2013-08-07

True Confessions and Mindfullness

As the summer break from regular school is winding down, I've been feeling myself begin to tighten up. Does that happen to you, too?  A couple of days ago I started to be conscious of this feeling, not dread exactly, but the feeling of steeling myself for the new school year, and I began asking myself why?  I love so much about my job. Working with the children and families is a pleasure. I am pretty confident in my practice of teaching, though there is always more to learn.

Then yesterday I realized that for a long while time has seemed to be flying by, and I have been having trouble staying with or concentrating on anything. How can I slow down, read and research and re-find that creative concentration that is my habit? Last year we had a training session on mindfulness  I had to chuckle at myself yesterday when I realized I was holding my Mindfulness book in front of my eyes but thinking about all the things I want to get done before school starts again. It is Frank Costanza shouting "Serenity now! SERENITY NOW!"

Then, out of the blue, my Mom called me to read me something that came in a Buddhist journal she gets. It was an analogy comparing a way of being (samsara, or confused existence) with a ping-pong ball. Do you know that feeling of being rushed and overwhelmed almost all the time? That ping pong ball confusion of bouncing from one task to another, one meeting to another, trying to meet this persons and that persons needs but mostly being unsure of what you SHOULD be doing? 
What causes that ping pong ball kind of living? I'm sure it's different for each person. Certainly the constant ding-ding of my smart phone and the to-do's of family life play a part. For me, it's a lot about uncertainty in adapting the atelierista role at Sabot. It's funny that I never felt this way in years past, when learning about teacher-research, documentation, and inquiry. Mostly, that was fun. There is just something about working in the bigger school setting with so many teachers and staff that I have trouble figuring out. As much as I love the part of learning called disequilibrium, I think there is a point where it just turns into constant, ping-pong ball stress. It occurs to me that this point is when I am way, way out of my ZPD. Or, maybe not so far out, but without that more experienced peer to scaffold, it is just as tough. It becomes impossible to see the order of things, and when I can't see what's most important, I don't know what to do at all. That's when bouncing around like a ping pong ball takes over. Too bad Vea Vecchi can't come and hold my hand!
painting by Martha Rich

The way out of this ping pong ball state, according to the reading, is awareness, noticing those little moments of clarity, and then letting them connect and grow. Halfway through writing this post my friend and co-teacher Robyn sent me a beautiful little story about sitting quietly in her yard until the animals feel comfortable coming close. She has got it!
I know that I don't mind working really hard once I know what to do. But how to figure that out? Clarity, that's my wish for all teachers this year; to find a balance of all the constituencies we have to please, and to be able to see clearly what path to take.
Serenity now!
"When we do not have clear perception, we must hang on to vagueness and uncertainty. In doing so, we begin to behave like a Ping-Pong ball, which does not possess any intelligence but only follows the directions of the paddle. . . . Whatever we do, our actions are not perfectly right because, based on this neurotic game, we keep being Ping-Ponged. Although it may appear that the Ping-Pong ball is commanding the players, although it seems amazing that such a little ball has so much power to direct the players’ actions and even draw spectators to watch it going back and forth — actually, that is not true. The Ping-Pong ball is just a ball. It does not have any intelligence; it’s just operating on reflex. . . . As the Ping-Pong Ball, you feel very dizzy and you ache all over your body because you’ve been bounced back and forth so much. The sense of pain is enormous. That is the definition of samsara, or confused existence."



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"Although many people have heard this for years, they still do not actually recognize that they are being Ping-Pong balled. That is precisely why you are in samsara, confusion—because you know what you are doing, but you still keep doing it. However, in being a Ping-Pong ball there are still gaps of not being one. There are gaps in which something else is experienced. In fact, during that Ping-Pong-Balling, another experience takes place constantly: the experience of awareness. You begin to realize what you are, who you are, and what you are doing."

blog.shambhala.com/the-ping-pong-ball-of-fixation

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