, but here I am walking in a glorious campus full of remodeled fields and black box theaters and recording studios and giant libraries and homecooked meals on the lunch buffet and outside barbecue pits and…

My heart aches for what is broken in American public education. My heart aches for what I left behind. But… that probably will be more posts, later.

All this “work stuff” actually helped me more than I can say. My comfort zone is being good at my job, living a life of love in the classroom, so it was stabilizing to be in the environment where we’re talking school.

The day ended with a beautiful and delicious churrasco of meats and cheeses and garlic bread and yep, you guessed it, an open bar staffed by the school bartender.

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As I reflected with Dave tonight, I could not help but think about how this might just be the place that heals my teacher soul. I was worried that if I did not make a drastic change, I would leave teaching altogether.

But in my heart of hearts, I feel there are students here at Graded that have been needing me as much as I have been needing them.

I cannot wait to meet them.

 

 

 

you, too, are welcome here: the anxieties of change

When I was in high school, I lacked the finesse required to to discern my own levels of stress. Instead, in alignment with what I was taught and that which I believed, I held tightly to the safety net of God:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In my world: anxiety = atheism.

But as much as I ached in my deepest soul to believe this, my body said otherwise. I was plagued with random stomach pains that I could not identify. Sometimes they were so bad, I would lie down in classrooms just to find some iota of relief. Eventually after many doctors’ visits, it was diagnosed that my gallbladder needed to come out.

And it did.

Yet, still, there were ailments I could not pinpoint.

Why?

The only way I knew to find boundaries or rest or–dare I say–weakness  (without guilt) was through sickness.

Now, with over a year of solid meditation practice in my corner, I realize I gave so much power to my anxiety by mentally avoiding it. My body has always known this. Driven by pure freedom, it always felt the experience without the stilted narrative.

And now, by changing my own narrative about stress and anxiety, I am beginning to taste that delicious freedom.

This summer, I have been amazed–perhaps even a bit frightened–with how calm I have been about the impending move. However, with less than four days left in country, I sense my internal landscape changing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Just this morning, Dave’s mom asked me if I was worried. Honestly, I am not. But, in my body, I feel a heaviness. I am not sleeping well. I feel energy pulsing through my body. My skin is breaking out in rashes and pimples. I can’t stop eating. Sitting still takes an uncomfortable amount of control. I got ants in my pants.

But, instead of the striving and thrashing and condemning script I normally would have rehearsed, I find myself leaning into all the things.

All the things.

In my head and heart, I chew over and over on this poem by Rumi:

Welcome and entertain them all…

Meet them at the door laughing…

Be grateful…

And so, I will.

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"To sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."

Escaping Bars

Writings on Love, Pain, Overcoming, Hope, Longing, Justice, and Injustice

juliaetorres.blog

Strength \ Vision \ Service \ Exploration

A Tree On Fire With Love

But it's still scary sometimes because most people think love only looks like one thing, instead of the whole world

teaching With "Ang-sigh-eh-tea"

The life of a teacher who struggles with anxiety and depression.

Sampa Sympatico

A Yankee Teacher's Experience of Sao Paulo, Brazil

LINDSAY JILL

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Once Upon a Time in México

Living my dream of teaching, traveling, and discovering culture

Teach. Travel. Taste.

A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia

2seetheglobe

Adventures in Globetrotting

Nomad Notions

Tales of Expat Living, Teaching, and Tramping in Taiwan and Beyond.

Sojourners' Journal

“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people." —Albert Einstein

Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain

Ex(pat) and the City

The life of a twenty-something Canadian living & teaching in Korea.

International Schools Review

ISR Discussion Boards are open to site members and visitors alike. Your Voice Counts.

Teaching & Traveling

The Life of An International Teacher

EAT~PRAY~TRAVEL

THE ADVENTURES OF A NOMADIC EDUCATOR

pedagogyofthereformed

Teaching in Brooklyn in Spite of Everything

Actively Dying

by Peter Fall Ranger

Practicing Presence

An attempt at mindfulness in life, learning, and love

chanyado

by Aleya Kassam

Words Half Heard

writing into meaning

Greatfull

A snapshot of my journey to living each day with gratitude and striving to be full of greatness

Imperfect Happiness

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~ Mary Oliver

tspelczech

"I'm too old to live my life in fear of dumb people." - Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom

Perfectly Pleased

Finding joy and beauty in the simple things

Cultivate Clarity

creative writing and mindfulness-based coaching, workshops, and retreats

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

ADVENTURES ON THE YOGA MAT

writing into meaning

affectiveliving.wordpress.com/

Purpose, Perspective, and Perseverance for thriving in a challenging world

candidkay

Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.