Did you send the #pain to hobble me
Take my word for what i see
Read my face, and you will know
our ocean tide does ebb and flow
Where one begins, one dissolves;
in pain of #change, our world evolves
You watch it now, you know who
does my pain still strengthen you?
Take my word, it's mine alone
I'll claim this pain as my own.
We began summer school in a hurry this year. I took the four days off and went to the beach just about every day, washing myself of the Covid-19 school year in the beautiful elements at Canaveral National Seashore. During the last few weeks of school, I was fortunate enough to complete a long-awaited PD on Restorative Practices (https://www.iirp.edu/) and expand upon this through classes and continued learning at Embodied Philosophy (see below).
As the circle is an indispensable tool for restorative practices, I begin my 10-week, 3rd grade summer camp with a circle, a safe container. I’ve been out of the 3rd grade classroom for about 6 years now, and got my one-year stint at Civics teaching (a very interesting and polarizing subject with the events of January 6th). Civics is a difficult subject for adults, let alone adolescents. The switch to third grade was welcome, and needed as I will the 7th grade English language arts teacher next year.
This summer, circles are more of a tool for me, a common ground where this new class could establish dialogue and safe sharing. Throughout June, I will weave mindfulness practice into this school world. As predicted, there are many obstacles and challenges with cultivating a space of equanimity and compassion. I continue to work on these through unexpected (but not really) outbursts and tears (there have already been a lot of them). Bandaids and ice are wonderful in the moment, but the real work starts in circle.
This blog is a place to reflect and regroup, as well as practice words of NVC. From what I have experienced in 7 days, we can all still use more compassion and time to build trust before tackling learning challenges. There is strength in our differences of #perspective. Irresistible Circumstances was (and still is) inspired by my dear friend and extraordinary teacher, Danielle, who left this world 6 years ago. Her sweet, yet fierce, perspective has sustained my professional passion in any classroom or grade level. Her friendship was and is still a precious #gift, as her work touched so many students and colleagues. Irresistible Circumstances is a blog to share #perspectives and #goodwork which bring about positive change and healing.
Below is the first in Earthmother Yoga’s June 2021 series, inspired by readings, study, and practice of NVC and restorative practices during this summer, post-Covid-19 school year, Yay, for being without the onerous and mind-frazzling requirement of hybrid learning (no live and face-to-face synchronous learning)! June’s focus continues practices for #connection drawing on the elements based upon work of Marshall Rosenberg and his student, David Weinstock (links below), and their exemplars of grounding and mindfulness practices to cultivate and sustain the language of nonviolent communication (NVC).
Last week, we began with Earth (video embedded below), our home with present, familiar footing. Here we will continue to find common ground with ourselves and others. Today, we will expand and explore Water through our #practice of stepping into the deep waters of our emotions, and then returning to common ground in continued awareness of movement and breath. Today’s practice will be posted on Youtube following our live session.
All the Elements
Came to play
Danced and sang
And went their way
Fire in Moon
Moon in Fire
The South whispered secrets
Of North's dark desire
Bring me your frankness
Your spices and ice
Weave in the lemongrass
Bundle this tight
Walk all the quarters
Crouch on the ground
Fill sacred space
With a Leo's Moon Sound.
All the Elements
Came to play
Danced and sang
And went their way.
In previous incarnations, prior to the imminently eminent momentary unknowns and everyday survival modes of 2020, I was a sloppy #yogawitch. Not a person to methodically organize my life was I, any facet, focused more on the only structure I learned: language. Going through the motions of life while learning the rules through reading and writing #teaching and #practice’s purposeful mistakes, splitting infinitives deliciously aimed at irritating my perceived naysayers. Breaking small rules was an unconscious act of intention awry–a small wickedness and hidden pleasure. Over time, I let this go, confronting and discarding these darknesses hidden to me.
Shadows still dance in my inner realms and these, my familiars, I have learned to organize and call upon to move me past my disorganization and anxieties (I simplify here–there are many helpers involved). I can find these readily in myself and, as such, I began to see them in other places, outside my purview, in the collective. Last night’s full moon allowed these to dance and sing about us in our Full Moon circle. I hear and see those beautiful poetic birds of mystery; you can see them, too, maybe? They are here and here and here and here and here and every morning on my morning playlist (maybe you’ll find comfort and strength here, too?). The sound (not the words), as #memories fills my sight, organizes my Day and Night; my flow feels genuine and intuitively organized.
This is not to say I don’t recognize the sharp oppositions in play in the greater world–only my tiny justification of how presented before I saw my inner chaos. In those “other” roles and realms, those of mother, wife, teacher, daughter, sister, friend, employee, adult, woman, shadows pooled: a stack of dishes; a pile of laundry (clean and folded–or dirty); #practices scribbled down in the wee hours of the morning to do again (as if); a teacher closet with an #abundance of learning unused and a file cabinet of empty files which commiserates; a grocery list with items circled and forgotten; a bottle or two of lotions and perfume I’d never put on (the glass extraordinarily, iridescently filling spaces). Abundance of words and worlds I possess and reflect upon–light bouncing off every corner of my mind; the fast pace of my physicality finally caught up to me, and my body had to slow down, creating a new spaces and organizational flows.
Death is a real thing to me now. There. I said it. I wrote it. Death is a real thing to me now. Understanding comes from experience, I think. What was 2020 but one long catalog of lessons in being alright in the moment while doing what is epically needed to be done? And I understand I get confused, I get things wrong, I make typos, I run around in circles (literally) while I think of what I am doing, and I fucking procrastinate every hard task (as I am doing today), but I understand that each moment is predicated on the words I say to myself–spoken or carried within my thoughts (an element in myself). Beautiful organization takes time, and that same messiness in discovering this, carried me through 2020. Processing in new ways (and historical ways to me on Erika-Standard-Time) allowed me to handle death in the classroom.
My day-to-day as a teacher in a hybrid classroom during the pandemic is predictably challenging; we all do the best we can in our levels of awareness to #balance and ground and survive. I return to language here–mostly poetry (in all Her forms) and runes (ancient communication). And then, I enter our classroom and continue to practice the appropriateness and preciseness which convey the standards as equitably and compassionately as I am able. This is #goodwork, and this is happening all over our building–some teachers have multiple areas to teach (#gratitude for how they still do the same in separate spheres of realities). As I, too, run for the bigger classroom for my bigger face-to-face classes with my computer screen projecting my shirt and lanyard, with mouse and sheets of paper in tow, always one dropping to the floor), I’m learning to quell the words of self-doubt in mind which causes us to waffle in indecision at the most critical time for language–6th period!
I know I am not alone. I feel the energies move through me as shadows, pooling and accumulating in great abundance; warnings to be careful what type of #abundance one calls. This organization destined to fail: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. The pace is harried and my husband reminds me at home I don’t need to run to bed, and in his calm way, guides me to see my organizational spaces work both ways: to let out as well as in.
Here I linger on a blog. I let my mind get lost in those words that bounce around and catch in the shadows’ dark pools. I let the greater picture captivate my inner sight, the soft rhythm of a needed day off (one which I promised would involve grading). I am no longer a sloppy #yogawitch; today’s plans include my abundance of #dreams and #goals. This, the continued practice of letting Death’s presence remind of Life’s import, helps create and maintain #irresistiblecircumstances wherever I go.
This a rambling blog on #irresistiblecircumstances, ones that I create in my life and all the roles: (earth)mother, wife, lover, mover, dancer, teacher, #yogawitch. I’ve been mostly writing poetry in between the lesson plans, the shuffling of one thing to serve another, and the naps. Poetry helps me strip down to language to essence and in doing so, beckons me to ask hard questions of myself and the answers
What remains of me today sounds like angst and feels like chaos and more uncertainty. I push down the urge to shush my intuition, and my confidence shakes: existential crisis arrives in every crisis of the day, hour, minute; I use this rollercoasterness, the power of the up and down, to hover a moment or two on a concept in class students are perplexed about (today, the word “troops” as in the French and Indian War). I wonder do they see great parallels in history and the now? Sweeping questions to yet be answered (or not) on some other day. Thus, stillness and clarity born in this #practice (and others) can be counted in great bursts of #gratitude for the opportunity to teach and share this unbelievable time with others. I want to say: I understand, but instead I ask: What can I do to help you?
The great and terrible thing about adrenal fatigue is that I can’t access the word I need to grapple and explain things, such as lessons, or solid learning and remembrances to aid our learning in the classroom–the labels and names for specific things and people (of which I used to be encyclopedic). Even as simple as why I am sailing forth in my own huge ocean of tears. Being silent and sliding down my face all on their own, I take pause. I slow down.
What remains can be anything; I use some #tags to help me sort through the biggies: #grief, #abundance, #pain. Gold star for #anger of which I have little. I have #enough for this Covid time, probably #enough for a lifetime (for which I say a secret prayer that I’m around to see it).
Today I felt #shame and #guilt for what remains and my confidence shakes again and again and again:
am i depressed
am i crazy
am i sick
am i wrong
am i fat
am i stupid
that i can't see
should i be shamed
i work through #tags
i see the sun
i feel the winds
i know unrest and chaos
within and without
(at school in each greeting--
eyes shift, look down,
Today was hard.
Should I shame myself
i'm not alright today
but in this moment
For that, #gratitude.
I can count on my experience, both inner and outer places, and the insurmountable gets done in its own time, in its own way, and greets the Universe’s cycles, not mine. My choice to seek #balance through a #handstand, a #song, or a moment of mindfulness or a laugh with the students. It helps. The birds sing, the sky opens up, and I catch the whispers and echoes, weave a spell or two in rhyme (or not). Like dance, it moves me.
I look to the left
I look to the right
is clearly in sight.
Stay the course
Hug those dear
Keep your chin up
The Day is near.
In the great stilling of the year,
we walk in woods,
marked with evidence
of winter who,
like a tourist,
visited and departed
in a great sky river
I witness above last night's fire
under the great Moon
Clouds unfolding stories:
the cow jumping over the moon
the speed of a cargo plane landing
the bite of a wolf
a lesson in what is
uncontrollable and perfect just so.
We move counter-clockwise
and step into tomorrow,
just a step between continents.
the ice thaws
the sun cools
the shade lingers
delicately not necessarily
as from oak branches adorned in
great Spanish moss and fallen pine needles
nestled within a moment's warmest hug.
Though we wake,
sleeping still among the thorns of 2020,
the point is we wake
where spiders find such irresistible haunts
full of prospect.
Today's Lesson was in how to link a live video from FB in EMYoga to my YouTube Channel and add captioning (access to all). I have not perfected this task yet, but small steps...The first video in a series for January can be found below (another step in 2020 to rebuild professional competence).
Nec reditum Diomedis ab interitu Meleagri, nec gemino bellum Troianum orditur ab ovo; semper ad eventum festinat et in medias res non secus ac notas auditorem rapit, et quae desperat tractata nitescere posse relinquit.
December’s almost-predictable roller-coaster ride leads me to a beautiful #abundance of creative ideas and promised into 2021. The quarantining process brings with it a shift of #perspective with learning new tools, such as #mindfulness, through a turbulent 2020. At school, we literally had opportunities to re-invent the teaching wheel (and that’s as close to autonomy as you can get in any content). As with most of 2020, great scarcity and unknowing brought #irresistiblecircumstances to discover the important people in our lives and places of refuge, along with how to receive and return Love. Revisiting and tagging thought categories has been useful in seeing #whatis, essentially the #practice of yoga with all that is available, any time and in any place, with the difficulty and uncomfortableness of 2020 snuggled right up against #pain, #grief, and #catharsis; working through resistance requires hard work. Who is to say whether it is the work of 2020 that makes us weary or 2020, a tag itself in omnipresence.
Today, the proverbial 2020 train creaks and clacks slowly up to its pinnacle, and I sit here, stuck between past and future. Experience dictates caution (just like a teacher). Intuition advises my adrenals to scream and get off the ride, but healthy curiosity reconciles with the dose of knowing or, rather, acceptance. Daily walks in Florida’s #skog in the perfect Season among the miles of sandhills, prickles, and humorless humidity has uncovered Nature’s own inherent wild ride–a message to perhaps slow down the pace and look around in the #irresistiblecircumstances which one has created for oneself.
What is Walk
Whether through the miracle of birth
This body Earth
holds host to the catalog of dismissed #abundances:
the water oak, the cypress, the wild sages and cassia,
the thistles and duckweed, the blooming poison ivy,
the water lettuce, the tickweed and asters of the brush,
the sweetgum and inkberry, the ribwort plantain,
or through the death of 2020;
This body Earth
returns to inner fertility of a Florida mid-winter:
moss carpeting the realms below the roots
home of ant, snakes, spiders, and little birds
(a recurrent theme) while
Spanish moss dangles fat and lazily from canopy
and across the pale dead grass,
a pair of hawks glide to dinner
along with vultures and their darker intents
(Not a look of someone doing someone else’s work)
A rotting log from a bird’s eye view.
Blistered feet will write the story of thorny 2020:
We are almost 16 weeks into this 2020 edition of a Covid school year; school is still more about adrenaline than passion. As drive myself through adrenal fatigue and increasing #pain cycles, there is still much comfort in seeing students participate in all the various forms. There is routine in examining the old texts, seeds of our Constitution, and discussing fresh perspectives of Enlightenment. Inequities present themselves, easily imagined as we live the reality of our ancestors. Rich and poor, the work of school is useful to all.
Self-management hangs heavily in a synchronous learning environment, from discussions of leaving something on the stove (when working from home) to managing the impossibilities of impromptu Internet glitches and patches while all at once some magic learning happens. In any case, there’s hardly a time to pause unless we make time for this release. And, just like physical pain, mental anguish and stress takes a toll. Were our forefathers (and foremothers) not the same in their dreams, fears, and internal dialogues? Did they take a moment to seize an opportunity for gratitude (the mindfulness strategy today)? Did they trace the Night’s path across their backyard sky, or take a nap in the emerging sunlight on a cool day, or savor a hot cup of tea in quiet contemplation, and find hope there?
Of late, without much ease in movement, I find myself processing the words, words, words, in a such way I never anticipated in my half-century. Could the younger me have envisioned a day I wouldn’t remember vocabulary or concepts or need the constant reminder of my stumbling and bumbling access to the more common areas of my brain? Likewise, did I intellectualize the day I couldn’t lift the weight of the world and a barbell locked and loaded to squat beneath or push overhead?
School becomes a challenge, tripping over the next item to do, procrastinating the great and honorable task of grading (and grade-entering to create irresistible mixed-media digital content); however much I love to craft a lesson, the sheer amount of energy to make any decision has taken flight to darker realms, suspended.
Survival depends on Day and Night, a marriage of predictable opposition. I am held by spaces between polarities, and Day’s quiet appearance transforms Night’s #abundance into actionable steps toward the future. And while little of life outside of school setting presents itself in the traditional way, each Day has offered fresh #perspectives. Brought into a classroom, our community is light of hope itself–we will survive. Rich and poor, the perspective of familiar cycles is Hope.
It’s been tough going back to school. Dealing with my own fractured energy is hard enough, but suddenly I’ve been thrust into everything else, a day-to-day chaos which teachers must shape into learning in a not so brave new world. And it requires hours of reading and conceptualizing and creating and time! And the consequences and fruits already are apparent in my body as I slip back toward adrenal fatigue.
Enter self-care. The new “best practice” which supports “teacher autonomy” and learning. Not lip-service. Rather, it is intertwined with other tools of the trade and the broad categories of this can of worms: Mindfulness, Social-emotional learning, Restorative practices, Total communication practices, Brain exercises, Comprehensible input, Coding, Self-talk. Meta-cognition.
Each day, I patiently thread this self-care in to each period online, in face, and in spirit to my ever changing school setting. I have a cozy little room and a refreshing new minimalist view on material goods. I feel safe most of the time, and I have clear boundaries. We all wear masks. We have temperature checks. Many of us try to NOT be socially isolated, but the days are long and we mostly look tired and defeated leaving. It’s hard to share a laugh when there’s no time to share a cry and hugs and hold each other in the massive emptiness of the unknown.
I have a massive respect for parents this year. I’m grateful that my kids are graduated and out of our schools. I can clearly understand the nightly meltdowns and harried demanding emails to teachers about how stupid an assignment is. I feel the same. I know I have students who can’t manipulate Google documents and make their text boxes bigger. I know because I’m one of those students.
I struggle. My practiced, refined, and automatic thinking processes crumble and cower with the 7 hour routine of being online everyday and trying to reach all my students and everyone should be able to see, hear (or have interpreted) and share, triaging 100+. remembering meetings in new departments, and doing a hundred other administrative things that only matter at school. So, I model. Here’s my cell phone. Yes, it’s on my desk, but I’m not going to look at it until lunch. Its here for emergencies. By the way, there’s a fire drill today. If you are at home, what should you do?
And what do we do or where do we find out what to do for a/n fire drill, active assailant drill, inclement weather drill, late dismissal, a kid that shows symptoms, a quarantine letter, a free testing site which has enough tests? There are memorandums which we get after we learn what we actually have to do, and do it well. We keep our F2F students safe, and let go of learning content for that period until this becomes unacceptable and incongruous with mandated testing looming (thanks to our governor and Dept. of Ed). And I’ve missed meetings because of the 3 surgeries my husband has had and I can’t watch the 2 hour recording…not that anyone says anything because everyone is dealing with the same things, which means the students are, too.
Just as practices of physical safety are part of physical and formal school, mindfulness can be, too. Revisiting and reaquainting myself each morning in my own practice beneath the sky helps me build the strength and stamina to begin anew each day until we all feel safe to do good work.
The question really becomes what is good work? What does the student think good work is? The parent? The district? The State? Is it test scores? Is it all these things and more? For me, it seems pretty clear. Learning requires a new and readily practiced set of skills for coping, growing, and succeeding.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from 2020, it would be that if I put conditions on things, I get nowhere. First my own conditions crumbled (this was pre-Covid, but just barely), followed quickly by conditions of survival, and still lingering today, conditions of how to move in this new world. I learned how to be thrust into some impossible and unfathomable moment where it was just me and all those conditions or none of those conditions.
When heart of a language is composed of conditions, it has a familiar cadence and structure that feels like school: apply this; modify that; practice, practice practice; sit there; do this. However, to my eyes, Greek read like an ocean. After immersing myself in the texts, the letters and words softly ebb and flow, alive on the photocopied pages, caressing a desolate shore, one with round smooth rocks and colorless shells. Another language was a language of possibility because it was so. And it had a sort of dreamy unknown about it that it still felt like school.
School was a place where I understood conditions, but not conditioning. I didn’t see the layers of commentary, implicitness imposed by some authority named because-I-said-so, but this was okay because I devoured grammar books, studied the dictionary (especially the front and back matter), and went down rabbit holes, blown off course again and again. The conditions gave me boundaries and framework.
Devoid of conditions during quarantine, my thoughts become truths. Sutras: I am. I get to decide the conditions. First, I started without conditions. Just words circled on a page or uttered, and I observed these What does that mean? There was no when I say this or if I think that…there was just the WORDS. No judgment. No one to complain to because I didn’t get my way or something to worry about. The words were my words. And then I could sort out all the emotions attached to them.
There is something irresistibly cathartic about creating a space to hear oneself in the depth of accumulated vocabularies, but it is my students who are deaf and hard-hearing and our interpreters who have taught me the hidden vocabularies of our curriculum and social structures, most of which are impossibly lost on many of my students, which is fine until someone breaks a rule or misses another due date. Then, all implied conditions come out to roost and someone starts throwing out pronouns and pronouncements. And doubt fuels the conversation and everyone gets stuck with what was said or not said.
There’s something so spartan about the unconditional. I could fill it with words or I could let it be. I am empowered and enchanted by its story. The first words persist and rise to meet the incoming tides.