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← A Visit to the Dharma Primary School, September 2014

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Showing Revision 8 created 01/21/2016 by Peter van de Ven.

  1. It's been a wonderful,
    precious opportunity
  2. for seven nuns and monks from Plum Village
  3. to come to this very beautiful
    and precious gem,
  4. called the Dharma Primary School.
  5. We have through this week
    nurtured each other tremendously.
  6. Our primary purpose for being here
    is to help the school embody a practise.
  7. First individually,
    with each of the teachers,
  8. so that they then can find the stability
  9. and the compassion
    to be with their students,
  10. regardless of what's going on
    with them or the students,
  11. and also so that we
    could impart this practice
  12. to the kids themselves.
  13. What joy and what fun it has been!
  14. We've also had the chance
    to share with parents,
  15. and have a day
    of mindfulness with parents,
  16. so that everyone in the community
    understands what the practice is,
  17. what it means to embody their practice,
  18. so that they can then
    support each others practice.
  19. So, we're very happy to be here,
  20. and we hoping we're leaving
    lots of happy teachers
  21. because they have already
    started to change the world.
  22. It's just been amazing,
    having the brothers and sisters here.
  23. Personally, it's been
    a kind of dream come true,
  24. and I think it's really helped to bring
    greater understanding to the practice,
  25. particularly the practice
    of mindfulness in education,
  26. in that understanding that it isn't
    just about sitting down for five minutes
  27. with children and closing your eyes.
  28. That it is something that you
    try to embody with the children,
  29. and how you are with them,
    and how you teach them.
  30. And then it can be things from --
    very simple things, very practical things,
  31. like the walking meditation,
    eating meditation,
  32. so that you can begin to
    try to have this mindfulness
  33. much more present in the day.
  34. Having the visit from the monastics,
  35. having the monks and nuns
    stay with us this week,
  36. has been an extraordinary start
    to the year for us all, I think.
  37. I can't think of a better way
    to start the year, frankly.
  38. It's really set the bar
  39. for our practice,
    for our exchanges with each other,
  40. and with the children --
  41. I really enjoyed the week,
    I thought it was great.
  42. Within the first day, or a half,
    I felt there was a real solidity
  43. about the way that we were working,
  44. and the way that the monastics
    were bringing it to us.
  45. I really enjoyed some of the exercises
    and the activities that we did,
  46. and I thought it was really good,
  47. the way that the focus was
    on the teachers and what we could learn,
  48. before we would
    pass that on to the children.
  49. I thought that was fantastic.
  50. It made me feel much more confident
    in subject knowledge, in a way,
  51. and how I could impart that
    to the children, as well.
  52. So, having the nuns and monks
    come in from Plum Village,
  53. having the two days
    before the children came in,
  54. having two set days with just the staff,
  55. was really helpful in getting reacquainted
    with the practice after a long summer.
  56. That was really nice.
  57. Having the community spirit
    sort of reinvigorated was nice,
  58. and it was nice that we had
    a nice balance in the end,
  59. meditative practice together
    and being able to go
  60. preparing for the school year.
  61. I think we balanced it just about right,
    that was very useful.
  62. I also think I probably worked
    a little bit more efficiently
  63. after the meditative practice,
    and then going off to do my work.
  64. Because I was very much
    doing one thing at a time.
  65. It's been very touching to have
    the monks here for the last seven days.
  66. I think it's just really
    being around them all,
  67. being around people that are
    intending to breathe
  68. and to be kind.
  69. Just being around them just makes you
    more mindful of your breath,
  70. and notice where your words
    are coming from.
  71. A few years ago we thought we knew
    where we were going with the school,
  72. but somehow along the way
    we have lost part of that, maybe.
  73. But these few days I've seen all of that
    come back, and more.
  74. It's been very, very powerful.
  75. Maybe on a personal level
    it's been powerful, too.
  76. On a level with my relationships
    with lots of people,
  77. it's changed me a lot.
  78. As far as the school is going,
  79. I feel I have huge amounts of hope
    that we're going to change for the better,
  80. be more thoughtful
    and caring towards each other.
  81. There have been problems
    before in the school,
  82. but I've seen a big sea change
    with a lot of people,
  83. and that's given me great joy, that I know
    things are going to be different.
  84. People begin to be kinder
    to each other, more thoughtful.
  85. I feel it's going to be different
    in a very good way.
  86. I also feel like, it's going
    to be very hard to let you go.
  87. It really is a great start
    of the school year
  88. to have the monastics
    from Plum Village here,
  89. and it was just great to have
    the time together as a staff,
  90. to come together and to slow down
    before the children got here.
  91. I really enjoyed just arriving here,
  92. not just physically,
    but emotionally and spiritually.
  93. I really appreciate the way
    the monastics have helped us
  94. to arrive to this school year
    from the right place.
  95. Your definition of mindfulness
    is just the simplest, easiest thing
  96. for anyone to grasp and that is:
  97. whatever you're doing,
    that it's doing something
  98. and really knowing that you're doing it.
  99. That is the most simple,
    direct explanation
  100. that anyone can offer
    and anyone can grasp,
  101. and it's really helped being able
  102. to just distill it in such
    simple terms for the children.
  103. [Jess, teaching assistant]
  104. It's been wonderful
    having the monks and nuns here.
  105. We've learned a lot new practices
    that we can use with the children,
  106. but more than that, I feel they've
    taught us how to embody the practice
  107. within ourselves, within our daily life,
  108. on the bus or at home
    or generally in the community,
  109. ways in which we can always be mindful.
  110. I found that the most powerful.
  111. I found it very beneficial to use at home,
  112. and you notice
    a new sense of peace and joy,
  113. just doing this mindful tooth brushing.
  114. How much joy can arise
    from that is quite amazing!
  115. It's a great way to start the day.
  116. I've noticed that I hold my breath,
  117. which is something I do when a situation
    is difficult or I feel emotional.
  118. So instead of holding my breath,
    I try to breathe through those situations.
  119. I found that really helpful.
  120. During these ten days,
    I realized that there is a way
  121. in this hectic life to eat mindfully,
  122. to have five minutes of breathing
  123. when you get stressed,
    when it's getting hectic.
  124. I'm known here
    as someone who rushes around.
  125. I run up and down the stairs,
    I'm always running around.
  126. But what I have done this week
  127. is be aware of when there is a time
    that I don't have to rush,
  128. and maybe I can walk more slowly.
  129. I'm also trying to bring some of that
    into my life generally, at home.
  130. Because again, at home I've got kids,
    and I run around after them.
  131. Just yesterday, I sat in the garden
    for ten minutes with a cup of tea,
  132. and I just focused on the tea,
  133. having a cup of tea in meditation,
  134. and I just focused on it and I sat,
    and it was really lovely.
  135. Everybody wants a bit of you,
    it's so nice to sit down and just think,
  136. I'm just going to have
    that little bit of time.
  137. So I'm going to try really hard
  138. to just have a couple of five-minute
    or ten-minute breaks every day,
  139. where I just sit quietly.
  140. I'm really going to make
    an effort to do just that.
  141. I've got a very, very hectic job
    in the Dharma school
  142. because the office is the point
    where everybody comes
  143. and everybody wants things of you.
  144. But through the monastics
    from Plum Village,
  145. I've learned to find my focus back.
  146. I use some practice which they taught us,
  147. like when the phone rings
    I let it ring three times,
  148. and breathe, and then
    I pick up the phone.
  149. Or I try to walk mindfully
    through the school,
  150. find my focus back,
  151. and this really helped me to get through
    the hectic daily life of the school.
  152. I really would like
    everybody in the school,
  153. all the children and the teachers,
  154. to have 15 minutes of eating all together
    in silence and have an eating meditation.
  155. This is what I really enjoyed
    when the monastics were here,
  156. and I really will miss them.
  157. I have found that I personally
    have been walking more mindfully,
  158. as the children are,
    I hope I can keep that up.
  159. Because as a teacher there are often
    times when you have a strict time limit.
  160. You've got to get some
    photocopying done in two minutes,
  161. and I've ran up the stairs
    and things like that.
  162. So I'm hoping that I can
    always come back to the present,
  163. or remind myself that getting it quickly
  164. is actually going to have
    a negative impact on my future.
  165. So, I really want
    to bring it back to the present.
  166. I know that a minute later,
    or two minutes later,
  167. it doesn't matter because I'll be happier,
  168. and actually I'll probably be able
    to do my job better, anyway.
  169. I've really taken that on board.
  170. I felt that it has been
    really well tailored
  171. through all the different ages
    and concentration levels.
  172. Just watching all of them
    with the children,
  173. they responded really well
    to all the practices.
  174. The mindful walking
    yesterday, was beautiful,
  175. they absolutely loved it,
    really focused, really enjoyed it.
  176. You could see that being shown
    how to notice things more
  177. was just allowing them to question
    everything around them.
  178. We had a few children
    who rarely speak, are quite shy,
  179. and who were also motivated on that walk
  180. to be pointing out things,
    questioning about nature.
  181. One also found a beautiful relationship
    with one of the monks,
  182. which was lovely to see.
  183. I really thought
    that the walking meditation,
  184. the recipe for walking
    meditation was great.
  185. I particularly like the fact
    that there were a lot of little bits.
  186. What we're always looking for as a teacher
  187. is to break things down
    into manageable chunks for children,
  188. per lesson.
  189. In walking meditation,
    it's easy and it's all there,
  190. and I can break that
    into four of five lessons,
  191. which I will do,
    and I'm planning to do it,
  192. it's in my plan already.
  193. I will be doing that
    with the children two days a week.
  194. I will be doing walking meditation,
    so I will take a couple of weeks
  195. to build right up using all the elements.
  196. I'm looking forward to that.
  197. Walking meditation,
    that has improved things already.
  198. We used to line up quietly at the door,
  199. they'd go off to the cloak room,
    and by the time they got to the cloak room
  200. there would be a lot of noise
    and scrambling about.
  201. We're now walking mindfully
    and peacefully to the cloakroom,
  202. there's quiet in the cloakroom,
  203. and go they peacefully outside.
  204. And as soon as they get outside,
    that's their chance to let off steam.
  205. It's appropriate for them
    to be mindful in the classroom
  206. and in the school,
    so it's worked really well.
  207. The mindful walking up and down the stairs
  208. has transformed the energy exchange
    in between classrooms.
  209. That transitional time
    things can get very frantic.
  210. The fact that we all
    are embodying this practice,
  211. the children are adopting that,
  212. and I think that's
    a lovely benefit from your visit.
  213. We're practicing that,
    and it's becoming part of how we are.
  214. It was beneficial to learn
    about how to invite the bell,
  215. so you don't just
    rush into it and ring it.
  216. You kind of honor the bell,
  217. and the bell ringing practice
    by introducing it calmly,
  218. firstly connection with yourself,
    then connecting with the object,
  219. and once you're ready,
    you really can take your time,
  220. you let the bell ring.
  221. I think that is going to be
    very beneficial to me,
  222. in my art lessons.
  223. Like it tells you that it's OK to stop,
    drop everything for a while,
  224. and calm down and come back
    into your breathing.
  225. It would be lovely if the whole school
    can meet in this practice,
  226. and do it mindfully in the future as well.
  227. I've particularly liked using
    the tools that we've been taught.
  228. For instance the waking up the bell,
    the bell meditation,
  229. because that's something that I can use
    in the classroom frequently,
  230. and it does have an effect
    on the children.
  231. Especially, sharing with them
    that the bell is a friend,
  232. and it's a special time, rather than just
    using the bell to keep them quiet.
  233. I really found that useful.
  234. I'm going to try the other meditations,
  235. for instance the eating meditation
    with my children,
  236. because we have lunch
    and snack time with them.
  237. Haven't tried that yet,
    but I think I'm going to do that.
  238. We had started practicing
    mindful eating before,
  239. but I think, the monastics having
    explained more about it,
  240. and offered their own different variations
    or takes on it, has really helped.
  241. Sister Morning shared with us
    her own personal practice,
  242. which I find really useful, really lovely
    to employ when I'm eating.
  243. With a lot of these things, it can be
    much easier to practice together.
  244. In the classroom, we've been
    enjoying mindful movement,
  245. we did pebble meditation,
    which the children enjoyed.
  246. I think just the way
    things are phrased to the children,
  247. they can really understand,
  248. calling the breath a friend
    that you can always turn to
  249. when you're feeling anxious
    or worried or angry.
  250. I think they can really picture
    that someone is always with them.
  251. Then, once they've learned enough,
  252. they can recognize when they're
    feeling these strong emotions,
  253. and they can turn to that friend
    and just breathe trough it.
  254. We start small with these practices,
  255. because the children I'm with
    are five to seven.
  256. You can really see a change
    in them, year after year.
  257. Even today in the playgrounds, one
    of the children came up to me and said,
  258. "I really enjoy my new class.
    I'm not hurting people anymore."
  259. She said: "Do you remember last year?
  260. I was hurting people all the time,
    I don't do that anymore
  261. because when I get angry
    I just return to my breath."
  262. This is from a seven year old girl.
  263. That was really a very powerful moment!
  264. It's all going in, definitely,
    and they're using it.
  265. Very inspirational.
  266. I think the children really
    enjoyed the monks being here
  267. because of the joy
    that emanates from the monks.
  268. Also the calm as well.
  269. The children have enjoyed
    doing lots of the activities,
  270. breathing, singing, moving,
  271. and I've heard the children
    ask lots of questions of the monks,
  272. like, "Can I come and sit
    next to them at lunch time?"
  273. They really like to be around the monks.
  274. I think because they value the feelings
    that emanate from the monks.
  275. And because we've been
    with the monks for seven days,
  276. we've had seven days of breathing,
    talking more kindly,
  277. and that has done wonders
    for the relationships within our group.
  278. I have seen us coming together
    as a community,
  279. and I like the thought
    that we're going to start a sangha,
  280. we can start something new,
    be part of that.
  281. It's a huge thing
    that will make a big impact on us.
  282. As a personal practice and for the school,
  283. the flower watering
    has been just wonderful.
  284. Something that I think
    we all want to take on board.
  285. To take time, to really
    think about another person,
  286. to look at another person and to see them,
  287. and to appreciate good qualities in them
    and to share that with them.
  288. Sometimes we can think about these things,
    but we don't actually express it,
  289. and it's the expressing
    that is so important.
  290. And what's been very powerful
    is doing it in a group,
  291. because that collective
    energy and support --
  292. It's been very beautiful, very beautiful.
  293. We did the practice of flower watering,
  294. which was a great opportunity
    to stop and share the appreciation.
  295. Because, I've been here for a year,
  296. but I feel like that was
    my first opportunity
  297. to really have the time
    and space to do that.
  298. The appreciation
    was held somewhere, maybe.
  299. I haven't spoken out, maybe,
    as much as I could have done.
  300. I hope we can maintain this also,
  301. not only when we do the flower watering,
    but take it into our daily school routine.
  302. How did I feel about the flower watering?
  303. It was really good for me, in particular,
  304. because I do struggle actually to just --
  305. I'm not mindful enough
    giving the praise to people
  306. on a regular school day.
  307. It's busy and you don't stop to think
    just how much your colleagues --
  308. all the things they do for you.
  309. And maybe I could be thinking about that
    one thing that they didn't do for me,
  310. while leaving out all the lovely things
    that they did do for me.
  311. Even if there's disagreements
    with teaching staff,
  312. which is inevitable
    in any working environment,
  313. I can absolutely, hand on heart,
    think of something
  314. to say positively about anyone
    that I work with.
  315. That's always a good start, and you could
    probably build from there
  316. to a better working relationship.
  317. Oh, the flower watering!
  318. To learn to really listen, we did
    the exercise of the flower watering.
  319. An amazing exercise, to start healing
    rifts among the staff,
  320. if the relationships have sort of
    deteriorated during the year.
  321. Just saying something you appreciate
    about your other staff members,
  322. boosts their morale, makes you feel good,
  323. makes everyone feel
    they are valued as part of the team.
  324. But I think probably the most useful thing
    for the whole staff during those days
  325. was learning how to talk to each other,
    and how to really listen.
  326. Meetings tend to be a bit hectic,
    people talking over each other,
  327. everyone was trying
    to get their opinion heard,
  328. it get's very stressful.
  329. But learning how to talk, where you bow in
    and you give people the space to talk --
  330. It's amazing, everyone can say
    what they need to say,
  331. and it's not judgmental.
  332. I think we created
    a lot of trust within the circle.
  333. Everyone was just saying exactly
    how they felt, and that was OK.
  334. Everyone was being supported,
    which was needed.
  335. Very needed.
  336. For me, the deep listening is enormous,
  337. and I'm looking forward
    to doing that with the children,
  338. and listening more to what they say
    and really hearing what they say,
  339. rather then always
    providing the answers for them.
  340. My tendency is to say:
    "I know how you feel,"
  341. but I don't know how they feel.
  342. I have to listen to them
    and give them their moment.
  343. I'm excited, really, to start
    doing this with the children,
  344. and hopefully teach them by example,
  345. how we can be, and how
    they can listen to each other.
  346. I think it's going to make
    a big change in how I am with people,
  347. and how I am with my colleagues.
  348. I think the deep listening
    is very, very important.
  349. That would be enough on it's own,
    but there has been so much more,
  350. so much more that we have taken on board.
  351. As long as we remind each other
  352. to keep mindfulness
    at the center of everything we do,
  353. I think it will be a much better school.
  354. I'm really excited,
    and I'm looking forward
  355. to what is going
    to happen with the school.
  356. I feel like it's the kind of place
    that I want to work in,
  357. that I want to be in,
    and I want to be part of it.
  358. I want to help to make this
    the perfect school I know it could be.
  359. So, I'm looking forward to that.
  360. (Children Singing)
  361. I love nature,
  362. nature is cool,
  363. forest is my classroom,
  364. the earth is my school,
  365. trees are my teachers,
  366. animals are my friends,
  367. and on this school
  368. all life depends,
  369. I love all of nature, yes it's true,
  370. that means I love myself and I love you to,
  371. when I look around me,
    nature's all that I'm seeing,
  372. plants, animals, earth,
    sky and human beings,
  373. nature is like one big community,
  374. many animals could
    live inside just one tree,
  375. and that tree gives oxygen
    to help us breath,
  376. this whole interaction is called ecology,
  377. I love flowers, they are so pretty,
  378. I love them in the forest,
    and I love them in the city,
  379. and I love mushroom too,
    on a pizza or in salad,
  380. but my favorite place for mushrooms
    is right here in this love ballad,
  381. I love children and I love H2O,
  382. and children that love nature
    can help the rivers flow,
  383. by protecting habitats
    like wetlands and wet meadows,
  384. when we work together
    we can all help nature grow.