There is a distinct rhythm to a teacher’s life. When the glorious insect symphony reaches a crescendo with the chirping of crickets as the most prominent voice, and the corn is tall, and evenings become cooler, it’s time to turn attention to beginning a new school year. But not this year, since I resigned from my job. And that disruption of my normal rhythm has been throwing me off! It feels unnatural.
Driven to connect with a more universal and abiding rhythm, I heard the ocean call my name. There is nothing that restores rhythm and perspective like standing at the edge of the vast ocean watching the waves roll in. I longed to breathe the salty air, synchronize my breath with the rhythm of the waves, and inhale the sheer power and majesty of the ocean. I yearned for the ocean to raise my vibration and thus tune my instrument so I may move forward in greater harmony with Life.
And so my daughter, son, and I headed to the beaches of Rhode Island for our first-ever, mini beach vacation with just the three of us. We planned to go to Ithaca, New York – our old stomping ground and waterfall paradise – but agreed unanimously at the last minute to go to Rhode Island instead.
As I watched my 20-year-old daughter stand at the edge of the ocean as the tide came in and the waves grew in size and intensity, I captured an image that is worth a thousand words. It is the story of a mother standing behind her daughter and hoping she is prepared for the journey ahead and its unforeseen waves.
I’ve been meditating on waves – all the waves life thrusts our way. The inevitable, intense, and spectacular waves. A day at the beach would not be nearly so alluring without them.
I feel like I have been a student of waves lately. I have been trying to learn how to keep my balance, especially when the ocean pulls so much away, with such force.
But it also brings us gifts from its invisible depths. We delight in finding exiquisite shells, smooth stones, Mother Nature’s artwork, and other surprises in the sand. The ocean moves in a rhythm of turbulence and grace.
My prayer for my children is that they will develop the capacity to maintain their balance when the waves hit.
Meditation is one way to facilitate balance. As a kindergarten teacher, I taught a calming breath practice by placing a rubber duck on each child’s abdomen as they lay on their backs on the carpet. I instructed the children to do deep, belly breathing by making the ducks rise and fall, gently and slowly as if they were riding waves at the beach. A duck-free version of this basic practice helps me to calm down, find my center, and push the reset button when the stress response gets activated. But even better to practice in calm waters so it becomes a more automatic response when the waves roll in.
I believe that teaching children how to regain calm and balance and build resilience and courage are among the most important gifts we can offer them.
I wish for my children to have a happy life, but even more than that, I wish for them to have the fortitude to withstand and thrive in this imperfect, challenging life on planet Earth. To breathe through the waves and by doing so, access their calm center and discern with a clear and spacious mind how to respond most effectively to whatever situations and circumstances life sends their way. To trust the rhythm of life – the messiness and awkwardness of it – and not feel they are failing when they lose either their footing or something or someone important to them. To know it’s all an integral part of the process.
I wish for my children to dance with the waves and live a fulfilling life, according to their own definition of the term.
Once I heard someone explain that when you meditate and notice your mind has wandered (as minds do), each time you bring it back is like doing one rep. You are strengthening the mental muscles (or neural pathways) that help you return your attention to what you’re trying to focus on. Similarly, each time you lose your footing when a wave comes along and you catch yourself or get up again, you are building strength and resilience. Such are the gifts the waves bring us.
I would not wish for my children first and foremost a life of smooth sailing because it is unrealistic, and I believe they are made for something greater than that. What joy to discover our latent power when we are put to the test and learn that we are far more magnificent than we ever imagined ourselves to be. May they experience the joy and surprise that comes from recognizing their true strength and power. And may this joyful recognition enhance their capacity to imagine and create their future – for manifestation is born of imagination, and the great challenge is to use our imagination wisely. It is a latent superpower, and fear is a gross misuse of it.
We can do so much better than that!
We can cultivate a habit of returning to our private garden of imagination to envision new possibilities and plant new seeds. We can return our attention to that rich and vibrant place when we wander into self-doubt – whether it is generated by external forces or from within. We can resist labeling our experiences as “good” or “bad” and instead adopt an attitude of “It is what it is“ – not as forlorn resignation and apathy but as unflappable resilience and determination. And let us not forget the marvelous buoyancy of gratitude.
That is what I wish to inspire in my children and cultivate in myself.
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