Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ambition and Mindfulness, Two Opposing Forces

Yesterday I woke up feeling unwell.  A headache squeezed a band of tight pressure around my skull, acid reflux rose in my throat and my stomach gurgled and felt like a wobbly container of swishy-ness.

I had to lie down and rest, and leave the chores alone.

All the things I wanted to accomplish, my ambitions for the day, had to wait while I did nothing.

And then an awareness, a widening perception of mindfullness arrived.  I experienced what it felt like to simply be near Elliot without a rush of expectations on us.

We spent the day together doing nothing, and he was bored, waiting for me to feel better.

I found myself really listening to him, appreciating the sound of his young voice.  The sweetness of his personality.  I noticed how his  mind and spirit are developing.  Being ambitious and driven to work on writing, fitness, chores, the Etsy shop and our academic work distracts me.  Ambition drives me on a highway, rushing over the fields of  those expansive, peace filled awareness moments, when time stands still. In this slow frame, I'm gob-smacked by the beauty and miracle of my family.  How it feels just to be next to one another, in the same room.  Being connected.

We are nearing the end of our academic year.  For the last two weeks, Ellot's been practicing for testing, just to reduce anxiety and not to enhance performance, because I doubt that the test will measure Elliot's true gifts.

No test will show what if feels like to be sharing life with Elliot.   To relax on the couch in the evening and read aloud together.  Last night we dove back into Frightful's Mountain by Jean Craighead George.  That he can read it might be some kind of measure of his achievement, but that he loves stories like this means more.

I believe that what a person cares about is more important than how well they can perform.  This is not some kind of excuse, a blanketing cover for the hard data, the results, the proof that we have been working.  I resent that numbers often have the final word in measuring a child's worth.  I reject that kind of thinking.

What we care about should be allowed to develop freely and without measure in education.

Like justice, and giving, and small acts of compassion.  Friendship and cooperation, respect for our faith journeys in all their expressions.   The pulling out of our expansive potentials as humans to be good to one another and the planet that we share.

 (I am a hopeless what?)

This week,  Elliot has been invited to a special community potluck honoring the founder of The Interactive Resource Center, Liz Seymour.  Liz is retiring next month and we are excited to be a part of the work she has done to bring hope to our community.

Elliot may not have an "end of the year" class party...but this event, where hundreds of people experiencing homelessness and the community of volunteers who help will be an exciting way to celebrate.  When we began our journey I never expected these wonderful experiences to keep arriving. I mainly worried about how to help Elliot get through this:

This first grade work arrived in Elliot's backpack as homework over one weekend.  It was the furious storm in my heart that sent me to the office with a withdrawl form and an intent to homeschool.   

 I'm learning that true success doesn't take hours of hard work or diligent practice. A six year old child does not have to spend 12 hours over the weekend doing busy paper work to be worthy.

 Success doesn't always require years of nose-to-the-grindstone striving.   There is a secret that no one tells you in's really okay to be a miserable failure in all the acceptable skills. (Which Elliot is not...but if he was, this would be okay)  You can be mediocre.  You can be non-traditional. You can be below average, average, or above average.  You can be a bright genius or a slacker.  You can be an artist and a creative and still have "chance" to live a successful, brilliant life.   It just takes a willingness to follow something that you care about.  Explore that feeling and let the curiosity take you to places and into the lives of people.  There's an energy source, a compassionate, loving universe of unseen and unlimited resources that provides gifts to sustain the journey.  In my ambitious striving, I often forget to notice and take comfort and security in this unseen reality.

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