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An Extraordinary Life

This is a photo of the statue of Shiva meditating located in Bangalore. I love it! Shiva–known as the God of Destruction and the original Lord of the Dance–can also settle the fires of the mind and rest peacefully in meditation. Dance-Destroying Obstacles-Meditation…not a bad combo!

Finally I feel my summer break can begin. I am so blessed, so grateful, to be granted this chunk of time where I can reflect and refuel my spirit, mind, and body for another school year ahead. Eight more glorious weeks ahead of me and my plans are centered around a few things: 1.) Running and fitness, 2.) Yoga and meditation, 3.) Preparing for the upcoming school year. Every day I plan to do a little something towards each goal, and I’m leaving Sundays totally wide open and free to just let the day define itself.

As part of my Yoga and meditation studies this summer I was planning to read The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope. The cool thing is that Christine Reed—a.k.a. Bliss Chick is also re-reading this book and hosting a little summer book club over on her blog. I love it!!! How perfect! I hope you will pick this book up at your local library, bookstore, or online and join us. Even if you are new to Yoga–this book is so easy and enjoyable to read and touches on the philosophy–most specifically the Yoga Sutras (something I explore regularly here on Dirty Footprints) by diving into real life scenarios–there is something here that everyone can relate to, Yogi or not. So far I finished Part one of the book and it has hit home to me in a major way.

CAUSES OF SUFFERING: ATTRACTION, AVERSION, DELUSION

“We lean forward out of the present moment. Or we dig in our heels and lean backward. Or we twist away from the naked truth of the moment. All three experiences keep us from being present with How It Is just now. This war with the present moment keeps us almost continually uncomfortable in our own skin. And the sense of unsatisfactoriness that results, though usually beneath the threshold of our awareness, nonetheless drives much of our experience, and many of our decisions, in an unconscious, reactive way.” —from page 41.

My whole last year of teaching school was a constant struggle. I hated my job–and went on and on about how I hated it, here on Dirty Footprints, and to anyone willing to listen. I had a million reasons and stories to back up how my unhappiness was justified–and examples of others that shared in my misery, so nurturing my suffering seemed ok. Then, January comes and things where I live start becoming uncomfortable and I start to add these experiences to my bucket of unhappiness I was carrying around. I will be honest here, I started to even throw myself into this bucket of unhappiness…but I knew, deep down–it was only my mind that was downward spiraling…not me. Not the spirit that still found the energy a few times a week to show up on the mat. Not the spirit that once in awhile picked up a paint brush and fell into shades of purple and orange instead of sadness and tears.

“We lean forward out of the present moment.”

This was a main part of my suffering this past school year–leaning forward into the future. I hated my job, so I would get lost in this world that things WILL be better once we move to Costa Rica. That life THERE will be so different. That I WILL BE much happier, freer, more myself. I would journal about my future life in Costa Rica, dream about it, discuss it with others, and write about my longing for it here on Dirty Footprints even. I was spending the last school year leaning into the future. No wonder I felt so unsteady and unbalanced. I was trying to think of my job as simply a stepping stone to get us to Costa Rica, and while looking at it in this light, I missed a whole year of actually sinking completely into the pleasures, wonders, and pure excitement that comes with being an Art Teacher. Plus, by leaning so far into the future, I was loosing track with the things that needed to be done in the present, such as mandatory paperwork crap that goes along with being a teacher. Eventually my falling behind on clerical stuff would cause me even more suffering. All this living in the future is not real. It’s only in my head. Even though my imagination can conjure up quite an environment for me to live in peacefully there in Costa Rica, it is not real, it is purely an obstacle to living MY EXTRAORDINARY LIFE.

Towards the end of this past school year, it hit me. It hit me that I have been swimming in the seas of tomorrow and drowning in the little puddle I was standing in today. That revelation was the fuel for leaving Dirty Footprints for awhile. Deep down I needed to go inward, and being a part of the blogosphere can be overwhelming at times, when you constantly take in other peoples thoughts, reactions, lives. I needed to live my life–presently, in the moment, and figure out how to shorten the gap between that ocean of tomorrow and the puddle of today!

My answer came during my favorite third grade Art class as I stood by the sink washing brushes. As I did this, I looked out at these 25 darling little souls and saw them all completely engulfed in creating Art. Some of them were proudly wearing aprons, others were quietly focused on their work, and a few students worked collaboratively together like Warhol and Basquiat! At that very moment it did not matter what was going on in the office, over at district, or in the state department of education. It did not matter the bubbling hell of eight grade hormones that I had to endure every day, or how the other teachers were constantly bitching, bitching, bitching. I was not sitting in a boring meeting, or trying to catch up on grades. I was here, right now, the leader of a small group of artists, all having an EXTRAORDINARY moment in life.

My duty in life right now is to be an Art Teacher. I never fully planned it…it kind of happened by following my heart. Even moving to AZ was a reaction to loud heart signals. EVERYTHING in my life is perfect, is ok, is real— right here, and right now. I just need to show up fully, and the suffering will wash down the drain like turquoise colored tempera paint. I got that–right then at that moment.

Sure, its easy to stay present, when you are at the center of third grade art bliss. But what happens when that group of 35 hormone raging, self centered, overly self conscious, ego driven eight graders come barging through the doors? Or when you are faced with losing your job? Or the work that is asked of you is not what you expected or desire? How do you stay present in your life then? How do you keep from flying on that mental plane to Costa Rica, or jumping back into third grade heaven, or even fooling yourself into believing that this is not where you are suppose to be?

You breathe. You focus on your breath. You find that one very link to the now. Then you react accordingly from a position of being grounded in the moment.

This works…it really does. Even with 8th graders! My whole relationship with my job started to change when I fully realized that my present moment duty in life was to be a teacher–an Art Teacher even better. My duty (noticed I did NOT say job) is to teach these young individuals about creativity, beauty, history, culture, and provide them with opportunities and tools to explore who they are and their relationship to the world. That is my duty at that moment when those eighth graders come running in. To teach them…not to control them into doing what I want to make my experience more comfortable.

If I started to fall into the trap of delusion by wanting the situation to be something that it wasn’t (wanting 8th graders to be more like 3rd graders) I began to suffer. If I just accepted that they were raging balls of hormones, and then approached them from a place of understanding and acceptance of what is, things actually worked out to the benefit of my sanity!

If I started to fall into the trap of attraction by dreaming of a life in Costa Rica, it made going to work so much harder. If I focused, especially on the drive in, on the beautiful landscape, the morning sun, the fun music playing, enjoying the moments of being alone, my day started off brighter and happier.

If I started to fall into the trap of aversion by remembering what my life used to be in Cleveland, before I took on this public school teaching gig I immediately felt sad and questioned who and what I was doing. This causes huge suffering…and suffering manifested by thoughts of the pass is the furthest thing from the present truth. I had to remind myself that my life then, was no better-no worse then it is now. It was just moments of an EXTRAORDINARY LIFE.

Peace & Love.

photo borrowed from HERE

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