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Waiting Game

For about the past two years I have been working on a daily practice of meditation.  I heard a speaker at a local gifted conference speak about how this practice helped her as a teacher and was having an impact on her high school AP students.  I began reading one of the books she suggested, The Way of Mindful Education:  Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students by Daniel Rechtshaffen.  One of the initial assumptions made in this book is that mindfulness is not a curriculum or something you can just do with students, it is a way of being for teachers as well as their students.  The first step in cultivating mindfulness in the classroom is to first establish your own practice.  Being a yoga enthusiast, I loved the idea of practicing and dedicating time to be quiet and thoughtful.  What could be better than 10 minutes of quiet time?

It turns out it’s a lot more challenging to practice than I had imagined.  Just finding 10 minutes when no one would interrupt me was the first hurdle.  Although many people recommend starting the day with a meditation, I just couldn’t imagine getting up any earlier or that I could even stay awake.  I opted instead for an afternoon meditation.  After a few days of sitting quietly trying to breathe I realized all I did was fidget because I was so uncomfortable and I had a constant urge to check my watch every 2 minutes to see if my time was up.  I decided I needed some help. Of course, there are many apps for meditation.  I found and tried several.  I finally came upon the Calm app.   Although it wasn’t free, I liked this one because it had a 21 day series of meditations to help you learn how to meditate.  Over the last two years my practice has been exactly that, a practice.  I learned that even though I was more comfortable laying down to meditate I often fell asleep.  I learned what meditations worked for me and when they worked best.

This summer my practice moved to a whole new level after I read, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod,   This book presents a morning routine designed to set you up for success in all areas of your life by cultivating a positive mindset and developing the discipline for physical and mental exercise.  I knew the only way I was going to achieve my goals and add value to my life was to make some dramatic shifts in my mindset and the way I started my day.  So, I moved my meditation to the morning.  I’ll admit I’m not a morning person and have struggled some days with following through with my intentions.  Over time though I have realized that starting my day with a regular practice of meditation is now something I crave and look forward to.  This is something I rarely skip.

My favorite meditation series in Calm is the Daily Calm.  Each day a 10 minute guided meditation contains a positive or inspirational message.  I find this to be a great way to start my day and set my intentions.  Today’s message fit perfectly.  The message was about waiting and how our busy lives often do not leave time for a pause.  The meditation shared a story about a man who was waiting for a late colleague to show up for an appointment.  In that moment of waiting he chose to slow down and relish the moment and enjoyed his time and had a few creative thoughts.  When his colleague arrived, he sincerely thanked him for being late.

This meditation resonated with me because today is a day we celebrate in our family as “Gotcha Day.”  It is the day my daughter, Elena, was placed in my arms after a LONG wait.  On September 1, 2005 as we sat in a warmly lit room in Colombia, a beautiful baby girl was placed into my arms and heart as she became a part of our forever family.  As I think back to that waiting period I remember how brutal it was and how many times throughout the process we were forced to wait.  Waiting for paperwork to clear, waiting for a referral, waiting for weeks in Colombia for the final adoption papers so we could bring our daughter home.  At that time, the waiting was challenging and difficult for me.  I did not have a practice of daily meditation or a mindset to accept waiting as a gift.  Looking back though the waiting was a gift.  We formed friendships in a waiting families group that are still with us today, we had time to explore and learn about a beautiful country and people, Colombia, we had time to bond as a family with little interruption from the outside world, we cultivated an appreciation for the amazing gift we received in our daughter.

The final gift of today’s meditation was a quote by Dov Seidman, “When you press the pause button on a machine, it stops.  But when you press the pause button on human beings, they start.” As I think about this quote, I realize that I am once again in a period of waiting in my life.  Our move has initiated some changes in our lifestyle, adding animals and land to our daily commitments.  I no longer have my position as Gifted Specialist and Coordinator and am taking some time to rediscover my passion for writing and leading in a new way.  I realize that while I could have a negative reaction to this pause, by accepting it as a gift, I am able to embrace it and use it to launch my creativity and a new direction.

Where in your life can you be thankful for the waiting? 

How can we help children discover the benefits of pauses? 

How can mindfulness help us be better parents and teachers? 

Life is busy and waiting can be annoying, but we can also use those pauses to shift our mindsets.  Here are a few suggestions for cultivating waiting as a gift:

  1. Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier and start your day with a meditation, prayer or just focused breathing.  Not into meditation yet, try a short walk or stretching. Seriously, I know you already get up early and this seems crazy but try it for a week and see what you think.

  2. Be mindful when you find yourself in a position to wait. Do you have to wait to pick up your students from a specialist or your kids from school?  Rather than getting frustrated at the delay, take a minute to breathe, relax and pause.  Try being thankful rather than angry.

  3. Do you sometimes find yourself waiting in the lunchroom for the microwave or in the food line? Take that pause to take a few deep cleansing breaths or as an opportunity to connect with a colleague.

  4. Family dinners can often get rushed and busy or not happen at all.  When they do, take a few minutes to enjoy the pause.  Smile at your kids, ask them how their day went, share something that made you laugh.

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