The Teaching Life

Focus, Discipline, Expansion, Transformation

I am not big on making New Year’s resolutions. In the past, I’ve made many declarations of intention at the beginning of the year only to find them morphing, changing or all together disappearing by March. Instead, I decided I would choose four words whose actions I can apply to every aspect and all levels of life — mind, body, spirit, work, play and relationships.  The first two words — focus and discipline — were contributed by my partner. To his words I added two more that spoke to the direction I’d like my life to take in 2015 — expansion and transformation.

FOCUS is difficult to sustain. So much to do, so little time. I release myself from the delusion of multi-tasking. Instead, I will apply my full attention to one action or activity at a time. In staying focused, I hope to finish what I start. As I look around, there’s the unfinished knitting project, the shirt I started last summer still pinned to the dress form, a stack of books by the bed each bookmarked, none completed. I could go on and on listing the incomplete projects started in earnest now languishing in corners and piles around my house. It seems I’ve acquired a serious case of attention deficit disorder for which I blame computer technology. However, the computer is a reality in today’s world. I must call on the practices of vipassana and japa meditation to tame my internal restlessness. Vipassana meditation brings forth keen and heightened awareness of ordinary experiences and activities, like breathing, bodily sensations, external sounds and more, that transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Take something as mundane as, say washing dishes, and make it an experience to savor and enjoy.  Japa meditation helps to quiet the constant chatter of internal mental conversation, often at the root of much of my stress. A mantra or the repetition of a simple word or phrase gives the mind something to hold that can offer calm and quiet. This type of focus brings about full awareness of the present moment and that’s where I want to be — present.

DISCIPLINE is a dirty word. Discipline and desire are pitted one against the other in a race to see which will win. When and where I need discipline is directly parallel to my desires. For example, I need to lose weight but I rationalize why can’t get on the treadmill today, worst yet, I feel a strong desire to eat ice cream in bed. I should rise with the sun in order to get a head start on the day’s work, but the bed feels so soft and warm in winter so I doze off only to awaken in a panicked rush to get on with the day. I need to work on my book project, but instead I watch a few hours of trash TV and put off for tomorrow what I should do today.  As a result, I’m always behind the curve, running to catch up and doubling down to meet my deadlines. I tell myself I work well under pressure, but that’s a lie. I once had a teacher who shared a motto I’ve retained since college. Discipline requires that I “do what I need to do, when I need to do it, whether I feel like it or not.” There’s only one way to discipline, “just do it!”

EXPANSION in all things and in all ways. Expansion represents the connection to the creative drive. It opens the way for new possibilities and opportunities Expansion elevates and leads to new pathways to learn and grow. Expansion requires openness and flexibility. There must be a reexamination of my beliefs and habits, or it may require the release of things that no longer serve or further who and how I want to live in this world. Every day and in every way, it means examining whether or not it is time to make a different choice. Expansion is primordial and in synchronicity with the ever-expanding creation.

TRANSFORMATION is the result of focus, discipline and expansion and each is dependent on the other. It’s a  new year and I want to be better, do better, feel better, look better! I wanna take it higher. Flight time!


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