London came to me the other morning and wanted to confirm that it cost money to go on the plane for our trip to Calgary. I said yes it does, it costs a lot to go on the plane.
She then proceeded to open her palm where there were quite a few coins totalling no more than $3.00. I can’t remember the exact words she used but essentially she was offering up a contribution towards the cost of the trip.
This little offering is totally out of her character and gives me hope that our family Compassionate Training program is showing some small signs of success.
I am a firm believer that accidents don’t happen but there is almost always a reason for why things unfold the way they do. Of course when I am in the midst of an emotional breakdown, crisis, or lacking sleep you may not get me to utter these words or subscribe to them but when I am able to step away and look back, it is often fascinating to figure out what was to be learned by the experience, sometimes it ain’t pretty.
A couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to participate in a girls over-night retreat at one of my friends house. I led a yoga class (been awhile since I did that), my friend led us through a meditation exercise and then we indulged in great food and company. The next morning she pulled some books from her library and this one spoke to me to pick up, which I did. It is one of those books that you have to be ready for on so many different levels and I think the timing couldn’t be perfect as I have struggled recently on a few different fronts.
It is only in the last 10 years or so that people could have open dialogues with others to say that they are practicing or exploring a spiritual path without them thinking that you belong to a cult or are a little strange. I believe that we are entering a new era on this topic just like yoga was considered ‘out-there’ only 15 years ago. Now there is a yoga studio on almost every corner. After being out of the yoga world for almost 5 years and coming back to practicing at a local studio, I can feel an energy change within the room and from the instruction itself. More specifically I feel that instructors are able to introduce or inject more spirituality into the instruction and there is more reception from the yogiis in the room. Although as I write these words, in person I still consider myself to be a closet spiritualist, waiting to come out but only once I get a little more comfortable and confident in backing my actions with my thoughts and vice versa.
I often wonder though whether this slow and steady build into this new era of ‘spirituality’ is a natural evolution of where mankind has come from in the last couple of hundred years. By no means am I a historian (studied Commerce in University) but I am pretty sure the order of things is as follows: Agriculture era>Industrial era>Information era> TBD. Not sure if today’s time period is going to be referred to as the Intellect era or some variation but the focus on the individual and the power of the mind is going to guide us in ways that we are only touching on right now.
Photo of a section of the ceiling in the Ottawa Museum of Civilization. M.Harris
I believe up to this point the notion of practicing a spiritual path in any form was considered a luxury or reserved for very few individuals such as monks, priests, or those willing to give up the material order in order to achieve this coveted state of “salvation”. Even when I took my Yoga teacher training program over 10 years ago now there was very little guidance on how we could incorporate the demands of the western world with the pursuit of a greater meaning in our lives. At least for me it seemed that it was all or nothing or a permanent conflict would remain. Only recently is there more material out there that provides assurance that there is a way to do both – retain the normal responsibilities of this world we live in and need to keep functioning but also reap the benefits of working within this greater spiritual world of wanting a more meaningful life.
Photo of a section of the ceiling in the Ottawa Museum of Civilization. M.Harris
In Sakyong Mipham’s first chapter he states “We already have what we need – the opportunity to weave the tapestry of happiness every day with the needle and thread in our own mind”. Easy to say when you can devote your whole life to this pursuit but it is easy to be a cynic, especially since the homework is difficult. I could probably write a dozen blog posts on what I have taken from the first chapter alone and maybe I will do just that but for now the one message I want to pass along is that spending time on the mind and the soul should not be considered a luxury. We exercise the body whether it be running or biking or a team sport without question, we eat healthy to support our mind and the activities we engage in, but just as important is to nourish the mind through meditation and understanding that the origin of happiness is not in the external world but can only be found from within. A thought that definitely warrants further discussion.
London – Summer of 2012
On Saturday night my husband and two of his friends arranged to meet up to watch the hockey game. It made me ask London what does she think a guys night entail, which she promptly said “Drink Beer!”.
I then asked her what does a girls night out entail, and she promptly said “Yoga”.
Had to laugh.
Right now I am almost done listening to the audio book “Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks. I go through phases of listening to audio books to pass the commuting time to work and this is the latest book in my car. When I picked this audio book from the library I simply went to the shelf and picked out two audio books that spoke to me without even reading the backs. Crazy I know but I have been wildly successful at following this method in the past and have listened to some great books. One being Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. So I didn’t know of this author’s past success and was just willing to give it a try based on it reaching out to me.
When I was watching the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah late last week I noticed a movie preview for this book . In a way I was disappointed in seeing the movie trailer before I had finished the book because I had my own vision in my head as to what the characters looked like and because I am listening to the book, the voices are already ingrained due to it being an audio book. Now seeing parts of the trailer has thrown me off a bit in trying to reconcile the actors appearances versus my imagination. Although I do like it when some books are made into movies, such as the Hunger Games and others, I have almost always have read the book first unbiased to mass market appeal. Oh well, I will get over it.
Having said that I am really enjoying Safe Haven. It is about a young woman in her late twenties who flees an abusive relationship. She starts over in a small town with nothing but initial fear and yet hope. Of course there is a wonderful love story threaded into the mix. What I love about the book is the courage for the character to start over and although it is only fiction I am sure many people can relate to the main character’s story. We all have a story of challenge, although it might manifest itself in different ways, whether it is physical or mental abuse at the hands of others or ourselves, hardship, or internal turmoil that creates such a fury that escape is the only answer (see Wild).
At the end of the day, this story speaks to the resiliency and courage that so many people demonstrate as we navigate through life. It is also a great reminder for many of us with lesser battles that we do have the ability to change our world, so stop whining about ones current circumstances and do something about it.
My youngest daughter London is in Senior Kindergarten (SK), which is a full day program. I am not a big fan of the program she is in but that is for another discussion. For awhile now London has proved to be very precious smarts wise and is currently reading at a level 21. I have been heavily influenced by Penelope Trunk’s thoughts on learning these past few months and can honestly say I no longer push London on the academic front. If she doesn’t feel like reading the one reader she brings home then that is fine. We do make a point though to read to the girls almost every night but rarely prompt or suggest London to read a section unless she volunteers. Nor do we do any additional exercises or workbooks.
There are two other girls in London’s class along with London that get to go to the Grade 1 class to pick out their readers. The SK room only has readers up to 14, most kids in the class are between levels 3 and 6. London is determined by the end of the year if not well before to advance to the final level of 24. She thinks that once she hits 24 that is it, that is the highest level you can go to. I have tried to tell her differently but she won’t listen. I wonder where she got that from? Apparently there are not many level 21 books in the Grade 1 class so London is wanting to jump to level 22.
I told her that at this point it is more important to select a reader she hasn’t read before from a previous level just for the enjoyment of the story. She didn’t get it and you can tell she was wondering why you would want to go backwards. Oh boy. How do you explain to a very smart, logical, stubborn 5 year old that at a certain point it is not about the destination but the journey. If she focuses on just the reader level she will miss out on so many interesting and/or entertaining stories.
I have had numerous talks with her in the last couple of months that everyone learns at their own pace and just because she is ahead by all of her peers, except one class-mate, it doesn’t make her a better person. I don’t think she understood what I was trying to relay. London is certainly not a bad kid and has a great reputation in the classroom but I am pretty confident if I don’t try to work on this now, I might be in for a nightmare down the road. Either she will alienate herself from her peers for her ‘smarts’ or might be in for a rude awakening should she eventually be given the option to participate in a more enriched environment where her smarts no longer stand out but rather are the norm in a different crowd.
Here is to trying!
This morning after being inspired by another book that I have on the go, I suggested to London that I would like her to help 3 classmates today or compliment them. Examples would be helping a classmate with their lunch (kids in the class are always having troubles opening stuff), or with reading (London is quite advanced on the reading front), or complimenting a friends hair style or their shirt. This isn’t the first time that I have encouraged London to help out with her class-mates particularly her younger JK peers but it has been awhile. Anyway she looked at me as if I sprouted another eye or asked her to eat a vegetable she doesn’t like.
She then retorted “well, what if they didn’t do their own hair?”
My husband chimed in that it doesn’t matter and how is that different when I do her hair nicely and someone comments on it.
Since I had to head out the door I sensed that it was a lost cause to continue and out I went.
Buddhist’s believe that you are born with innate goodness and we stray from it due to a misunderstanding of how to achieve happiness. I can buy that but it seems that it is just as natural to be selfish, jealous, envious, angry, etc. I swear London was programmed with this orientation despite having some wonderful qualities, some only a mother could love 🙂
Recently I heard on one of the CBC programs a study that was done on children and choice making. I tried to look up the study but couldn’t find it. Essentially I believe the premise was that each child in the study was given two options: 1) they could have one cookie/treat and their friend could then have one cookie/treat or 2) they could give their friend 3 cookies/treats but they would only get one. I can’t remember the exact stats but most children selected the first option whereby they would not be at a disadvantage then their peers, even though the second option would allow their friend to benefit from more satisfaction (my words).
I posed the same situation with London after hearing about this study and instead used her sister as the other person in consideration. Almost with hesitation, she chose the first option. I asked her why that option and she said she didn’t want her sister to have more than what she would have. Wow. I am 100% convinced this is ingrained in her DNA for we have always made an effort to share within the family – food, material items, clothes, etc.
I am not done with my quest though to teach London compassion. Of course I have lots of learning to do but the sooner she gets off what this book refers to as the “me” plan the greater chance she will be more satisfied/happier in her life, immediate and longer term.
Now that would be cool to have in the backyard!