The best lesson I ever taught, at least I think it was, was at the beginning of the book A Wrinkle in Time. In the story there is a black thing that hangs over the planet earth. The black thing in the book lurks attempting to take over earth and make it a “dark planet.” It is used to explain the pain and suffering in our world. Anyway, to get the kids to view it in a personal way, I had them each draw stars on the board. When they put up their stars though, they had to say a hope or dream. They were reluctant at first but really got into it. They made elaborate and creative stars and confessed that they hoped for a permanent home, to get better in treatment, to see their parents again, to reunite with brothers and sisters, to graduate from high school… all kinds of things. My classroom staff and I participated as well adding our hopes and dreams for our own families, worlds, the kids. My board covered in all those stars was the single most inspiring thing I’ve seen in teaching. It took weeks before we finally erased it. Even now I feel a lump in my throat when that vivid picture sits in my vision.
Yet, when I think of my dreams, I know there is a black thing that blocks me from seeing the brightness of their stars, and I don’t begin to have the fears and failures of those amazing individuals.
After drawing their stars, I gave out cut up pieces of black butcher paper and gave them 5 minutes to write what they felt blocked them from their hopes and dreams.
In yoga tonight, I entered in my natural state. I was not tired, I was not stressed. I was not overly energized or draggin ass. I was just fine. At least I thought I was. Somewhere in the class, though, I started to feel myself slip. This is the opposite of what normally happens, no? I began to feel the stress I must’ve held without knowing, want out through tears. It really became obvious when we tried hand stands. I have never done this and was too afraid to kick my feet up really at all. This is unlike me. I just couldn’t get over my fear of kicking the window, falling, I don’t know what. I failed. I hated myself. I feared. I doubted my strength.
When we talked in class about what got people to get over their fears, and doubts in order to access their dreams, what got them through the black thing again, they said unwaveringly love. Love. Love. I was so proud to know them that day. So grateful for the gift of that class period. I knew, somewhere in them, they knew love. They knew the way to access their dreams.
I know the stress in my body was there the whole class. It had been building. Yesterday, I’d feared jumping off a rock while skiing. A fear I knew was unfounded. There was powder everywhere. The worst case scenario was that I’d fall.. Who cares! But I skied another way and didn’t do it. I let the fear block my hope. I’d felt the sudden inexplicable disorientation that warns that I’m about to have a seizure over the weekend while driving. I’d pulled over and Rob had to drive. I felt the worry that comes with what will follow. The sadness at knowing I don’t know; the confusion that takes over my brain while the seizure takes place in my body. Then today I learned that a former student from Tennyson is advocated for by a worker from my CASA office where I just started this week. I thought of all my worries for her, all her fears for herself, the chaos of her internal self, the basic belief she held that she was bad. The layers and layers of fear and hatred and doubt that blocked her from the dream of the worlds offered to her. And I felt them. All over again. If only she could know the loving kindness that was all around her, probably still is. The innumerable people who hoped for her all the time.
But as I tuned out my yoga teacher, I knew exactly why she could not see it. I can’t see it sometimes. I had to tune her out. I simply could not hear anything but my own voice saying “you are afraid. You are a wimp. Why didn’t you jump? Why don’t you do any of the things you say you want to? Why didn’t you do a handstand? Why don’t you get up earlier, get more done? Why do you let yourself have seizures?” My mental fears are nothing compared to hers. How can she hear me? And then I tuned back in. “Inhale the hope of a life of ease, exhale the wish for all beings to have a life of ease. Inhale safety for yourself, exhale a wish of safety for all living creatures.” I could not stop sending all my hopes for her way, and hope that with enough love, she’ll see her hopes and dreams. And with enough patience with myself, I’ll feel the love of those around me.