Lessons from a Year in Waldorf

“Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above and below me.”

This was one of the first songs I had the pleasure of partaking in when I first met Waldorf. It was at the Teacher Training last summer in a room full of teachers and parents. It was the first time in a long while (or ever?) I had experienced being among adults singing in unison. The song was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. I have since learned it is a Navajo prayer song.

Having just finished my first year as a Waldorf Main Teacher, this song came to me yesterday. I thought back to the hope I had in the world before the school year started. I had such high (albeit vague) hopes for the year. Now, a year later, after much hardship as well as many rewards, I’m happy to say, the song still rings true for me. I still walk in beauty and among beauty, now knowing, more strongly than ever, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

How was my year, you might ask, and what have I learned? Reflecting back on the year, there have been so many lessons. Allow me to share a few here.

1. If you come from the heart, you will go far.

When I first entered the school, wow… was I in for a treat. More like a surprise, actually. All the ways I had learned to do things in the past – with a plan, with efficiency, with time for last minute tweaks – I had to throw them all out the window. As the year progressed, I realized more and more that in our school, things were usually pushed to the last minute, and somehow magically all came together at the last second. This caused me plenty of heart attacks. I could not deal with the uncertainty of it all. I was so used to being in control.

Midway through the year, a parent told me, “Don’t worry, things here at the school may not always seem like they will work out, but they always do in the end. We may not do things perfectly here, but we do them from the heart.” As frustrating as that was for me, I slowly learned to see the beauty in this foreign way of doing things, and slowly began to embrace it. I saw the heart in everyone coming together to help a struggling teacher who was at her wit’s end. I saw the heart in being vulnerable and sharing with others that I needed help. As painful as these experiences were, I’ve learned to let go a little and take things more lightly. Does it really matter if a certain activity doesn’t turn out perfectly or as planned? Sometimes better things are waiting beyond perfect planning and execution. Although I admit I still can’t discount the heart ache caused in the process, I’ve come to value the solidarity and kinship that was formed when others rallied around me to help me overcome seemingly insurmountable struggles.

2. Dream big and have faith.

There were so many firsts and new things I did this year that I never imagined I would be able to do. Leading a group of fifteen students to share songs and movement in front of others. Teaching Physics at a middle school level when my own level of Physics education is limited to that of a ninth grader. Selecting, casting, costume and set designing, rehearsing, directing, and performing a class play with less than three weeks of rehearsal time. Less than two weeks even, for me, given I broke down and had to take a break midway through. Planning and leading a five-day class sailing trip. Making, and anxiously encouraging my students, to finish making their puppets on time for a puppet show that all came together, as you guessed it, at the last minute.

So many big projects to accomplish; during each one I would doubt myself continuously, and during each one other teachers and staff would continuously support me, encourage me, believe in me. I’ve learned we are capable of more than we think. It just takes a few loving nudges in the right direction and a lot of faith.

3. Who you are is more important than what you do.

In line with what I shared in my previous post, it has been no easy feat guiding fifteen teenagers through the 7th grade. Experiencing a multitude of changes – be they physical, emotional, or mental; full of questions; full of rebellious tendencies; these kids did not make it easy for me to find a way to work with them harmoniously in the beginning. It was a slow uphill battle to truly understand what other teachers and mentors had been telling me- that who I am is more important than what I do. What does that mean?, I had thought. How do I put that into practice?

I’ve learned that it is only when you let children see who you are – your values, your story, your flaws – that they can begin to trust you and identify with you. Only when you show them that you’ve been through similar challenges, that you had the same questions, and this is how you dealt with them, can they see you as a friend and equal they can talk to. Only when you are able to laugh freely at their corny jokes and participate in their antics, whether that’s their teenage green-mindedness (yes Rosal, if you’re reading this, I said it) or their silly hide and seek games, will they consider letting you in on their lives and innermost feelings.

I’m taking this lesson away to apply to my own life. I need to stop worrying whether I measure up, whether I am good enough at this or that. Just being who I am is good enough. Children see that. They have a wise, intuitive sense for it. And it is the truth.

4. A diamond is formed through lots of pressure and patience.

I’ll share something I wrote during the last week of school:

“My big golden moment this year is that throughout all the heartache, headache, sickness, tears, I’ve triumphed and grown into a better me, and really nurtured loving relationships with my students. It takes all that pressure to create a beautiful, sparkling diamond, right? I never thought (well, I may have dreamed) I would be sitting here today, in our last week of school, feeling the way I feel – vibrant, healthy(er), grateful, with a muted ache in my heart because I know I’ll be leaving all this soon. And there are actually, sincerely, many things and people I’ll miss.”

It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster year. Life may throw you for unexpected loops sometimes, but stay along for the ride. Through all the ups and downs, all the external and (mostly) internal pressure I placed on myself, I’ve emerged from it all with a sparkling diamond; cherished relationships and gems of wisdom I would never have otherwise gained.

A friend once compared my short journey teaching at a Waldorf school to Mary Poppins’ short stay with the Banks family. I am definitely nowhere near as graceful and well-prepared as Ms. Poppins, but there is something about her I identify with.

For now, it’s time for me to seek new horizons. Time to seek, and hopefully bring, magic elsewhere.

If I may channel her light-hearted spirit and swift umbrella-flying ways …

umbrella

Mary Poppins, out!

Trust in Blessings

It’s been a while. Quite a long while indeed, and a lot has happened since I last posted.

Have been wanting to write for a while now, just haven’t known exactly what to write, or how. In the past three months, I’ve undergone a short training for my new job teaching at a Waldorf school; started teaching in June; moved lodging to the area an hour outside of the city; and have been teaching a motley crew of twelve-year-olds for the past month and a half.

It may not seem like a lot – I mean I have lived across the globe on my own for years away from family after all – but for some reason it feels big. Bigger. As if a lot more were on the line. To be honest, while living away from home in the past, I feel as though I lived half awake. As though I just went through the motions of adult life: working on the weekdays, living or resting on the weekends, without dedicating enough time to consider what it was I truly wanted to be doing.

My new work is – well, it’s a lot of things. It’s a challenge, that’s for sure. Coming into teaching middle school with no past experience teaching in any school. Even more than that, coming in with no Waldorf background and having to learn the Waldorf philosophy and teaching pedagogy as I go.

Apart from the technical aspects of the job, I feel under-versed in its emotional demands. Having to command the attention of sixteen teenagers without having them shut you out completely is no small feat. Learning to tow the line between being an authority figure and someone they can trust. All whilst having no prior experience mothering children.

It’s, at times, anxiety-inducing. I often wonder, am I doing a good job? Am I doing things the right way? Trying to remind myself, as I (so) often forget, that there isn’t really a right or wrong when it comes to guiding children or young adults. It all depends on your intention. If your heart is good, then you will do good. And if that’s not enough, then at least you can rest easy knowing you did your best.

All that aside, it’s joyful. Seeing my students act unabashedly day in, day out, unafraid to claim and express themselves, I realize in moments that more than me teaching them, many times they teach me. I listen to them sing our meal verse beautifully with harmony before lunchtime everyday. Watch them laugh at each other when a mistake is made. See them run through the rain during a flash storm and afterwards ask me if I want a hug. There’s an innocence and purity I appreciate, an open-heartedness I hope to slowly learn from them.

On my drive today a truck was ahead of me, and I smiled as I read a message painted on its back:

IMG_8649

God Bless Our Trip.

A simple message, especially in a Catholic country. Yet as I thought about it, I saw the beauty in it. The beauty of surrendering, and trusting, that you are protected and guided. Amidst the chaos and scrambling of the past few months, I lost myself somewhat. My self that knows I am guided. I may not be the perfect teacher, as my achieving self would like to be able to claim to be from the get go. I’m learning, step by step, to trust that I am on the right path. To trust in the process of trial, self-examination, course correction, and growth, which can sometimes be painfully eye-opening, especially with a daily audience of blunt, no-filter twelve-year-olds.

May 1

May 1, 2018. Labor Day. May Day. The day we lost my father sixteen years ago.

I’m unsure how to write this post so I’ll just begin. It’s been twelve years yet I feel like in a weird way I am only now accepting that he is no longer with us. It’s definitely been a long journey. But I am ready, open to grieving and sharing more. Speaking about him, telling stories, this is how we keep the memory of our loved ones we’ve lost alive.

There are still many corners within me unexplored, and I do feel like a large part of my journey is to heal that. There are many more tears to be shed, be they happy or sad, but I have begun, and that’s what’s important.

Here’s a song I wrote for my dear father, called River Flow. Surrounded by the lush green of Bali, surrounded by love, there was nothing I could do but to look inward and begin my healing process.

Enjoy –

Loving you eternally dad.

J

Intuitive Living

I’ve been pondering this idea for a while … living from your intuitive self. Listening to your intuition for me means : doing things because you feel called to, spending time with people you love or who light you up, infusing every word and act with deep intention yet light surrender. Not worrying that you need to do this or that, but just letting the day unfold as you take on your duties one by one, calmly and in flow. Letting yourself be led elsewhere if that’s where you feel most true.

I’ve seen this work in the most mundane of situations. On the road, for example. A friend once told me that he couldn’t drive in other countries – the rules didn’t make sense. It was only every time he returned to the Philippines that he sighed in relief. Even though traffic rules are generally nonexistent here, there’s a sense everyone knows what they’re doing and where to go – drivers may be ruthless but you know how to dance in the madness. It’s an innate feeling that leads you.

Similarly, when I was in Bali, a driver I met was telling me how junctions in Bali are usually a mess since roads are narrow and not built for the mass tourism on the island. He said that they tried putting up stoplights at intersections, but that just messed the mess up even more. In the end Balinese drivers still preferred to not have any rules or lights, but instead continued to let one another cross intuitively, peacefully, at their own easy pace.

How can you apply this daily? It’s definitely something I’ve found I need to remind myself of constantly. Whenever I feel stressed, that I need to be doing something for one reason or another, usually to be more productive, I try to pause and ask myself if it’s really necessary, or if it can wait (or does it need to be done at all?). Listening to this voice within as often as I can so that it can translate into the bigger picture of my life. Am I going to look back five years from now and wonder where the years went, or will I smile, knowing I lived consciously and took steps in the direction of a life that fulfills me, allows me to connect with and serve others, while still meeting my basic needs?

Some food for thought. Hope you are enjoying the sunshine, wind, clouds, rain, night sky, wherever you are this spring Sunday.

xo

J

Bali Bliss

I’m still digesting the nearly two weeks I spent in Bali … it’s only been three days since I’ve been back home and it already seems a world away. Keeping a deep knowing, though, that things may end, but you can keep them alive in your heart.

I went to Bali initially for a yoga retreat with a dear yoga teacher friend, T. To be honest, I didn’t expect much more than days filled with yoga, fun, laughter, sun, and relaxation. I came away with so much more. How can I begin …

The setting of Bali is so beautiful. Words can hardly describe. Right as you arrive you sigh in relief as your eyes are flooded with fields of green, your nerves calm as you absorb the peace radiating from the locals, it doesn’t take long until everything in your body starts to slow down and stabilize. You’ve entered what may feel like an alternate universe.

 Green as far as the eye can see
Green as far as the eye can see

Of course more than the setting, what makes a trip are the people you spend your time with. Very thankful for T and the group she gathered together. Everyone diverse yet similar, each at different stages of our lives yet able to connect in spirit. Bali blew our hearts open, from experiencing sound healing in pyramids, marveling at majestic age-old temples, rejoicing in nature, sharing poetry and song, moving with intention, digging deep within and laying our souls bare. Thank you Bali beauties for an unforgettable time … until our paths cross next and we again commune under a full moon whispering our dreams, desires, and fears, to make way for growth.

A snippet from my diary on my last day:

“Thank you Bali for being so sacred. Your land, vegetation, people, beings .. all living in such harmony. Thank you for your lessons and beauty. The care with which everyone lives here … smiling at each other as they greet each other, speaking and acting humbly, praying for the smallest things … everything is sacred. Our homes, our workplaces, our possessions, ourselves, our cohabitants on this earth. Thank you Bali for your peace, blessings, wonder. I am in awe. Bowing down at your feet.”

 Daily prayer
Daily prayer
 Under a magnificent tree of life
Under a magnificent tree of life
 Finding magical nooks and spaces
Finding magical nooks and spaces
 Discovering new foods together (durian)
Discovering new foods together (durian)
 Lounging, sharing, pondering
Lounging, sharing, pondering
 Sacred circle
Sacred circle
 Memories that will last forever
Memories that will last forever

 

xo

J

Michicant

Filmed a cover while in Bali… which I will write about at some point soon.

Here is Bon Iver’s Michicant, a beauty of a song matched by the beauty of my surroundings singing it.

For best audio, use headphones. Thank you to my lovely videographer Juliet for all her help! Enjoy x

xo

J

Girl from Ipanema

Have been really enjoying singing and posting videos on YouTube lately.

There’s a sense of zen I feel when I sing. It’s wonderful.

Sharing my cover of “The Girl from Ipanema” by Frank Sinatra. Did not realize the original song had Portuguese in it so was fun learning to sing that part – I’ve always found Portuguese to be a beautiful language. Also altered the lyrics a bit to suit my gender.

Enjoy! x

xo

J

Feel Through It

A big part of my learnings these past few years has been learning to feel. It sounds like something we should intuitively be able to do – the heart is an integral part of our body after all, isn’t it? – yet it isn’t. In fact, I may argue it’s one of the hardest things to relearn.

For many of us, it isn’t until we reach a certain age that we are conditioned to hide our feelings or ignore them. As children, it is natural to play, fall, cry from the pain until we are consoled and the wound has been patched up. I can remember so many instances from my childhood when I fell or got hurt, running instinctively to my mom or grandma to receive their care – disinfecting the wound, applying iodine, a bandaid, and whispering that it was okay.

I was reminded of this in India last December. One night a series of events led me to feeling a slew of emotions including frustration, powerlessness, and rejection. I excused myself from dinner to find refuge in the bathroom, where I started to cry. These overwhelming emotions I could barely identify came over me and I just let them pass through. A girl came into the bathroom – she must have been 8 or 9 – looked at me and asked me if I was okay. This being my first time in a long, long time crying in public, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. In a way I wasn’t “okay” in the conventional sense of being put together and having a wall built up around you. I was sick of projecting a sense of being “okay” in that way all the time. But at the same time I was “okay” – I knew that eventually the feelings would pass and I would be okay.

The girl asked me innocently, “Are you hurt?” What a great question, I thought. I knew she wondered if I was physically hurt, but for me what resonated was emotional pain. I assured her I was okay by nodding my head. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to explain these complex emotions to her. But I was grateful for her presence and concern, because she helped me step out of my habit of siloing myself away when I am not feeling 100%, and helped me realize that if I wanted consoling, I had to reach out and ask. Eventually I came back out of the bathroom, went back to my table, and got the consolation and comforting I needed.

What a beautiful process that so many of us (myself included) have forgotten though growing into adults, no? Children are so wise. They know when they are hurt; they are not ashamed about it; they ask for help. They slowly feel better, and all is well again. They go back out to play. There is so much we can learn from our world’s wise little teachers.

Can you take some time to yourself today – take some deep breaths, take a walk, chat with a friend, and see if any feelings surface? Or just keep an eye out (or a nerve out?) for the next time you feel some emotions surfacing, and not push them back down? Let them out. Let them see the light of day. There’s no need to understand them, or judge them. Just feel them. Give them time to be. It may seem foreign at first but you will become familiar with the process, and learn to befriend your feelings. And, slowly but surely, through constant reminder to allow your feelings to be – without identifying yourself with them or thinking you need to conquer them – you will live more freely and lightly.

xo

J