I’ve come to believe in the importance of a daily practice. Not in service of the drive to perfect or master something — piano scales, a jump shot, or an arabesque (apologies to Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink) — but rather, a daily practice for recognizing the essence and value of life itself. This is the breathe-in, breathe-out kind of daily practice that offers us a moment of stillness, an opportunity to center one’s thoughts, and recognition of our mortality.
For a teacher friend of mine, daily practice takes the form of an hour of silent meditation every morning before the school day begins. Another friend finds connection to her inner calm in the sun salutation and savasana of yoga. My husband rises early in order to sit quietly with his coffee and listen to the world around him awaken. For some, this involves invoking a higher power. Psalms 118:24 speaks to my Christian and Jewish colleagues, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
In “Could mindfulness help teachers manage stress?” (The Guardian, 8/06/13), Amanda Bailey describes her experience in teaching the value of and strategies for secular mindfulness to teachers and students. She refers us to The Mindfulness in Schools Project, featuring their “.b” (dot-be) program and mantra, “Stop, Breathe, and Be.”
Personally, I have been a slow learner in this department, for many years embracing the concept without the practice. Then, I discovered personal connection to the sacredness of life through my camera. Look carefully, and you’ll note that I almost always carry a bag large enough to accommodate my digital SLR. As avid photographers will tell you, toting that camera heightens visual awareness. I find it enables me to see things differently, to keenly observe and appreciate surroundings — even when the lens cap remains securely in place!
For several years, I have participated in a “daily shoot” group on Flickr, where each member posts one photo per day. Daily practice in a group can be helpful in deflecting those competing interests — whether it’s a group commitment to share photography, participate in a prayer group, or attend a yoga class.
I know, I know: you have a Board meeting tonight, there’s no one to cover music class, your son can’t find his soccer cleats, there’s no milk in the house. Those competing interests can be especially pressing if you’re a school leader.
Do you know Faith Hill? Performer of the Sunday Night Football jingle (until very recently), this Grammy-award winning country artist had a hit song, “Breathe.” Do yourself a favor and cue Faith: “…breathe. Just breathe.” ♫
For a few moments each day, pause to acknowledge the life you’ve been given.