Softening our responses

/ October 11, 2017

Brighton and Hove City Council have been experimenting with adding on an extra week to the  October half-term holiday and taking it off the next summer break, thus half-term has come around very quickly! In planning for the term dates 2018/19 (which are now on our website) I have tried to mitigate the negative effects of this, by ensuring that we at the Dharma Primary School get a longer summer break.

Thank you to those of you who have returned the Parents’ Questionnaire – it feels very important to maintain a dialogue around parents’ experiences and what the school is hoping to achieve through its ethos. In many ways, this is represented by the learner and social profile of our pupils on leaving the school in year 6. In asking you as parents and carers for feedback, the aspiration is to remain open. We welcome your positive comments and reflections and take any suggestions for improvements seriously and constructively.

In some ways, this is Buddhist practice in action and an approach worth modelling to children, albeit in a softer way.

Taking that into relating to external stimuli – be that having a conversation with another, seeing a visual image, hearing something and so on – I have been noticing my somewhat predictable responses and wondering how I might go about changing them. I either tend to draw closer to the stimulus or want to push it away. Always responding to a certain person or stimulus in the same way becomes a habit and, as I get older, I see that these habits become increasingly ossified and difficult to change.

I want to change some of my habitual responses; I find them rather dull and not who I want to be. I don’t want to get more entrenched in my viewpoints as I get older and I am noticing that this could happen! A way to change this is to notice how much tension is locked into this way of thinking; I ‘should’ be someone else, do something else;  I am ‘bad’ or overly ‘good’ when I react in a certain way and so on. I am anxious, tight and worried.

A possible way through is given from Buddhist practice; one can become interested in sensing where the tension is, in the moment and what it feels like. Even with the uncomfortableness that comes with it, if I can give it my kind attention, gradually it will soften, open and transform. The tightness and clinging can loosen. Although the thoughts might be taking me into the future, staying with the tension in the present moment will transform and change the future.

Here at school, we facilitate the seeds of this approach as we do various forms of mindful movement, dance and yoga, all ways of connecting with and meeting the body. In terms of tension in the mind, we skilfully introduce meditation and mindfulness in age appropriate ways.

As to responding skilfully to things we might shy away from, as parents and educators, modelling is the way forward. We can’t help our initial reactions, but we can remember to give space and attention to the tension produced and go forward in that way.

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