We’re reflecting on the possibility of the season with Mr. Jeff Harshad Thomlinson, co-founder of Take a Breath for Schools, yogi, spiritual seeker, mentor, and friend. Ultimately, this is an East-meets-West philosophical conversation situated within the frame of school leadership during the holiday season.
Over tea, we had a meandering dialogue starting from the suffering we sometimes face during this time of year.
Suffering is Everywhere
There are medical emergencies, family crises, extreme weather, new variants, and students who aren’t looking forward to the holiday. Even from the parking lot, we can see broken relationships, physical pain, loneliness, and so many needs. Heaven forbid, we’re dealing with critical incidents, gun violence, or Covid outbreaks.
Where are you suffering? And, how is your holiday tainted with pain? Is there a place in your life where you are walking through a valley?
What are your inquiries from this place?
We turn to the ancient Hebrew Scriptures for wisdom.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”
Jeff: Valleys are a universal metaphor for places of suffering. I find the passage of digging the well while in the valley a universal balm for all individuals and relatedness in our human experience. Find the water even though you’re surrounded by barriers and the mountains are closing in on you.
From that place, there is a moment for each individual in the dark night of the soul when they must activate an inquiry. The quest for a ‘well’ of unknown energy. In this inquiry community and context may be key. If there is a listening, a space holding, an acknowledgment.
Then, we find a well. There is a felt experience of belonging: community. One is part of something larger, and authentic, beyond the thinking mind. At that point, supported by something greater, like in the hero’s journey, one digs deep into this place of connection.
Teachers and Parents, Make it Practical
As we think of our Learners, how does the promise of “Word became flesh” become practical this season? In our human experience, in our bodies, what is this experientially?
Jeff: As I look at the state of the world, the suffering we face, the possibility in the darkness, and creation unfolding, I am struck by the poetry in Ecclesiastes,
To everything, there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
I have looked at this sacred text as if through the eyes of my children. To illustrate, the world they see is changing in each season, especially in the northern latitudes where we have four defined seasons. Something I have come to enjoy myself. The feeling of the fall approaching, the depth of heat in the summer, and the withdrawal within in the winter. Children experience the world becoming in their life. Even the intuitive and natural reactions of the body over the course of the seasons. It is an embodied experience.
The Rhythm Embodied
Then, these experiential truths and rhythms make the sacred text come alive. Recognizing that those who penned these words were of the body, the same as we are and the same as the children. I believe this sameness, this timeless realization leads to peace beyond the mind’s understanding.
Peace comes in each season. It comes from something deeper and timeless.
The Gift Beneath: Possibility
Jeff: The holiday season has a unique flavor of the same truth, a truth in the marrow of our existence.
There is a superficial wanting and fulfilling of the wanting through the material gifts of sense and pleasure. This fulfillment is laced atop the underlying and richer gift of the coming of the Christ-child into Flesh, the Light, the Escape. The collective cannot deny a feeling of possibility.
During this season, we hold the possibility and ability to come into our natural state, our own season of becoming. Becoming the Truth of what was, what is, and what will be.
So Jeff, I hear you saying we all know ‘suffering’ and it is an experience common to all. Yet, there is a rhythm we can trust. So, regardless of where we are in the season or cycle, we have this truth:
Beneath the wanting and fulfilling, is a deeper possibility, the embodiment of hope.
Is that it, I wonder…
Thank you for sharing with us!
For the sake of the children,
PS New EdLeadership experiences resuming in January will bring focus and clarity to your work. Check out Breathe, Visualize, and Connect with Jeff and Karine. Or, climb out of the valley and join our trek to the summit with EdLeadership Peak Training.