When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I think, “Today will be the day!”
Today will be the day when the president of the United States says, “See how easy it was? See how easy it was to take a nation and lead its citizens down a path of fear and scapegoating? To prey on your insecurities? See how easy it was to take a nation, desperate for a hero in the age of Marvel Comics movies, and get you to follow me, look up to me, be afraid of me? Did you see how I quickly made our friends into enemies and our enemies into friends? Now do you understand how other countries allow despots to rise to and stay in power?
“Vilifying the other is easy. I showed you that, and you need reflect on your response. Now for the hard part- loving our neighbor. Now that I’ve got your attention, let us work together to find common sense solutions that will bring us together. Let us remember the values that make us who we are. Let us remember our common humanity, knowing that by working together, with and through our differences, we can find common ground for the common good. That is what my leadership is all about. Life is not a zero-sum game where there are only winners and losers. Life is about becoming, becoming better tomorrow than we were yesterday, seeing the other as ourselves, and walking together.
“I invite you to walk with me down this bumpy road. We make this road by walking, just as we create the world every day by what we say, what we do, and how we treat each other. The power is in our hands to become, to grow together, to share our common humanity.”
Unfortunately, today is not that day. Maybe tomorrow.
In her poem, The Summer Day, Mary Oliver asks,
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Are you one of the mindful people? I am. Well, I try to be. I love the ideas of presence and breathing and noticing and all those mindful things. I know the best relaxation techniques; I use them personally and with my students. I take time to notice those around me and the sensations within me. Breathe. Be present.
But what about the rest of the day? If we can take 10 minutes to be mindful on purpose that is good. How, though, can we keep mindfulness going as a way of life?
To begin with let’s stop being busy. Some folks wear busyness as a badge of honor. They don’t have time and can’t make time. They fill their schedules and their children’s schedules with so much to do that there is no time to be bored. I loved being bored as a kid- that’s when I was at my most creative, much to the chagrin of my parents. We dug holes and drilled holes and played Evel Kenievel. “Go outside and play” was never a punishment but a liberation: discover, wonder, create, and sometimes get in trouble. How often do you go out and play, whatever that means for you now, with no plan nor agenda?
Then, let’s be aware of our screens. How many screens do you have that keep you busy? Computer? Tablet? Phone? Kindle? Which Joneses do you feel a need to keep up with? The news? A TV show? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? How much time does that leave for friends and family face-to-face? In my case, not enough. So, I am mindful of my screen time and am trying to reduce it. It is hard, though, when the emails come at all hours and a friend is posting photos on Instagram of his new house in a new country. With email at work I try not to send email from home or on weekends. I cannot be present nor help others be present when I interrupt them with things that can wait. Perhaps we can agree to fewer emails after hours and more face-to-face during hours.
Finally, let’s focus. We know that multi-tasking is a myth yet we still try to do too much (if you are always busy you might be trying to do too much). A Jack of all trades is a master of none. Businesses speak of core competencies: what are the main products and services of your business? If you try to do too many things you may do none well. The core competency of schools is education. Is your school doing too many other activities? How many of them can be done by parents and members of the community so that teachers can focus on the education of the students? Bringing in the wider community brings people together and actually builds community because it does take a village.
Let’s be mindful of how we live life: We only get one chance at today. Name your priorities and live them knowing it is okay to say no. Build community and make time. Me? I’m gonna go out and play and breathe and notice.