Friday, August 29, 2014

Carrying Peace: A Prayer for the School Year

The school year is about to start. Like many teachers, I sit today perched almost at the top of the first hill of a roller coaster, my stomach doing somersaults, my brain dizzy with anticipation and nerves. It's an amazing roller coaster, never the same ride twice, and I always come back for more. Still, it continues to feel like a roller coaster. This year, I want to try to change that in some small way. I want to carry peace with me throughout the day, throughout the year. I want to be able to find peace at a moment's notice when I need it most. I want to be ready to stop and breathe in the moment, to step back and see with clarity, and make decisions from a place of wisdom and grounded-ness. I want to see, truly see, the small beings whose day is entrusted to my care.

So, here's my teacher's prayer for the school year, a musical variant of which I learned a lifetime ago and have cherished always:

The Prayer of Saint Francis 
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
Where there is sadness, joy. 
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek 
To be consoled as to console, 
To be understood as to understand, 
To be loved as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Interconnectedness: The Spider and the Lake

This summer, I've been reading books of a spiritual nature. I've been learning to stop and be aware and present. I've been trying to treat that as prayer, to move through the world with a greater sense of the sacred quality of seeing, hearing, smelling, being, and the holiness of the things around me.

One morning, I sat in my back yard listening, looking, smelling, being. The light sparkled on silvery strands of spider webs that had appeared here and there throughout the yard. In one corner of the backyard swing, a spider sat in the middle of the circle of its web. The sun shimmering off the threads of the web was so beautiful to me in that moment that I simply sat and watched. As the breeze made its way through the garden, all those spider webs moved and the light sparkled and danced with their movement. The circle of that one spider's web waved and shifted, and the spider waved gently with it, staying still and grounded in the center of the web.

The image so captivated me that I took a picture, which I have shared here. I watched that spider for a long time. I thought about being that spider, sitting in the center of the fragile threads of web that connect me to the world around me. I imagined myself able to float and shift when the world around me is buffeted, keeping my stillness, feeling the vibrations and waves reach me from all those connecting threads.

Benson Lake
A few weeks later, I was swimming in my favorite spot, Benson Lake. The lake is in the Columbia Gorge, just before Multnomah Falls. A classic northwest tree line of evergreens rises up above the lake, etching points along the brilliant blue sky. Every summer, at least once, I go to Benson Lake to swim. I float on my back in the water and look at that treeline and that sky, soaking in its tranquility. This year, as I floated, I thought of that spider. I felt myself connected like the spider, the waves and ripples of the water stretching out around me. I felt like part of the lake, and, by extension, part of the fish in the lake and part of the gorge and the trees and the Columbia River, and the sky the trees touched, and the distant mountains that fed the waterfalls that fed the trees, and on and on and on. I moved, and the lake moved. The lake moved and I moved.

As I make the transition from the slow, reflective, deep, restorative meditation of the summer and back into the fast-paced, intense engagement of the school year, my prayer is that I can carry the spirit of the spider and the lake inside me, that I can remember how I am connected to the world, and that I can practice floating and moving with the world, staying still and flexible when change shifts and vibrates around me.