Saturday, 31 May 2014

Sing your song

A few days ago Maya Angelou passed away, leaving behind pearls of wisdom that for me connect to the soul of humanity, that encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves as individuals, communities, human beings. It feels odd that someone who I have never met and know so little about has made such an impact on me, but she has, and I believe will continue to. She was passionate about education and not just that of the four walls of a classroom. Like the gorgeous Robyn Moore, she was passionate about people living big lives, not hiding their light but sharing it widely.

I believe we are all born with songs inside us waiting for the opportunity to let the music pour out. When you watch our little children playing and exploring their world they do it with absolute commitment to the moment, the only thing they have to do is to discover what they need to in that moment. They are born as mindful beings and too often we crush that unwittingly through our own sense of urgency, slavishness to the clock and to-do lists. Sir Ken Robinson would argue that often our children's light is dampened through our education systems. This is not saying that teachers are not doing a fabulous job, in fact I believe that most are committed to doing their absolute best for our children, but the systems many of us work in seem to be counter intuitive to helping our learners discover their songs.

Through our young lives where we get told to be quiet, follow the rules, do as you are told, do your best, change is hard, different is wrong, meet the criteria of a narrow curriculum, fit in, be nice all the time, succeed at school... it is little wonder that the sound of our songs can get drowned out.

As adults we then get nobbled with responsibility, we have to grow up, work towards a narrow concept of success... more expectations! With all these expectations, those we place on ourselves as well as those placed on us by others, where is there space for our songs to be heard?

Well the good news is we are not slaves to the clock, we do have choices. Yes we have responsibility but we do have choices. Sometimes things go wrong and we feel hopeless but even then we do have choices. Yes there are expectations, but again we still have choices. 

We own that space between our ears, we do have choices. 

One of the things we can do is just slow it down, especially when everything seems to be flying so fast around us. We can breathe. Oxygen is vital for brain function so a deep breath may help calm our thinking, allow us to notice and respond rather than simply react to what is happening around us. A while ago I read somewhere about a simple technique to calm ourselves down just through mindful breathing and I find it works for me, it's called the 7/11 technique. Basically you breathe in slowly and deeply for the count of seven and then breathe out for the count of eleven. The first time I did this I nearly expired on the breath out which demonstrates how shallowly I was breathing! So don't worry if you don't make it to eleven the first time, there are no expectations here. As you are breathing slowly and deeply, in and out, you concentrate on the breath and the counting. There is no need to do it for hours, just a couple of times now and then in a day helps me cope and I guess feel centered again.   

The more quiet we create between our ears the more we will be able to hear our own songs. The more spaces we create in our days the easier it will be for those around us to sing theirs. 

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