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Category Archives: Education

Morning Haiku

When I taught, I used haiku for a various reasons. They are included in two curricula: Language Arts and Social Studies. In Language Arts, students are asked to select words that bit fit rhythm and message of a poem. In Social Studies, haiku were part of a unit on Japan, its history, and its culture. The unit included traditional and contemporary examples. Last, but not least I enjoy haiku, as well.

I think students sense when teachers are passionate about subjects, but conflicting messages adults send can be confusing them. At times, students came to school and said a parent questioned them about why I made them learn “stupid haiku.” I worked for an administrator who made a similar comments. I tell others that leaders pick words carefully and poetry helps us learn how to make those choices.

I love poetry and haiku because they challenge me to think about choosing words, spaces between them, and punctuation. Language and its rules have power that we often overlook.

Sonia Sanchez wrote this haiku and it reminds me how I experience my day tells others something. When I responded to students about why we learned haiku, I chose my words carefully, tempering the conflict that arose because of how I experienced poetry versus how a parent did. I hoped the words I chose signaled something about my day well so that others could enjoy their day.

Let me wear the day
Well so when it reaches you
You will enjoy it.

This Being Human

Rumi and his poetry speak across the centuries and across culture. When we awake in the morning, we enter the world along with our emotions. We serve them as a host and they live within us as if our body were a guest house.

When we are mindful of how we experience emotions, we learn they unexpectedly move, replaced by another we attend to, as well. In this way, we invite them in and entertain them as grateful hosts, even when they catch us off guard. We receive each emotion honorably as we experience it and attend to it each moment as fully as humanly possible.

When we understand that emotions come and go and serve as guides in living, being human is a gift that we receive with gratitude and joy. We greet them at the door with a hearty laugh and question what meaning they bring to us in that moment.

This being human is like a quest house.

Every morning, a new arrival,

A joy, a depression, meanness . . .

Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all,

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows

Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door, laughing; and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

 

From the Rivers to the Sea

Sarah Tremlett provides a meditative quality in this poem. When I read the poem, it reminded me of Lao Tzu‘s quote that “all rivers flow to the sea, because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.”

Poetry calls us to meditate, but not to know a single meaning. Instead, it calls us to explore transforming meaning, accepting humility and understanding that we cannot know something completely.

When rivers reach the sea, it adds depth to them and room to explore them more fully. Seas do not have fixed and rigid boundaries. The boundaries remain fluid and permeable. What can humans learn from this? Perhaps, it is that we are all one and the boundaries we think exist are fluid, allowing us to move more easily in the world with each other.

Time reveals that to

execute means to begin

and to terminate

So all the rivers

in each and every country

flow into one sea

 

I Opened a Book

Julia Donaldson reminds us that reading is potentially a mindful activity. We lose ourselves in the as we stride into the book, mixing magical elixirs, and making new friends with whom we share the journey.

For me, Paulo Coehlo is an author that I lose myself in his novels. There is something magical about them and his most famous book is aptly named The Alchemist. I recall the first time I read the book losing myself in it and not being able to put it down.

When we finish the book and we have been mindful in reading it, it stays with us and becomes part of us. I used quotes from The Alchemist in writing as it had left such an imprint on me.

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

Every Movement

The philosopher and Talmudic scholar Emmanuel Levinas proposed that events are ongoing and remain incomplete, including creation as an event. In a sense, God’s creating is never completed.

Hafiz suggests something similar when it comes to understanding God’s work. It is a movement, an event. I find it easy to say no without pausing and being attentive. What does this mean? Am I able to understand its meaning at this time?

There is little patience in waiting for the luminous movement of existence. Quite often, we want something and set forward in a singular way captivated by the thoughts of that might mean as if living is done in moments. When we are patient, mindful, and attentive, the luminous movements appear at the most unexpected times that cannot be measured and described in any complete way.

I rarely let the word “No” escape
From my mouth
Because it is plain to my soul
That God has shouted “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
To every luminous movement in existence.

The Way of Art

There is a Taoist quality to this poem by Albert Huffstickler. The art of writing is not a given path, but that can only be seen in the moment, much like living.

We make plans, but they are tentative. Who knows what will happen in the very next instance? Or, who will appear at our door?

There is a need to be mindful, attentive, and sensitive as we each walk our path and create our art, including living. As well, there is a need to rest along the journey and take in the world as we sit quietly in our meditative moments. In those moments, we learn from the world and others as they teach and lead each of us.

It seems to me that
paralleling the paths of action, devotion, etc.,
there is a path called art
and that the sages of the East would recognize
Faulkner, Edward Hopper, Beethoven, William Carlos Williams
and address them as equals.
It’s a matter of attention and discipline, isn’t it?—
combined with a certain God-given ability.
It’s what you’re willing to go through, willing to give, isn’t it?
It’s the willingness to be a window
through which others can see
all the way out to infinity
and all the way back to themselves.

A Prayer Among Friends

We live in a world populated by others and surrounded by things. Often, we take the communal nature of living for granted. John Daniel suggests we walk together “in the light of this unlikely world that isn’t ours for long.” He counsels that we spend our time with each other and the world generously.

Being present, mindful, and attentive to others and the world lifts our relationships from the taken-for-granted to the meaningful. We elevate the ordinary to the status of extraordinary, finding beauty in the smallest details that are easily overlooked in the busyness of our living.

Sam Intrator wrote about the etymology of companion, which is breaking and sharing bread on one’s journey. As a teacher, eating lunch with students became an important feature of my relationships with them. I got to them and they me during those more informal moments, adding depth to the pedagogic relationships.

I often feel eating lunch with students added to “gift of good work” that pedagogy calls teachers and others to be part of. Taking time with each other over meals is similar to a prayer spoken from the heart and the listening for responses.

Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn’t ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.

 

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