When I Pause

A week ago I attended a silent retreat. The weekend marked 10 years of winter-silent-retreating. The first few years I brought my camera, my book, my sketchbook, my journal and, sometimes, my lap-top.  Today, these 48 hours of silence have become some of the best connected moments of my year, the connections becoming sacred spaces. Today, I listen.

“We can’t experience sacred in isolation. It is always an experience of connecting. It doesn’t have to be another person. It can be a connection with an idea, a feeling, an object, a tradition. The connection moves us outside ourselves into something greater. … We learn that we are larger than we thought.” Margaret Wheatley.

I’m always amazed at what I hear when I pause. 

The other day I forgot my phone at school. I live 37 km away from where I teach. As usual, I was in a rush so I didn’t return for my phone. The next day the kids teased me asking how I’d survived without my trusty appendage. “Fine,” and I meant it. I seek silence. Silence is a comfortable and welcomed- uncomfortableness, a beautiful connectedness. 

I remember an Education professor remarking about the need for a 20 second pause after asking for student feedback. I also remember another professor offering the beauty of silent reflection. In those silent spaces came the ideas to question the need to recap, allowing learning to simmer, allowing time for student reflection and offering plenty of opportunity for students to lead.

At the retreat a week ago I walked some. I hiked up into the Qu’Appelle Valley. I lay on my back and watched the sky roll by… I savoured the scent of sage, rolling it between my hands and on my cheek, and I wondered trails, wind pants squeaking. At night, I watched the lights across the valley twinkle and fade. And I thought about my mom. I’ve been wondering for a long time. I have my Nana’s hands, Wiens Women hands, hands that say I’m strong and bright and beautiful (my mom’s maiden name). I thought about my mom.

My senior Creative Writing students are busy sharing story slams. Our topic this week – Parent Traps. (Big in-take of breath) I thought about my mom and I thought about my daughter whose eyes are deep brown like my mom’s. Every women on my grandmother’s side has suffered from a form of dementia.

I’m irrationally crazy about kids with social/emotional and behavioural needs; I’ve always been excited by Alternative Education. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about advanced ELA. I am so excited about planning and teaching these enriched courses that my toenails tingle.  

My mom was a gifted consultant for the province long before she became a Director of Education.  She’s retired now. Though we chat everyday about my daughter and my students, I’ve never asked her about her work with gifted kids. After years of working to find our mom-daughter teaching-and-learning love language, mostly between us there remains silence. The hessitation is mine. Every woman. I have my Nana’s hands. So does mom. Every woman.  

In early October last year my Dad was rushed to emergency. My students had asked if I had been scared. “No, there’s nothing left unsaid.”

“There are many ways to sit and listen for the differences. Lately, I’ve been listening for what surprises me.” Margaret Wheatley.

some words

are so difficult

and i am more

 home

here

among

aspen, willow and wind

“I experience sacred as a feeling. It’s how I feel when I am open to life. Or am opened by life... I know I belong here. I don’t think about it, I simply feel it. Without any work on my part, my heart opens and my sense of ‘me’ expands. I’m no longer locked inside a small self. I don’t feel alone or isolated. I feel here. I feel welcomed.”
Margaret Wheatley.

(Big in-take of breath)

My turn…

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