Sustainability (for the soul)

reapYour practice and effort determine your reward – you totally reap what you sow!

I have sustainability on my mind at the moment having received a grant for $1000 to bring my vegie garden / sustainability project dreams out of my head and into reality. Having never grown a vegetable in my life (surely eating loads of them counts?!) I am truly spending this year stepping out of my comfort zone. So it got me thinking about that word….SUSTAINABLE…and what practices might be high on the list for ensuring teachers have longevity (and joy) in their careers, rather than just applied as an environmental buzz word.

Here are my current personal sustainability practices:

  • Rest when tired – I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, don’t push through. I need constant reminders of this but it is so important and always works.
  • Work on something that lights a fire in your belly (like a pot belly stove sustaining you through a chilly winter) – no more “grinding” through tasks. In Nischala Joy Devi’s translation of the Yoga Sutras she interprets Patanjali in Sutra I.39 as saying:

“Dedicate yourself to anything that elevates and embraces your heart”.

It can be hard to find time in our profession to dedicate to projects we are passionate about (whether for school or personally) but anything that elevates your heart will lift your energy too, supporting you on a daily basis.

  • Food that sustains – when I think of sustenance food immediately comes to mind. Eat well. You know how. Just pick a meal or snack to focus on making really healthy for a week or two before moving onto another. Natural = life giving.
  • Let something go – we cannot get everything done that we would like to. Let’s just accept it. Pick something that you feel is not at the top of the “must do” list and accept that it won’t happen (and that’s fine).
  • Prioritise tasks on a weekly (or daily) basis – that way you won’t get side-tracked by every little thing that pops up. You don’t have to reply to every email immediately.
  • Accept the present moment – where you are, where your kids are and where your colleagues are. We are all on our own learning journey. Decide what you have the ability to change and get to it (let the rest fly). Remember making a change takes more energy than continuing on as you have been but it will be worth it.
  • Get Strong – muscles sustain you. Strong body = strong mind. Exercise needs to be prioritised (especially in winter to combat lethargy).

I hope you will consider adopting your own sustainability practices to carry you on the journey and ensure your career is maintainable in the long run.

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Noticing Beauty Every Day

beautyPart of living a contented (and centred) life and being satisfied with the present moment is taking time to notice the beauty that is around us every day of our lives that we more often than not take for granted and which is free to enjoy.

I have made it a daily practice to notice and soak up beauty – letting it sink in to the deep layers of my body and heart so that it fills me up with nourishing goodness.

Different people find different things beautiful – the beauty I see is often out in nature or in other people’s actions but it can also be in objects. Some beauty I have noticed lately is:

  • My daughter’s face covered in blueberry squishes and the smell of her hair
  • The aroma of wood smoke in the morning (now that the weather has gotten colder)
  • The warming spices in my morning cup of chai
  • Frothy milk ($3 well spent at IKEA – I can’t get enough of this froth!)
  • The sun shining through the back of a wave at sunrise
  • The golden moon appearing from behind clouds in the early evening after parent teacher interviews (a total gift after a long day)
  • The sound of rain on leaves in my garden

These are things that I notice and express gratitude for every day. By aligning with beauty (and the source that created it) our sense of it only expands – as they say “Where attention goes energy flows”. It’s time to start paying attention.

Rick Hanson says:

‘The experience of beauty relieves stress, nourishes hope and reminds us that there’s much more to life than grinding through tasks’.

So much of a teacher’s day can be spent “grinding through tasks” but we do have a choice of whether we intersperse this “grind” with servings of beauty. Some examples for your students might be: a guided meditation; sitting under trees just listening while feeling the breeze on their skin; sharing a poem, a song or a beautiful flower…

It is alarming to think that our schools and therefore the lives of our children and teachers are becoming a grindstone – the purpose of which is to wear things down. I’d rather cultivate the opposite.

I know you can spare a few moments each day to open to beauty. You do have this choice but you have to make that choice. Really look at the things around you – especially the ordinary things we take for granted. Use all your senses to experience beauty in the environment and in other people. You could keep a beauty journal or take a photo when beauty strikes, or simply breathe it in. Deep.

How much beauty are you currently taking note of day to day and moment to moment?

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Tips for Surviving Report Writing

cupIt’s that time of year again – thought it might be good to re-post this one! Here are some things you might like to try as you write your reports this term so that you do not need the first week of holidays to recover:

1) Create (and stick to) a simple timetable for completion so that the workload is spread out over a few weeks and you are not leaving them ALL until the last minute and have to pull an all-nighter (not mentioning any names here but you know who you are). I write mine down to the wire in terms of when they are due but I never pull all-nighters – I’d never recover. I spread them out.

2) Try to work in 50 minute blocks of time with a 10 minute break in between each block where you leave the computer, rather than working for hours at a time. The break will refresh your brain and you will return clearer and re-energised and will actually achieve more in your time frame.

3) Fuel your brain with protein, good fats and loads of veggies. If you normally have a bowl of lollies and chocolates on hand to “fuel” you, try nuts, water or a healthy smoothie to keep the fire burning longer. Sugar will keep you in a cycle of extreme highs and lows – we want stability and balance at this stressful time.

3) Get 8 hours sleep EVERY night (I am writing in capitals to myself here!)

4) Try and move your body every day, even when you are tired (especially when you are tired). It will relieve your tiredness and clear your head. Just aim for 15 minutes which is just over 1% of your day – totally doable. Yoga is great for bringing you back into your body after the mental activity required to write reports.

5) Keep your water intake up – this is my Achilles heel and people who know me are often surprised to learn I don’t drink enough water. But I know when I’m feeling foggy it’s because I’m dehydrated. My goal is 1.5 litres a day and herbal teas are great for upping the beneficial liquid (avoid juices and soft drinks – sugar laden!)

6) Maybe you could try writing your reports in a location you have never written in before e.g. at a cafe; down at the beach; in a park by the river – just tote your laptop. Sunlight causes the brain to produce endorphins which will lift your mood. Of course this may be a ridiculous notion if you are someone who needs paperwork or samples close by to refer to as you write but it’s just a thought – I know I could write my report comments in such a setting.

7) To bring your inner wisdom and true presence to the fore as you write, try a little meditation before each report writing session. This is as simple as 5 minutes of breath awareness with your hands on your heart and diaphragm.

Happy writing!

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