Mistakes Happen
By Reshma Madhusudan

Journeying Towards Love Consciousness

“During our reflections on education, we have had to emphasize that our work as teachers depends on the manner in which we ourselves develop and find our way to the world.” - Rudolf Steiner

A few years ago, I led my life differently. I was concerned with being on time, being efficient and perfect in my job. I worked really hard in proving myself and above all feeling all alert and high wired to “deliver” my work.  My intellect worked overtime. I felt overtly wonderful to be able to see others appreciate my work and benefit from my teaching.  In many ways, I was always conscious of trying hard never to be caught on the wrong foot.  I remember being like that since my adolescent years. In trying to do so, I was often taken aback by my own fragile emotions that always played havoc after I reached a “break” point.  My body slaved along. Sometimes that also resulted in either me striving harder with stress or just falling ill.  I disliked the idea to take time off to recuperate.  Sometimes, if I had a real moment, I could see that recuperation time as my best gift.  Then once I was all well physically, with all ills forgotten, I was restless and easily slipped back into the same pattern.  I now realize that I was in constant flurry or anxiety mode in one of the planes – mental, physical or emotional!

Now at Creative, as the day proceeds, a way of learning and living unfolds naturally.  As a teacher I have come to recognize my own energy, my mental, physical and emotional patterns that affect my interactions with the children.  I am much slower in my responses – almost deliberately at first; now it seems most freeing to be slower!  It helps me listen to my own aspirations in my heart. Becoming aware was one thing.  With the wisdom of many masters guiding me, I have become diligent in maintaining a regular practice of morning meditation, releasing any negative emotions, being in the moment, and just present in the morning for the kids at the gate or door or at the opening ceremony. It is a long journey towards “being”; just to be and taking action whenever appropriate with lightness, love, compassion and strength at the same time.   I do feel as if a new whole is being synthesized inside me.  A new way of life that has been inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.

Opening Ceremony sets the tone



 

At Creative, we begin the day with an Opening Ceremony to harmonize our space and connections with each other. Thanks to Jayashree’s guidelines for the opening ceremony, I do see it working wonders! It is a ceremony to bring us together in all honesty, openness, and sincerity.  It sets the tone of the day for integrity of work, compassion for each other and an understanding of where each one is in the moment. Sometimes the opening ceremony is a simple round of sharing our intentions for the day.  In the years that have gone by at Creative, I have come to see the power of these intentions and believe in the reality we create every day.  It registers in our sub-conscious layer.  In all purity and with open hearts it also carries our message to the Divine. The intentions and the sharing of love at the opening ceremony makes us only that much stronger to learn, live and face the challenges that unfold for the day! Sometimes the opening ceremony is a sharing that allows us to openly acknowledge fear-based consciousness; taking the emotional and physical support of a sangha to release and recuperate.  This may be a simple massage, tapping, or being with nature for a few minutes, regenerating love energy.

With all this when I feel rested, open and light, I am free and able to notice the ups and downs of a child’s learning process.  I may have prepared the best lesson, I may have emptied myself of any judgments, but primarily I try to be there in full honesty, love and compassion with my colleagues and students. I try to be fully present. For this, I have to remind myself often that the teacher first has to recognize herself/himself as a human being. There are still some days when I have to work first on myself to let go of judgments and realize how my core issue and ego plays into interactions.  Our energy needs attention, as children are like sponges. Children aspire with a pure heart. They trust and absorb openly from the teacher. They believe in all possibilities.  Their pure unconditional love is a gentle bell to keep us adults on the track of unconditional love.

A teacher is a friend and a mentor

This year I have been teaching mainly kids in the middle school level. Steiner says, “..at this stage, friendships show the beginning of a more conscious development of the forces of love, of the forces needed for relating to and caring for another being.” A teacher needs to know how to be a friend and mentor, valuing the child’s relationship and emotions with utmost respect – caring gently and respecting the mature transition the child is going through.

I have an experience to share from my interactions with this age group. This is just one of many instances of similar situations that compel me to share. When teaching mathematics to a few children, one of them just went into a characteristic “shut down” mode.  A modus operandi - anything being discussed, said by others just received a nod, overtly indicating agreement. But being open to my intuition that “all was not well” and without worrying about efficiency, I asked the student to share any concerns and feelings.  The answer came after a little hesitation.  The student shared honestly that the work was not understood, accompanied with a “low” feeling.  I empathized and validated by listening. I asked how this feeling has come on in prior experiences in math.  The memory triggered, was that of teachers in an earlier school ridiculing the child for not being on par with other children.  It was also that of being ignored, “side-lined” when others could be faster at math.  The child had retained the fear consciousness and created many protection layers.  One of these layers was “shutting down” with a nod to show agreement and staying unnoticed. I asked the child to connect with the inner child to hear out feelings from long ago. The student was able to let go and heal from the old wound. This time the affirmations rung out and the younger self of the child was energetically reassured as being capable, loved, and important and celebrated. The student’s confidence returned.

Now intentions to learn with an open mind and ask clarifications are made often by the student.  Today the student sets intentions to learn, enjoys math and is making attentive attempts more often. At the end of the day, hearing the student give gratitude to learning and being capable from within is the best gift for me to behold. As Dr. Newton reminds us, A child who grows without conditioning or fear, but with loving nurturing limits, grows retaining all the wisdom and continues being wise.

Mistakes are just mistakes

Teaching kids and adults, I have learnt that there is an energy exchange that happens when reviewing and discussing work. Mistakes happen. One can perceive a mistake by a child as the teacher’s failure to teach, or project it as the sum of all wasted efforts.  Sometimes teachers layer it with moralistic judgments or get frustrated at not being able to tap into the learning style of the child. Been there, done that! All of these end up breaking the child’s self-esteem and unconditional state of trust and love. Sometimes teachers and adults point out a mistake when the child does not live to their expectations or their planned mode of action.  Mistakes are just mistakes – nothing more. They are mostly unintentional errors. Adults make them too.  They may occur when we work out of tiredness or confusion. Sometimes they just beautiful risks taken – and in such instances, if dealt carefully, they make the child more resilient, more aware and confident in the process. A child’s self-esteem can be eroded by the manner and emotional state with which work is reviewed. At Creative, we do not turn a blind eye to errors.  We only ask teachers to respond when their energies are clear. Reviewing mistakes is more often taken as a learning opportunity with faith.  We encourage teachers to review a child’s work only after checking out their own emotional response to the work before interacting with the child. A child needs a lot of love, faith in his learning abilities, appreciation and encouragement to be able to openly discuss and self correct his responses.

Another instance comes to my mind.  A certain child had past experiences of being corrected repeatedly and harshly. Now, the child does not take any steps on its own – every step had to be validated and confirmed by a teacher or parent before proceeding further.  So much so that the child refused to even attempt questions without an adult around.   The child usually ran to find a teacher to validate every step. I saw no faith or trust in the child’s own heart.  Prior to working on myself, many times it irritated me that I had to repeatedly sympathize with issues the child was facing. Victim or fear consciousnesses were my primary mode of operation. I looked at the child as a victim of society and social pressures and I was fearful of how I might interact with the child or the parent if the work were not done yet again. But pity or fear was not the path to be paved.  Externally I did not do much to change the situation.  I first realized how much I had to “up” my trust level - my own confidence and faith for what was possible by the child.  I also could see how my mistrust was tied to my own past experiences of myself being reprimanded for taking initiative that turned out as a ‘failure”. I projected my own torn layers outwardly. Mistakes happen! With this simple awareness and release of emotions tied to it, I could get back to love–consciousness and positive energy within myself.  I still have to strategize and take loving action to help the child. I use a process of small milestones that are tangible by the child, followed by deep gratitude and self-affirmations.  It has become safe for the child to express freely, take risks and take feedback. As long as I now give it with pure intentions and no judgments within me, the feedback is not only absorbed but also appreciated – a very big step!

I thank the regular practice I am committed to; I am so grateful to all the gurus in my life and my colleagues and students for nudging me every day towards a healthy practice. Children have been so central to my aspirations and struggles within. I am deeply grateful to the alignment I make everyday with The Divine.  Yes, mistakes still happen but each stone turned over clears my path towards Divine Consciousness more and more J. The journey I am taking is synthesizing the yoga of a soul and I am very grateful to all the forces that are bringing this out.

The Mother says:

“… Love, Knowledge, Power and Beauty. These four attributes of the Truth will express themselves spontaneously in our being. The psychic will be the vehicle of true and pure love, the mind will be the vehicle of infallible knowledge, the vital will manifest an invincible power and strength and the body will be the expression of a perfect beauty and harmony.”

 

References:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aster_amellus_3.jpg;

Stenier’s quotes from his lectures on “Education for Adolescents”, given to the teachers of the Stuttgart Waldorf School, June 12-19, 1921.

The Mother’s quote from http://saccs.org.in/texts/mother/-ma-scienceofliving.php; Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 12, p.3-8, © Sri Aurobindo Ashram