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Discovering Serenity

When you give yourself the gift of being open to experiences, inspiration can come from anywhere. By not having every moment of everyday mapped out there is room for magic to grow.

One morning I was feeling particularly rushed, my kids were being a little slow, making me a little later for work than I would like. I decided to play some music that was meditative, "Chants to Awaken the Spirit", it was called, while I was setting up the classroom. My classroom has always appeared to be a little more like a living room than a typical classroom. No matter where I am teaching I usually have a couch, a carpet, pillows, beanbags chairs, shelves with decorations and plants and most importantly lamps rather than the overhead fluorescents.

     I was just finishing the lamps when I was called away to come to the office. I didn't think it would take long so I didn't bother turning off the music. I was wrong and by the time I was returning to the class, the students were already going to be in the room. I remembered the music and was mentally preparing myself that the kids would be making fun of it. I was warning myself not to take it personally and use it as a teaching opportunity. I took a deep breath and opened the door.

     I was amazed.

     The room was silent, the students were all organizing their things then reading, writing or drawing as was our morning routine. Even though that was our routine, it often took a few carefully placed reminders to make it all happen.

     One boy was standing looking at the ipod player, let's call him Carl. Carl was a lot of fun to have in the class but I will say that he was one of my more active boys. He lived and breathed hockey and his body preferred to be moving. All the time. Others looked up to him and often did what he did. Here he was just standing, looking and listening.

     He turned to me, "What is this?" he asked.

     I try to explain what Buddhist chant music was, saying it was kind of like prayers, meant to relax people.

     "I like it." he murmured.

     "Do you want me to keep it on?"

     "Sure." He shrugged and slowly moved on to the couch, his regular perch, but not in his regular way. I asked the rest of the class and they all agreed that they wanted to leave it on too. So I did. In a moment Carl came and said, "I feel like I should be meditating or something."

     "Go ahead if you want to, we can add meditate to our read, write, draw time." I replied pointing to the carpet.

     "What do you do?" he asked. I had to think, how do you explain meditation for the first time to a 10 year old, when I barely understand it myself. The best I could do was to tell him that, it was sitting quiet, your body still, while you attempt to empty your mind of thoughts so you can be open to what is in you heart.

    He shrugged, "Ok." and proceeded to sit cross legged on one of the big pillows on the floor.

    What happened next was beyond words, and now I have to try to describe it. Within seconds his body changed, his face became the face of pure, calm, bliss. He was perfectly still. Even when his friends were moving around him at first trying to distract him and then, giving up, trying to join him. I let it go on for a while, just watching. He sat for more than 10 minutes that first day. Perfectly still inside and out. After that day, our day started with: agendas, organize yourself, then read, write, draw or meditate. Others began to join in and on any giving day there were up to 8 children meditating on the carpet first thing in the morning. It was beautiful, and just being near them filled me with a sense of peace.

     The whole class began to change, become more aware somehow. That awareness became apparent about a month later. We were on a ski trip to a local hill and when it was time to go we were hurrying to get all the students on the bus so that we could leave on time. Just as we had the bus loaded, one of the teachers wanted to just make sure that she didn't misunderstand a parent and accidentally leave someone behind. She stepped off the bus just as I was getting on. I had one foot on the bus and one foot on the sidewalk. The bus driver exploded.

     He started yelling that he was going to be late and started to put the bus in gear with me halfway out and the other teacher absent. I tried to tell him that he couldn't just leave and he began to yell and say it was a dictatorship and we were all racist.  That was even more interesting because I had no idea what race he even was.  He looked no different in coloring than my dark haired polish uncle.

    The other teacher came back and we both jumped in the bus 'Dukes of Hazard' style just as it was pulling away. He yelled the whole way to the school calling us white supremacists, fascists, racists. We were all scared. I was wondering what I needed to do. Call for help? Get the kids off the bus? Meanwhile the students are asking me what white supremacist and fascist meant. We made it safely back the to school and the bus driver jumped off the bus shutting the door behind him. It took me a panicked minute to figure out how to open the door. I got the kids safely out and into the classroom, and there was a lot of nervous energy in the room, from me included. It was terrifying. The students excitedly crowded around me looking for direction. I was just trying to manage my own heart rate. Then Carl spoke up.

     He was a student that was a natural leader, if he was motivated, others were. If he was fooling around, others were. Up until this point, I will be honest and say he didn't always use his natural leadership abilities wisely. However this time was different.

     He said, "I bet that guy has been treated badly before and so he thinks everyone is treating him badly even when they are not. I am not scared of him, I feel sorry for him." Then he asked if we could meditate and send him love.

     I almost cried. My anger melted instantly and I sat down on the carpet. Everyone else sat down too. We lit a candle and sat quietly and in our own ways sent that man some love. I never did hear anything more about him but that was a lesson I will never forget. 

*photo of student was used with permission from his parents. 

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