Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Thu 5/20/2004 2:57 AM
Random Thought: Meditating Before Class

If you are uneasy with the word, "meditate," try "focus." A rose is a rose.... Use whatever words you want to describe how you center your mind, body, and spirit. I find meditating for about fifteen minutes before I leave my office for the classroom helps me transform what is about to happen within those four walls called a classroom into something to be cherished rather than merely endured.

I have so many thoughts racing through and crossing my mind. So much of it is distracting and confusing noise, static, and confusion that shout at the top of their voice to command our attention. Most of them, however loud their screams, aren't really very imortant or meaningful. If you listen just to the noise and focus only on the confusion, it can really bring you down. It pays to remember, to be reminded, again and again, that the noise and confusion are not what it is all about.

Thich Nhat Hanh says we each are what we feel, believe, and perceive. Our feelings and perception are a part of us; we are them. If I believe, I am that belief. If I care, I am that caring. If I am hopeful, I am that hope. If I understand, I am that understanding. If I want to make a difference, I am that difference. The primary root of who I am is in me. And, what lives in me thrives in me; what thrives in me, thrives around me. So meditating before class is partly a filtering out and inviting in process. I mediate before each class in order to tune myself into the right frequency and tune the static out; I meditate to turn down the volume; I mediate in order to discard and to savor. When I savor I enjoy the moment. I don't worry about what is next; I don't agonize about what I can't control; I marvel at the possibilities of what I can do; I pay heed to what is. After all, the more earnestly you savor life, the more you will find to savor. In

I'm not content to let the moments of the present day slip silently and uselessly away. My purpose is to fill each moment with life, meaning, richness, reason, value, and an expectation for possibilities of what might occur. And, I find that what I experience is fed by my thoughts and feelings. As I succeed to give each day a purpose, my day is transformed from merely one to be endured into one that will always be cherished, and a time when possibilities become occurances and occurances can become miracles.

Now what do I mean by meditation, well, let me categorize what I do and why into a few words:

STOP: I just sit there and do something. I put on the brakes, halt the blurring of the rushing by, and close my eyes to calm down and notice and see sharply. I slow my thinking. I give myself what I call a brief, deep "power rest." It a way away from shallow looking to deep seeing, away from mere hearing to acute listening. It's the way to understanding.

BREATHE: I consciously breathe. I pull a soothing and cleansing breath smoothly and slowly up through my body, and push out the poisons of anxiety, impatience, distraction, doubts, worries, fears, concerns, hesitation, equivocation, reservations, "other-placeness," fear with each exhale. It's an opening of my window to suck in fresh, invigorating air and vent out heavy, stale air. It's using my superfund to clean up some careless pollution. It's a serum to neutralize all my toxins. As I inhale, I say, "I'm breathing in. Calm." As I exhale, I say, "I'm breathing out. Wonderful." I feel like I'm in the movie, The Karate Kid: breathe in, breathe out. I focus on the movement of my chest, the sensation in my lungs, the peaceful and lifting effect it has on my mind, body, and soul. And slowly, I am conscious that "I am alive."

BEAUTY: There is beauty and wonder in every direction, if you'll simply take the opportunity to see it. Every day, every situation, every person you encounter brings something that will add richness to life. Each moment holds the prospect of a new experience. Eagerly drink in all of those experiences, for in them you will find the fertile substance of life. As I just told some people at a conference presentation, we so easily proclaim what's wrong and so easily ignore what's right.

PLACE: I choose which thoughts I keep, which one I build upon, and which ones I put aside or discard. It's a choice that makes an enormous difference. All this important because the thoughts and feelings to which I hold tightly are the ones that usually become real. The ones I focus on usually become my reality. So, of all the thoughts that race across my mind today, I pick the ones I want and hold tight on to them. I give life to them, let them to grow stronger, give them influence. I take myself into a positive place.

PURPOSE: I once again get to the place I want to imagine by closing my eyes, picturing each student, and restating my purpose to myself aloud: "I want to be a person who is there to help another help him/herself become the person he or she is capable of becoming." Those wordsMy purpose is my motive, my motivation. It's my force. It's the source of my energy. It makes me the custodian of myself and active partner in whatever is going to happen. But, I meditate so I don't just utter these words to myself to tell me what I am about to do must be about who I am about. I have to feel my purpose; taste my "why," imagine my vision, speak my deep desire. It gives me the courage to go beyond mere wishing and saying "I want" to actually making choices, and then onto acting on those choices.

INTENTION: Intention is not just something I do; it's an energy I draw on. The shape I give teaching is the shape of my teaching. I find that whenever I focus and whatever I focus on commands and engages my best and most productive and most mindful energy. So, during that fifteen minutes before I head for each class, with eyes'closed, there's a mental focus, a spiritual stillness, an emotional intention that make me available to achievement.

ZONE: I get in a zone. I get and stay focused. I free up my heart and soul by not letting my mind or soul run wildly free. I don't picture myself anywhere but in that classroom. The hard part of zoning is when your eyes are open, and to know and acknowledge when you're about to ramble, to drift off, to go to another place, to say "Halt" to yourself, to bring your mindfulness back to where you are and what you're doing.

POSITIVE: My food for thought does not include any spiritual junk food. No negatives! Negatives don't need my help. They do just fine on their own. But, they're a place for poverty and ugliness. I am looking for a place to find richness and beauty. Negatives starve. I'm seeking nourishment. Negatives sadden. I want joy. Negatives destroy. I am looking to construct. Negatives deprive. I want to arrive and thrive. I am positive that with positives I can build, create, love, appreciate, encourage, grow. I can't do that unless I consciously banish destructive whining and complaining, irks and pains.

SMILE: As I brethe, am positive, get in the zone, see and feel beauty, find the right place, reaffirm my purpose and intention, I can't help but smile. Smiling is something about which I have shared; it is something I always do. Why? Simple. When I smile, I see only smiling people around me. If I were to sneer, I would see only sneering people around me. A smile creates a cool and soothing breeze. A smile helps me enjoy myself on my route. Have you noticed that when you smile, you feel awake and aware? My smile affirms my joy, my aliveness, my gentleness, my mindfulness. My smile has a better chance of bringing happiness to those I encounter than does a dour look. It's a gift that doesn't empty my wallet. A smile says, "I'm here because I want to, not because I have to. I am all here for you."

WORD: I ask myself, "What are you saying to yourself? What are you saying to others?" Words can limit my thinking, or they can expand my horizons. Words can bring on discouragement and despair, or they can provide the encouragement to do great things. One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve my world is to improve the words you use when thinking to myself or speaking to others. I always have the power to choose my words, so it makes sense to choose the best, most positively powerful ones. I have a focus word or a power word or a mindful word each time I go to class, or wake up in the morning for that matter. For me that word is usually "love." It can be "belief," or "hope" or "faith." Silently I say that word as I head for class, as I'm in class, as I'm leaving class. And as I repeat that word, I become that word; I live that word. Repetition of that word is, I find, extraordinarily powerful for creating continuous awareness and mindfulness.

LISTEN: I listen to my body. I listen to my soul. I listen to my gut. I listen to my conscience. I listen intently. With an intensity, I pay attention to the clues I'm giving myself. So many of our difficulties come from the fact that we don't pay attention to the clues we're giving ourselves. So, I take inventory by being aware if my stomach is tight or relaxed, is my throat dry or wet, if my brain is focused or chattering, if my palms are sweaty or not, if my legs are numb or not.

EXTEND: I extend myself beyond myself. I just wrote the words for the day on the black board yesterday, "The more you want guarantees, the less secure you feel." Inner power is a state of being. It's a confidence that you can handle whatever comes in life. You get that power by reaching beyond your usual comfort zone to expand your comfort zone so that what winded you at first became easier until if feels like nothing. Then, it become everything--and it's time to extend further and farther.

CHILL: I don't push myself. I don't get self-conscious. I don't try so hard I lose it and am lost. I just relax. I just go with the flow, let things happen, and let things meet me where I am. It's all about preparation and biding time, and being prepared and waiting for the time.

Thinking all these thoughts, feeling all these feelings, don't make them so. What good is all that power in the car's engine if all you do is idle and rev. No, you've got to put it in gear, engage the engine, if you want to move. It's the doing that makes my thoughts and feeling so. When I start living and feeling the essence of these words before class, when I start putting myself in gear, I'm ready for whatever may come. Then, I leave my chair, turn on my boom-box, pick up whatever I need to carry, and dance to class with a smile.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
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