What will you bring to your calling?

question markThe marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.” – David Whyte

Each meeting we start with a question. Why a question? Questions engage our curiosity and imagination. If we can construct a question that is beautiful, it will lead us to new questions and new frontiers of a dynamic, engaged life. As educators, we can set the context for asking these questions by asking them ourselves.


Our fourth gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Wednesday, August 30. More events will be planned so to learn more or get on our mailing list, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com. This group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education.

Introduction

Each meeting is organized into sections that bring us together for a time of true fellowship and connection. This model is based on the Five Touchstones:

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  • Centering – We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • Gathering – We offer our presence to the group.
  • Connecting – We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • Releasing – We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • Serving – We take insights with us and share them with others.

Centering

Our opening mindfulness practice comes from Jack Kornfield on joy and gratitude. In this practice, we express our gratitude for the gifts we and others have received and then move to wishing such blessings upon others. It serves to open our hearts to compassion.

May you be joyful.

May your happiness increase.

May you not be separated from great happiness.

May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.

 

Gathering

We began by sharing one excitement and one concern in our life right now. As we returned to practice, I offered an introduction of a mindfulness practice described by Martine Batchelor in the recording below, What Is This? In this very simple practice, a question serves as the anchor. Just as your can return to your breath or your body to arrive in presence, so can you return to this question, What Is This? The intent is not to seek answers or ruminate on a response. Instead, you can bring this question to your full experience, your senses and your body. I have found it very centering. As I notice a sound, instead of wishing it will stop or bathing in its elegance, I instead am able to bring curiosity, acceptance and a willingness to be with the uncertainty of the question.

 

Connecting

Our guiding question for the evening was “What will you bring to your calling?” We spent 10 minutes writing and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Here is what we will bring as we begin a new school year:

  • whats-your-calling-blog-post.jpgPractice Self-Care
  • Take Your Time
  • Use Time Wisely
  • Sit With Discomfort
  • Be Willing To Change
  • Follow Your Heart
  • Do What Makes You Happy
  • Don’t Measure Everything
  • Do What You Believe In
  • Notice Small Moments of Joy

Releasing, Committing and Serving

sgbp750.jpgWe closed by summarizing our intentions in a sentence or two. We then created a challenge to stay in touch regularly and serve as supporters and accountability partners in remembering and acting on these meaningful offerings to our calling.

How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

Stay tuned for more from Your Mindful Coach including “pop-up” teacher fires this fall. We closed with this poem:

Fire by Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.

A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.


Sign up today for fall offerings from Your Mindful Coach

 
General Programs
 

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Meditation for Beginners: Cultivating The Heart Sept 25, Oct 3 (Tues), Nov 27 & Dec 4, 7:30-8:45pm. Instruction to support focus, calm and life balance through meditation. Attend one, some or all!
Mindfulness Is For You: Tools For Self-Care and Stress Management October 24, 7:00-8:15pm. Explore the science of stress, performance and mindfulness in an interactive, experiential format.
Men’s Programs
 

Mindful Men Meeting First Thursday each month beginning September 7, 7:30-8:45pm. Practice and discussion to support a regular mindfulness practice.

camp-fire1Men Sitting By A Fire Third Thursday each month beginning September 21, 7:30-9:00pm. Inquiry-based discussion group focused on male identity, roles and responsibility.
Bravery & Courage Retreat Friday, November 3 at 7pm to Sunday, November 5 at noon. Men’s residential mindfulness retreat for beginner and experienced participants.

Teachers Sitting By A Fire is an offering of Your Mindful Coach and led by Caroline Feldman and Marc Balcer.

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Who was your most beloved teacher? How have your brought their spirit to your work?

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My middle school Spanish teacher, Mr. B.

I recently attended a speech by David Brooks, author of The Road to Character.
David shared a reader’s response to an article he wrote about teaching morality in the classroom. The reader, Dave Jolly, wrote “The heart cannot be taught in a classroom, or by a luncheon speaker. What a wise person says is the least of what they give . . . Never forget. The message is the person.” Each of us has had teachers, mentors and benefactors who have shown the path not only through their guidance but through their presence and their passion. This served as our evening’s exploration.


Our third gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Thursday, July 13. We will meet on five evenings throughout the summer of 2017 including 7/30 and 8/20. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com. This group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education.

Introduction

Each meeting is organized into sections that bring us together for a time of true fellowship and connection. This model is based on the Five Touchstones:

Connections-Index.jpg

  • Centering – We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • Gathering – We offer our presence to the group.
  • Connecting – We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • Releasing – We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • Serving – We take insights with us and share them with others.

Centering

SAM_1218Our opening mindfulness practice was a simple focused breathing practice. In this particular practice, we noticed the formations of our mind: thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as well as any focus on the future or past. We took these and placed them on a “virtual shelf,” returning our attention to the sensation of breath, knowing we can always come back to them later. I’ve included a similar “noting” meditation below for practice:

Gathering

We began by asking each other the question, What’s on your shelf? as a way to open the conversation and a practice of Loving-Kindness as a way to open our hearts. In this practice, we combine words, images and feelings to produce an inclination towards kindness and care for ourselves and others. Through regular practice, our hearts open and we begin to recognize the interconnection we have with all beings. We offered the phrases, “May you be seen. May you be comforted. May you be loved” to our teachers and our mentors.

 

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Making Contact
by Virginia Satir

I believe
the greatest gift
I can conceive of having
from anyone
is to be seen by them,
heard by them,
to be understood
and touched by them.
The greatest gift
I can give
is to see, hear, understand
and to touch
another person.
When this is done,
I feel
contact has been made.

One participant shared how this poem recalled the Prayer of St. Francis, “let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.

Connecting

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Me, my son Ben and my high school cross country cross, Mr. Haury after a 5k race this summer.

Our guiding question for the evening was “Who was your most beloved teacher?” We spent 10 minutes writing and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some qualities we noted in our teachers:

  • How they lived their passion
  • How they responded to their students
  • How they treated others
  • How they noticed my work
  • How they helped me find my voice

Releasing

sgbp750.jpgIn pairs, we reflected on another question, “What did these teachers model for you that you bring to your classroom?” How can we bring their spirit to our work?

Given the inclement weather, our fire was just a candle. So no releasing our stories into that fire. Instead each participant rung a bell and passed it along as a way for their voice to be heard one last time.

Serving

How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

At our next gathering, I hope to explore the moments of transformation and inspiration we saw in our students last year.


Teachers Sitting By A Fire is an offering of Your Mindful Coach and led by Caroline Feldman and Marc Balcer.

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What ignites your passion?

Our second gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Thursday, June 29. We will meet on five evenings throughout the summer of 2017 including 7/13, 7/30 and 8/20. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com. This group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education.

Introduction

Connections-Index.jpg

Each meeting is organized into sections that bring us together for a time of true fellowship and connection. This model is based on the Five Touchstones:

  • Centering – We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • Gathering – We offer our presence to the group.
  • Connecting – We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • Releasing – We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • Serving – We take insights with us and share them with others.

Centering

“Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.” – Robert Irwin

We practiced a guided awareness meditation, opening senses and allowing the sounds, smells, and sights of our environment to become part of the experience. We closed with the following words:

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

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Pablo Neruda

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Gathering

We began by asking each other the question, What do you bring with you tonight? Along with the joy of transition to summer, memories of meaningful work this year, there was concern about the pressure, anxiety, and sometimes depression, held by our students.


Below is an excerpt from La Poesia, a poem written Pablo Neruda with an English translation from David Whyte. Neruda describes the passion and energy generated as he sat down to compose his first poem.

And something ignited in my soul,
fever or unremembered wings,
and I went my own way,
deciphering
that burning fire,
and I wrote the first bare line,
bare, without substance, pure
foolishness,
pure wisdom
of one who knows nothing,
and suddenly
I saw the heavens
unfastened
and open.
y algo golpeaba en mi alma
fiebre o alas perdidas, 
y me fui haciendo solo, 
descifrando 
aquella quemadura
y escribí la primera línea vaga, 
vaga, sin cuerpo, pura 
tontería, 
pura sabiduría 
del que no sabe nada
y vi de pronto
el cielo 
desgranado 
y abierto.

Connecting
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After reflecting on passion through poetry, each participant chose a partner for a mindful practice, “Tell Me What You Love“. We identified the common humanity of our experience as we related to the passions of another.


Our guiding question for the evening was “What ignites your passion?” In particular, stories of encounters with students were shared. Each story was read aloud by another participant. Some offerings:

  • The memory of students begging to do a favorite activity over and over.
  • A weaker student who built confidence and ultimately helped support a stronger one.
  • The excitement of a student learning something new.
  • The subtle discoveries that became the most important.

Releasing

In pairs, we reflected on another question, “What dampened your passion?” and contrasted that with the factors that ignited our passion. How can we incline and support ourselves to come in to contact with the sustaining quality of passion? One model comes from the story of the Two Wolves,

As we moved toward closure, we encircled the fire and released our stories, both literally and figuratively. The fire is a symbol of our connection, our energy and  universal experience of being a human being. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

 

 

Serving

How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

At our next gathering, I hope to explore the influences that shaped us as teachers and educators.

  • Who was your most beloved teacher?
  • What did they model that you bring to your own teaching?

Teachers Sitting By A Fire is an offering of Your Mindful Coach and led by Caroline Feldman and Marc Balcer.

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Why did I become a teacher?

Our first gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Monday, June 12. We will meet on five evenings throughout the summer of 2017 including 6/29, 7/13, 7/30 and 8/20. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com.

This new group will be dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education. This group was inspired by a desire among our colleagues to reflect and discuss with our peers as well Parker Palmer’s work including The Courage to Teach, Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teachers Life.

Introduction

Each meeting will be organized into sections that bring us together for a time of true fellowship and connection. This model is based on the Five Touchstones:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We offer our presence to the group.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We take insights with us and share them with others.

Centering

We begin with a guided mindfulness meditation to connect with our breath, our body and our senses, closing with a poem.

The Journey by Mary Oliver

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One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried,
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

 

 Gathering

We begin by asking each other the question, What brings you here? Participants suggested the opportunity to come out of the “tiny world” in which we teach when the door is closed and reflect on the big questions that get lost in the shuffle of responsibilities and busyness during the school year. Participants also looked forward to bringing mindfulness to their experience through practice.

We closed our eyes to engage in mindful practice together using a meditation inspired by Deepak Chopra. This practice, offered below as a guided meditation, includes three questions,

Who am I?
What do I want?
How can I serve?


Connecting

apple1Our guiding question for the evening was “Why did you become a teacher?” Participants spent five minutes writing their story and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some common themes:

  • A lifelong interest in teaching supported by trusted friends and family.
  • A call to teach that was unexpected and life altering.
  • A passion to connect with learners.
  • School as a place of comfort, support and caring.

Releasing

As we moved toward closure, we encircled the fire and released our stories, both literally and figuratively. The fire is a symbol of our connection, our energy and  universal experience of being a man and being a human being. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

The following poem, composed in memory of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, reflects on the impermanence and uncertainty of our experience as well as the faith and trust that a teacher brings to the development of children.

A Future Not Our Own by Ken Untener

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

Serving

d2e6555dcf412db7bcb4928d14ea64c5How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

Some questions for reflection in our upcoming meetings include,

  • What stands out from the year of teaching?
  • What are the teachable moments that you carry with you?

 


Teachers Sitting By A Fire is an offering of Your Mindful Coach and led by Caroline Feldman and Marc Balcer.

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