The school days of an educator can be varied and unexpected. Some roll smoothly as designed; most, however, have their own rhythm and tempo - despite even the best-laid plans. And, on others, if might feel as if there is an endless series of emergencies to which one constantly responding.
I recently experienced a day when little dramas seemed to fill the hours. While brainstorming with a student about possible alternative choices and the way forward, I found that I was able to withdraw a bit – almost watching our conversation take place from above. I could forecast where our discussion was going, and I knew that I didn’t like where we were headed.
I decided then to shift gears and approach the situation in another way; that is, by focusing on what I was not seeing, not hearing - in short, the heart space hidden by the emotion on the surface.
As I reflect upon that conversation, I am reminded of a time in my youth when I was walking off-trail through the dusty floor of a dense lodgepole pine forest. That day I was very intent on sticking to the bearing that I had cast through the woods, focused on navigating wisely around the trees and boulders that lay in my path so to stay true to my course. My eyes would glance up from map and compass, select a point to walk towards that was in line with my bearing, and I would walk to that mark - repeating the process as each successive waypoint was reached. This I did for hours.
Later that morning, I was awakened by something suddenly between the more sessile things I had been working around. There, in the dappled light of the mid-day sun, stood a young doe and her fawn. The two stood there as if stone, their presence only illuminated by how their breath caught in the rays of the near-vertical light reaching the forest floor. I remember gasping and feeling as if my heart might break open. There, amongst the concentration and vigilance that had filled my morning stood such tremendous beauty, such a powerful sense of belonging.
I lingered for a time, suspended – afraid to move or breathe lest the moment pass to quickly. When I finally did take a step onward it was as if my vision had changed. Everything was more clear, more crisp. In fact, I was no longer drawn to the points along my bearing, but rather to the spaces in-between.
What I realized after my journey through the forest was that for much of the time I was hiking my hyperawareness to my travel plan blinded me to the magic around me.
In our work as educators, do we so focus on the end point that we miss the beauty and possibility present to us in each moment? By focusing on the obstructions, the obstacles and challenges before us, do we invite single-minded vision, resentment and exhaustion?
When we find Grace in our work it is in the space between and around the challenges that task our mortal energies, not merely when we reach a resolution to a particular conflict. In pausing along the way we open up an amazing array of possible connections with the Divine.