For me, asking Divine Mother, God, or Spirit, for inspiration is a bit like calling Her up on the phone. Sometimes She answers immediately, and sometimes you get Her voice mail. This particular month, I got Her voicemail and she answered me, little by little, throughout the month in very special ways.
In my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade class at Ananda Village’s Living Wisdom School, this month I wanted to put special emphasis on gratitude. The aim, from the perspective of Education for Life, is to guide the children to have experiences that make the subject, in this case, gratitude, real, so they learn from the inside out. I started out our morning circle with an activity I used a previous year, but this was a different group of kids and a different time, and I saw right away it wasn’t going to fly. When you are open to intuition in the classroom, you must be ready to alter activities at a moment’s notice to suit what is happening with the particular group of children at the particular moment. So, I went back to the drawing board, asked for inspiration in meditation, searched the web, read books, asked other teachers, brainstormed in the shower…
Then, spontaneously one morning, an idea came. We timed ourselves to see how many things, as a class, we were grateful for in 2 minutes. The first day, we got 70. The second, 109. This was working! The gears were starting to turn, the children were excited to name anything they liked or anything that made them feel good. What’s more, everyone participated, even a child who originally said he was not grateful for anything.
Eventually the children were even naming each other. I quietly enjoyed the expressions of joy on the children’s faces after the activities, which silently affirmed that being grateful helps you feel happy. We went on to do many other activities and games of this sort during the days that followed. I read stories of thanks-giving to the class and I told a 4-part dramatic story about the historical reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Simultaneously, we were supposed to be getting a skit ready for the All School Thanksgiving Celebration. Again, no ideas. Finally after days without having even an ounce of inspiration, I asked the kids for their input. After all, I thought, this entire semester our focus throughout each day had been on doing things together, supporting each other’s ideas, and building friendships. Well, as soon as I brought it up, the conversation was quickly directed to the subject of the cuteness of our baby pigeons that recently hatched.
So, as you probably guessed, an idea “hatched” to tie in gratitude, as a way of life or mental attitude, into a skit using cute baby pigeons. Here’s the very abridged version: A farmer had a coop of turkeys and a coop of pigeons. Every morning he woke up to go take care of the farm and he could never find a matching pair of socks.
“At least my feet will be warm,” he said to himself every morning. The turkeys were always complaining. They thought that the farmer filled their food and water half empty and were always getting poked by the “thorn bush” that grew close to the coop. The pigeons on the other hand, who always looked on the bright side of life, never feared going hungry, for they saw the farmer always filled the food and water half full. The pigeons also enjoyed the sweet scent of rose and the thorny protection offered by the bush growing so near their coop… you get the basic idea of where this is heading… the kids loved it.
Then, the big moment I had been waiting for came the week before Thanksgiving. However, as usual, I was unaware of it at the time (but still silently praying for it). It had now been about 18 days since lodging my original request with Divine Mother’s voicemail. All I knew was that it was a rainy day and the kids really needed a walk. I was open to it because the alternative was for 9 kids, on the verge of wild, to practice our gratitude skit. I couldn’t bear to kill it in this way, so we donned our jackets and boots and headed out to Pubble Pond.
We played some Sharing Nature games to get out the energy and focus attention. Then we pretended we were baby deer and each child had to find their own dry place to stand in until their mother (me) came to get them. Sufficiently calm and quiet, and our outer awareness awakened, it was time to open the inner awareness. We walked silently to a “special, special tree” and collected beautiful things for an altar we would make at the foot of the tree. The anticipation was so great that when the kids spotted the great tree, I heard and saw the children’s amazement. They ran silently to the tree, some seeking special places to place their beautiful objects, others climbing around the tree’s enormous roots. We stayed like this for some time, taking mental pictures with our “cameras” again. Then we found out it took all of us with our arms outstretched, to play “pass the squeeze” as we held hands, hugging the tree, stretching to encircle it.
As we began the walk back along the road to school, the children began shouting out, “I love that tree!” Glancing over to my right, I then saw one child was rolling himself back to school through the wet grass shouting, “I love grass!” Then like magic, each child began merily shouting out things like:
“I love the rain!”
“I love the pond!”
“I love birds!”
“I love school”
“I love Ananda!”
I joined in calling out, “I love all of you!”
“Do you know what this is?” I asked, in amazement at the beautiful gift of thanksgiving Divine Mother had given to us. “What?” they cried joyously. “This is gratitude!”