Monday, September 1, 2008

Shinnyoen at Casady: Six Billion Paths to Peace Introducition

Background: A couple of bunnie slippers brought the Shinnyo-En Foundation to campus. Robert and Sarah were the hosts of Maura Wolf, Audrey Wang, Ruth Krischner, and Ciara Segura. Maura and Ruth facilitated sessions, and Ciara and Audrey were the story tellers. They came on a day my students and I thought would be free of conflicts, but when the administrators revised the schedule, I had to be in unexpected meetings. This was the first test of my understanding of my path to peace.

Maura and the group were so easy to deal with, I did not stress about them, but I stressed about the number of participants that would attend the YAC invitational as we ended up calling it.

We invited new students and a few freshmen who we were told service was their thing in the 8th grade. We had invited all the former YAC members first, then when they did not respond, we invited anyone who had worked with YAC in recent years. When they did not respond, we added students doing service during the summer. The day of the retreat, about 45 people showed up. Next year my goal is to invite the whole freshman class and their teachers and see where we go from there.

I was unable to attend the opening of the Invitational because I was in 9th grade training of the advisors. When I arrived, participants were moving in a circle, I think getting to get to know each other.

Maura, Ciara, and Aubrey shared stories about their paths to peace and how it became their life calling. Ruth and Maura gave is a great worshop on stress and how to be at peace with oneself before we can provide peace to others.

After taking care of lunch, we played a game to get to know each other by sharing some special thing we wanted to teach each other. It was a nice ice breaker.

I decided to stay at the workshop instead of going to the first faculty meeting. It was a hard decision, but the topic of handling stress really attracted me. There was an explanation of what happens to our "test taking, cretive brain" under stress and how our survival instincts take over and we make decisions we regret. The presentation was simple on how to handle stress. Stop, Breath (to silence your reptile brain), label your stress (survival or not: What do I have control over and what I do not have control over...whatever you do is a makes good choices when one uses the thinking brain). Ruth also mentioned that sleep is important for good choices, 1 extra hour of sleep=10 extra points on a test for example.

Ruth asked us to fold a paper in half. On one half we were to place all our I shoulds. On the other, all what makes us happy. Maura helped us focus on one of those I should and do de-stressing Yoga to release one of those I shoulds and allow ourserlves permission to gain greater peace. It worked for me and the teacher's meeting I had decided not to attend. it was a nice way to unite a writing activity with a bodily-kinesthetic activity.

The workshop continued on how we are interconnected and how we find peace in our community. I was taking care of new arrivals and could not do the first exercise, but it was something like "write from the lowest to the highest adjectives that describe how you feel and what situations produce stress in you...My lowest was annoyed by people eating from my plate without asking to enraged by people unwilling to collaborate when I think I am sharing something important and productive for them and for me. Then, Ruth asked us to draw a figure or a symbol that represent ourselves. Around that symbol or figure, she asked us to write our current or potetial support network. Then we were to tell how they were of support. Finally Ruth asked us to make a list at home, school and community of goals we wanted to accomplish and a way to get to them with an unstressed life, a gift of peace within and out. and the session ended...

The kids have expressed how much they loved the Invitational, but I have not had time to reflect them. I will do so next week

Looking Back at the Retreat: August 10

5:30-7:30: I walked and saw yearlings with their mothers, rabbits and beautiful ocean and mountains scenery. I regretted not have gone in the evening walks and getting up earlier the other two days at the Marconi Center. I was also concerned, but not worried about my interview on camera which was to take place after yoga and before breakfast. Yoga was great and at the interview I became very emotional and I do not really know why. I do not remember what I said but whatever I said I felt very strongly.

7:30-8:30 I checked out, eat breakfast and found out that the ladies in the roon next door were from an Episcopal private school like mine. I told them about my experience with Nan Peterson, attending her workshops at the NYLC conference in Minneapolis and wish them a great journey because they were exploring a great partnership. Here is something I found about Nan at the Shinnyoen site " About 8 years ago at a service learning conference, I went to breakout session with Don Hill and Mark Batenburg from Youth Service California. I don’t know why I went to their session; I just knew I was absolutely drawn to them and their talk. It was about the Shinnyo-en Retreat. They talked about
broadening horizons, diversity, relaxation, and sustaining your soul as a person of service. They were talking about the things I was struggling with in my life as a teacher.

I went to the retreat, knowing nothing about Buddhism. There were very few people who looked like me. I was late arriving and the Retreat Center looked so big. A nice man was sweeping the sidewalk – he said enter right here. I thought, “Isn’t that nice. This groundskeeper was waiting for me. This is what service is about, it is a way of life. It is about everyday kindness.” At the end of the retreat Haru Inouye was introduced. He was the man who was sweeping the sidewalk.

The retreat struck me – there were very few middle age, middle class Christian women like myself. My small group looked so different than me. At the time, I knew pluralism in my head, not in my heart. Later in the Retreat, when I walked the labyrinth, I was crying because I was so full of joy. It was a metaphor for life – we were going our own ways but we were all on the same journey. All of the sudden I realized I didn’t have to agree with everyone, but I had to respect them. Up until that point, I thought I had to deeply understand everyone in order to agree, now I saw that respect and acceptance can come first. And perhaps respect and acceptance is enough.

I never questioned service. I grew up thinking it is the way people live. I was born into a family that believed that we have a great responsibility to our community and our world. My mother was very concerned with poverty and my dad, an oral surgeon, was focused on health issues. As I was growing up there was a strong family value that said, “it is your obligation to serve others.”

As my father aged he began needing more and more care. While my family is close, my brothers were not in the habit of showing up for the daily and weekly demands. Before my mother died, she asked me to take care of my father; I took that responsibility very seriously because of the love I had for my mother. I became the one who visited my father every other day at the family home and finally found a lovely senior care residence facility for him. I continue to visit him every other day and do all I can to give him comfort. My father and I were not close as I was growing up so helping him while he has been sick and aging has been a tremendous gift to me. He has finally let me in and shared with me who he is.

My brothers sometimes question my now positive relationship with my father. I invite them to make room for him in their lives assuring them they too could have the joy and the honor that was a part of this service.

What started as a sense of responsibility has grown into service with great joy.

I have always thought about service within the context of the metaphor of a candle. With my light, I shine out into the world. The problem is, that I want to do it all and I want to do it all well. So there is a tendency to work so hard that the candle burns out.

I see this tendency also in students. They have so many demands on them; sometimes think they haven’t done their project well enough and end up feeling bad in the end because their work wasn’t big enough or good enough.

What I have realized is that we all have limits. I have to trust that I am where I’m supposed to be and if I can let go trying to control the situation, most likely things will fall into place. Mother Theresa says, “Fill your own lamp first.” If I don’t listen to that wisdom, my service wanes. I used to think – it’s all up to me. Now I see service as a reciprocal exchange – and often, I receive much more than I give.

I’ve learned this lesson, in part, from young people. This year a group of students came to our school from Mexico. Because they came with few material possessions and so many needs, we thought we were going to be of service to them. But they gave us a joy, an alegría. As we got to know them, we saw that they have tremendous love within the family. They have a strong faith, an ability to sing while working, and beautiful art. They also had a beautiful spirit of gratitude. They were of attitudinal service to us.

I see myself now as a lifelong learner and a connector that brings people and ideas together. I am very excited about my professional life as the director of Service Learning at The Blake School in Minnesota. In this role I strive to model and encourage service and compassion in young people. My sincere hope is to encourage young people to build a more harmonious world."

8;30-9;30 Was story telling time, stories that touched our hearts and moved our spirit to action. The title of the presentations was "Paths to service from different spiritual traditions" I realized the value of story telling and diversity in leadership in service.

9:30-11:15 After a short break, we went back to our home groups for one last time. Now we were to look at sharing one moment in life when we felt a powerful closeness with Nature or an especially intense spiritual presence. I shared my moment with my dad in Pisac and how it now leads my professional and personal quest.
Then we were asked to create an intergenerational poster of the home groups' spotlights of meaningful moments in the lives of the members as well as meaningful moments and insights from Home group conversations. We created a suitcase with all our paths

11:15-11:45 We had a poster walk after a representative from the group said one sentence about the poster. I was chosen for my group.

11;45-1:15 We had a retreat evaluation, picture, helped clean-up and had lunch with the group that was coming to Casady. It was interesting to hear myself talking about my environment and my needs. I wonder what their reflective evalautions will say after a couple of hours stay at my school with a small sample of my population. We will see.

After lunch, Henry and Jody took me to my hotel. I was tired and just enjoyed looking at the scenery and hope to be back again next year. It was an amazing experience that gave me peace and confidence in my path to peace.