Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Challenge of Presence

*This was a post I started in September and didn't finish until today.*
Parenting is tough. For those of you who are parents this is an obvious statement, but to those who are not parents I do not think there is any way to convey the depth of this statement. I did not come to be a parent with my eyes closed to this reality. I was a nanny for several years before becoming a parent and I had a pretty good idea that parenting meant giving up a rather large portion of your life and freedom. It also appeared to me that to do the very best for your children you were going to need to do a bit more than provide a home, healthy eating choices, and a good school. Kids require your presence, not just your physical presence, but the kind of presence we seek to understand in going to a yoga class. My favorite most intense meditation practice is being fully present as a parent.

But, as many of you know the challenge of being present is the greatest challenge many of us face. And this is not limited to parents. It is our challenge as human beings with incredible minds capable of unfathomable thought, to silence the what if's and should I's and I need to's and just be. It is our challenge to stop looking so far out and ahead, to stop and look in and just observe the light shining around us and through us all the time, even when our eyes are closed in the dark.  Our challenge is to stop and be in awe of the expanding universe inside our being. To see ourselves with as much reverence as we see the universe. To see how tiny and at the same time how enormous we are. To be fully present in the moment, in one moment of an infinity of moments.

Today I hope you give your self the gift of a moment of presence. I hope you will stop and close your eyes and breathe in the life surrounding you and be in awe and wonder of your place in this world. I hope you will see the brilliance of your moment in the sun. And I hope the same for me.

The Dark Side

The dark time of year. My thought go with the season.  The longer I live the more I am able to see the brilliance of the Star Wars saga. As my husband pointed out it is a story ripped from the global pages of antiquity, retold for our times, nevertheless I choose to use it. This time of year is my journey to the dark side

We all journey to find our true self and struggle to find our path and place in this world. It really isn't anything new, but it can be remarkably lonely. Being a jedi is a tough job and sometimes quite isolating. Now am I saying I am a jedi and  you are not, no. I am saying we are all jedi in our own universe searching for others like us. We are searching for others who will see our gifts and our purpose and will welcome us to the community to join the fight for good over our perceived evil.

As it goes with Luke I sometimes struggle to find what it is I am fighting against. What is the dark side and is it really as dark as I think? I find myself saying no, the dark side is just another part of ourself and we get to choose how much we let it become a part of our present self. I think often people look for an external fight to focus their energy upon instead of the dark matter inside themselves. I think for many it is less scary to take on the perceived evils of the world verses facing the dark side of themselves.  I know that my dark side is pretty scary, much more so than global warming.

I am sure I am not alone in this primal fear of the dark, cold, barren time of year. I feel it is a fear passed down though millennia. A justified fear of surviving the hardest time of year even when food is plentiful, my heater works, and there is a first rate hospital 5 minutes drive from my front door.
But the animal brain is strong and seems to easily take over especially when you are tired, stressed, and a bit distracted from your spiritual core. As we know, even the strongest purest of the jedi will be tested by their dark side. It takes a lot of focus to retain your calm center, to remain a true jedi in your time of fear and uncertainty.

It is this jedi mind that I seek during this dark time and I know I am not alone. Thousands of spiritual centers across our world find a spike in membership during the dark time of year. It is to our spiritual center we turn when our animal brain is truly scared and seeking a place from which to draw strength and light. It is not always easy to find that community of jedi with which you feel comfortable and embraces you for who you are and aligns with your central being. And for me it is this lack of fellow jedi that I am morning. I have not found my community. I have friends. I have support. I have love. But, I lack a sense of community of surrounding myself with a council of familiar minds.

So, like Luke I will leave my warm safe cave and face the universe knowing that the light and strength of my mentors is a part of who I am even when I am feeling dark. I will go forward and seek my fellow jedi. I will lift my head up and let the light shine from my eyes and I will put aside the dark thoughts. I will go forth with the confidence that I am not alone, ever, and there is always someone out there I can turn to who will understand my struggle and will lend and ear, a shoulder, and a hand when I fall.

I hope that if you are reading this and you find yourself fighting the 'good fight' you will know you are not alone and that their are others who feel the way you feel right now. I hope that if you are feeling alone and scared and lost that you know if you need help it is there for you, it is there inside your heart and it can be found in others outside your cave. I hope that you are able to find the light in this dark time of year. "May the force be with you."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Day Anxiety

Should a homeschool mom have first day of school anxiety. As a second year homeschool parent I can say that I definitely have anxiety and it drives me crazy. The need to create 'school' plans and have some sort of routine established is deeply engrained. The fear that I will miss some key piece of information or that my children won't be able to pass a standardized test let alone get into a good college haunts me. (2nd grade and Kinder)  It is on my back, this was my decision, if my children fail I have failed.

Fear of failure. It has been my friend for so long you would think I would be comfortable telling my friend to kindly f^%$off.  The fear of getting it 'right' the first time. The fear that my best isn't good enough. The fear that all my work will be in vain and a wasted effort. The fear that even if I do my very best it will not be enough. Where in the world does this fear of failure come from? I don't have a definitive answer, but a large part of me feels like school helped create this fear.

I was good at school. I really never had a problem getting good grades and I really never had to work at it very hard. This isn't to say I am some sort of genius, just good at following directions.  I am a first child in a family with an alcoholic and a perfectionist co-dependent. I am good at picking up signs and figuring out how to keep people happy. I know how to make nice and fly under the radar, but not too far as to be a disappointment. School helped make this easy by providing the recipe for 'success' in the eyes of my parents and the general community. Get good grades, be a 'good' kid and there you go, success.

I went on to attain a masters degree in education. As a teacher I found myself overwhelmed by the number of students who didn't follow the prescription for 'success' and really didn't give two shakes about what I thought they should know or how important is was to get good grades. I was thrown off and took their disregard for an 'education' as my personal failure to reach them.  If I would work harder or present the material better I am sure these students would say 'wow, you are right, this Geometry is amazing and I can't wait to learn more and thank you for being such a great teacher'.  After two years of 'failure' as a teacher I said forget it and started looking for a new career path. One that involved helping to 'fix' the kids who were struggling so much in my classroom, there must be a way to help them find the motivation for wanting to 'learn'.

Flash forward to my second year teaching my own children. My son who is a bright capable boy with very little enthusiasm for 'school' but a lot of enthusiasm for video games, Legos, tree climbing, sword fighting, wrestling, bike riding, logic puzzles, building and taking apart stuff, and ect...  Here I go launching into my 'school year' with 'this is what the schedule looks like'... I sit down to have him read to me and he immediately goes into silent mode. What is wrong with you! Don't you realize how hard this is for me! Don't you know I am doing this for you! Is this what it is going to be like for the next 10 months! Aughhhh.... I hate school.

So, why why why  I ask myself am I doing 'school', when I know that they don't need it to be successful. When everything in me says follow your heart, learn by doing and following the passions and enthusiasms of the young.  Fail! Fail! and Fail some more!!! Learn to take risks and learn through the greatest teacher of them all FAILURE!!!!  For a successful school kid and traditionally trained teacher this is terrifying, exhilarating, and almost beyond my vision.   But, it isn't beyond my vision.  In my fear and anxiety I feel my heart calling out to trust myself, trust my intuition as an educator, as a lover of children, as a lover of the natural world, as a lover of innovation and all the possibilities that lie undetected because we are afraid to pick up the rocks and see what might be lying underneath.

So yes, a homeschool parent can have anxiety.  But anxiety can be a powerful teacher when you start to look at it's roots and dissect the growth pattern. I look forward to this year of school and the challenge of facing my fear of failure. I look forward to my children teaching me how to live more authentically and to following my heart and theirs. I look forward to peeling back the layers of 'success' to find the hidden gems of my being and sharing those passions and visions with my children.  My hope for this year is more exploration and less 'production'.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Beginning of the Homeschooling Journey

I started my journey to being an educator back in college. I took all the required classes and did my student teaching and even took a job as a math teacher for a couple of years.  I had very high expectations of myself and my students. I felt I failed them everyday. I worked hard and long hours, but that didn't seem to make me a better teacher or the job any more fun. I felt locked up and depressed. I really didn't like school and it seemed not many people around me liked it either. There were so many unhappy people and so many 'things' that needed fixing. I remember feeling the conversation had gone way off course. The mention of my (our) students and what would be best for them and what might be exciting interesting ways to teach those kids was no where to be heard.

I don't feel like I have been very passionate about learning. As a student I became very good at following directions and getting good grades, but I did not get excited about learning new things. As a teacher I desired to be great, but I lacked passion. I was looking for extrinsic validation of my work. It is tough to be passionate and authentic when you are seeking validation. And it is a hollow and shallow feeling to be validated on a job which you exerted a lot of energy, but no passion.  

As a homeschool mom I struggle with the need for extrinsic validation. What I want to attend to are the voices of my children, and my desire for passionate learning. The voices of my past education haunt and taunt me. My fears grow and

I am a teacher again. The stakes are a bit higher as I am providing an educational foundation for my children. If I fail this time I will probably be living with roommates the rest of my life, and I really don't want that. I really want my children to have all the tools necessary to jump from the nest and fly to any place they choose. I want the journey to that jumping day to be full of loving memories. I want my children to love learning. I want them to see learning as an adventure as exciting as Star Wars.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The journey of a thousand miles...leads to homeschool.

Cliche. Yes. This phrase can be uttered for millions of people, and I am one of them.
Ok, I promised myself I wouldn't go back and erase my first sentence 20 times before moving on this morning. So, although I don't think that first line is the 'perfect' opener it will suffice for today.

The journey. When did my journey begin? I guess the real journey begins when you finally make that connection with your other half in utero. I believe my journey began when my two halves became one and this body I embody began to grow and form and become me. That is the real first step.

I was fortunate to be embodied by an amazing woman who cared for me from the early fragile moments of my becoming through the tumultuous fragile stages of my evolving. I was fortunate to have a father who remained conscious of and engaged in the process of nurturing my being and growth. I had the gift of a gentle beginning to my journey filled with love, support, joy, encouragement, failures, and hope. In the beginning of my journey I learned many lessons about walking my own path. For the most part I have stayed true to my inner compass and followed my being, but part of being human is getting lost. Or at least if you are living any kind of authentic life you must have been lost at least once.

For many years you are able to let go of your inner compass and just float along with the current of modern life. The path to success is a pretty paved road. Do well in school, get into a good college, study hard and get a degree, get some experience, get a job and hit repeat for your own family.  It is the recipe for a 'successful' journey in todays world.  And for the most part it is a good path and leads to a good place, but it is awfully crowded.  And it seems in the crowds it is often tough to see the individual to remember that although you are like your peers, you are also uniquely your own self. The crowd can be a tough place to let your uniqueness shine or seep out. The crowd tends to prefer a more uniform appearance. The uniformity of it all is what has set me on edge.

I want more diversity in my outlook. I want more of a mountain wildflower explosion than a planned perfect garden. I want to let go of the need to fit the success model and dive in with the people living an authentic life, unafraid of tomorrow because they are so engrossed in what today has to offer. I want to live with the awareness of a 6 month old. Aware of how my hand moves through space and how the branches of the trees sway and dance with the breeze. I want to wonder at the bird flying and the sounds animals make. I want to live each day basking in the pure joy of discovery.

So,  when asked 'Why do you want to home school?' I think the answer has to be I want to live with my children in the pure joy of discovering this world.  I want to take the side roads of life. Our path is rough, bumpy, and the direction the road goes is unclear.  Do we go here or there? Is that our road? Or is that our road? I want to find our way together. Most likely we will end up in a similar place to most of our peers, but on our journey we will have seen and experienced a lot more together. And for me that is what this journey is about, experiencing the best the world has to offer, together with the people I love most in this world. That is why I homeschool.

Going to India (3/14/17)

Well the travel adventure has started. I am getting ready to depart for a yoga pilgrimage to India with a group from my favorite yoga studio...