Early one morning this week, long before the sun rose, I was awoken by a call of "Mommy!" from our young daughter. After checking on her and seeing that she had been calling out in her sleep, I tried to get back to sleep. Instead, I lay awake making lists and running through unfinished projects in my head. I added in a few looming anxieties and worries for good measure.
Finally, I decided to put a more positive spin on the early hours of the morning so I could return to some of the healthy habits I had been working on before the holiday break. I did a little exercise and yoga and then decided to look for a brief guided mindfulness meditation I could do. Maybe, I thought, I could recapture a little bit of the spark and energy of the new year that has somehow already been lost in the chaos and uncertainty of this difficult time.
I found a guided meditation in one of my apps called "A Fresh Start" — just what I needed! I clicked on the meditation…and the app shut down.
I tried again a few more times, and each time, the app closed. It seemed like a perfect metaphor for the beginning of this year, a moment that might at one time have seemed to hold promise but that is again proving so challenging for educators, students, and families who are pushed to the limits in new ways each day.
Undeterred, I decided to try one more time. I opened my Calm app and found a meditation series by Jack Kornfield. The first segment was called "Start Where You Are," and while it was a longer session than the time I had at that moment, the title made me pause.
Start where you are.
A Message for the Moment
I thought about the power of the message, and the relevance for schools and families navigating so many different kinds of challenges in this new year.
This is where we are today. It may look entirely different from yesterday, and we can't know what tomorrow holds. The sands keep shifting and it is hard to know where to find more solid ground or how to do anything that looks like planning when the circumstances change so significantly from day to day.
Perhaps then, for the moment, the best we can do is to start where we are and give ourselves the chance to identify that place. In doing so, we can also reconnect with our empathy for where others may be and how we can continue to navigate these unchartered waters with our students, families, and colleagues.
We can also lift up examples of inspiration and kindness from those who are meeting the moment, such as the donations pouring in to help those affected by the recent fire in the Bronx. We can celebrate the voices that speak with compassion and vulnerability, such as those educators that Larry Ferlazzo recently profiled in his series about how teachers are coping with omicron. We can learn from educators and leaders who are guided by a deep sense of purpose, such as the leaders of Salina Elementary School in Dearborn, MI who have made a deep, school-wide commitment to social-emotional support for students, families, and staff at every stage of this pandemic.
And we can take time to appreciate the little moments of joy that arise in our day, such as our daughter's new interest in the phases of the moon, or a thank you card from a friend’s daughter.
Perhaps these glimmers of hope can remind us of our own strengths and our ability to bring our best selves to this long-lasting crisis, even when it seems like those best selves might be strangers living in another time.
In the end, on that morning when I awoke so early, I did a brief meditation for just a few minutes before starting the rest of my morning. It wasn’t what I had planned, but it still gave me a moment to pause and consider the message that had been delivered along the way.
It may not look like what you expect — but it’s never too late to start where you are.
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