My Favourite Recipe for Learning
Children have always fascinated me. Their behaviors, their attitudes, their perception…
Things change as they grow older, but especially during those first two years, they are trusting, innocent, pure, playful, in the moment. Present and excited about the current moment. Easily entertained and easily distracted, they are also capable of surprisingly Great Focus. They can forge deep, deep connections with those soulful eyes… looking straight through people’s outward appearances and into their souls.
Contrary to appearances, they wield immense Power in their utterly complete dependence on adults. Power…as if they arrive in complete surrender to their Source. They arrive, helpless, completely dependent and yet so powerful in their demand for unconditional love. They ASK, with no thought to ego or expectation or exchange or condition. They are whole and perfect, powerful in their Presence.
I have had the great privilege of witnessing my daughter’s childhood, being there for her and for me. I always knew that I wanted that pleasure — the pleasure of being almost completely available to witness my child’s early years, without any financial pressure. I am grateful for that choice.
I did not mean to influence or teach or mould her in any way. My intention was not to groom her. My desire was just to bask in her Glorious Presence. That grew more difficult in time. Demands on my time, other family needs, my own personal needs began to invade my time with her. My ego got the better of me many many times. I made unnecessary judgments. I blamed circumstances and mistook my choices for ‘situational requirements’. I was nowhere close to the ideal I wanted to be and often floundered in guilt instead of making different choices. Nevertheless, there were moments of Presence and Joy. I collected these and celebrated them.
A had the same fear of going underwater that I did as a child. I intuitively knew not to push her. By 8 years old, many children feel pressure from parents and society at large to be able to do certain things — maybe basic swimming, go underwater, show an interest in sports, be able to write, read, etc… These expectations (much like curricular expectations in school) sometimes meet the child where they are, but often do not. I hear academicians say that teachers must have high expectations of their students — but that means that teachers believe in the capabilities of their students, not that we push them to do what they are not ready to do. And those capabilities are different for each child. I believe that children have their own understanding of their readiness for challenges. It is a delicate balance to strike… we must support them while they decide if they are ready for a challenge, without unduly influencing them because of our own expectations.
One summer, A decided that she wanted to be able to swim underwater (1st ingredient — intrinsic motivation for a goal). It felt like the Universe conspired to not just make it possible, but to make the process enjoyable. At her own insistence, she spent every afternoon in the pool with her cousins (2nd ingredient — environment with resources). Two of her cousins were much better swimmers than A. They astonished me with their skilled facilitation. They knew exactly when to push A and when to give her room to relax, when to encourage her and praise her and when to give her critical feedback (3rd ingredient — environment with helpful multi-age peer-facilitators in a healthy, social setting). I did not interfere (4th non-ingredient — remove all traces of adult ego and external pressure to perform). I did celebrate their effort and their joy (5th ingredient — celebrate the learning). We cheered together when A managed to put just her nose into the water. We laughed together when the youngest cousin insisted on repeatedly dunking her own head into the water and come up spluttering and gasping for air — just to show A that she didn’t need to know how to breathe underwater! The goal is important, but not more important than the learning. Throughout her learning process, she continuously challenged herself to modify her sub-goals to work towards her main goal (6th ingredient — self-assessment). I did not decide these sub-goals for her; she decided them, in consultation with her peer-facilitators (7th ingredient — time and space to figure out one’s own pace of learning, in collaboration with facilitators). She discussed her learning with me whenever she felt like talking about it. She would explain what she thought was going well and what she wanted to do change (8th ingredient —self-reflection). By the end of the summer Avni was swimming underwater — a skill she continued to build upon in the following summers.
What ingredients would you add?
This is not new. This has been happening to different peoples, in different ways, in different places, throughout time, all over the world.
I feel angry when people talk about economically successful people being intelligent. Example: “Arrey, Jeff Besos is rich because he is a smart guy who worked hard to earn his money”. First of all, for many people, being “intelligent” is not enough to become economically successful (neither is working hard). Second, what is this “intelligence”? Of what use is this “intelligence”? To me, this “intelligence”, which is so valued by our society, is fundamentally a set of skills that schools and parents have been taught to value (over other skills) by sheer promise of economic reward. For example, “study hard and practice these skills and you will be successful (economically)”. This kind of “intelligence” includes a certain set of skills that, if cultivated assiduously, is touted to help bring us economic reward. For some people (depending on skin color and economic status), this even works.
I feel like unfettered capitalism has allowed us to use this “intelligence” to search for water on Mars, while actively denying food and water to those who are starving here on our planet. I am very grateful to have the Internet and I’m sure my old cook in India, Indira Akka was very grateful for her mobile phone. I cannot deny the benefits of capitalism. But while capitalism drove the market’s need for “intelligent” people with the right skills, as well as the insane number of niche (and mostly plastic) products available to occupy our increasingly confused minds, we have become blind to its consequences. The rich have kept on getting richer, the poor have kept on becoming poorer and the darling middle class folks are being thinly spread on the slice of bread. Those who can keep up with the rigors of academics and qualify for society’s definition of “intelligence”, are allowed to bask in the glorious wake of the rich (and by bask, I mean work their asses off until they hit a midlife crises and then continue to work their assess off). The fate of those who cannot keep up with academic rigors depends on other factors like the color of their skin and the benevolence of the people they happen to be around.
What if things were just slightly different? What if suddenly, by a wave of a magic wand, the most valued skill, the most prized mark of intelligence was empathy? What if not just our society, but our economy, valued empathy above all other skills? What if all the best scores and ivy league certificates were deemed worthless unless they were accompanied by consistent evidence of empathy? What if making millions of products available to people at one click and lower prices was rejected because it meant inhuman working conditions and emitting 44.4 million metric tons of CO2, which was the ultimate deal breaker?
I’m allowed to dream. And I will. I don’t understand market forces and I know I don’t have the knowledge and expertise to even really understand the situation in detail, let alone find a solution. But I do know we have enough collective intelligence on this planet to figure this out.
As I process my feelings and reactions and those of others in society, I am struck by the sheer diversity of viewpoints. I see people viewing the same scenario through different lenses that color their views uniquely. When one color BEHOLDS another color, we have empathy. And I think empathy is the first step towards harnessing our will power to change.
This article can also be found on Medium- https://firstname.lastname@example.org/empathy-d4713fe38c01
So let’s see… our puppy Jasper had his enucleation surgery - his problem eye has been removed. So much to be grateful for! DD calls him our pint-sized pirate!
DD is being pretty amazing at managing these lockdown restrictions. She is so incredibly focused on being present in the moment. She very naturally turns her attention to what feels good, what feels better, what is easy and in flow.
Two nights before the surgery Jasper was in pain. After feeling some anxiety, she promptly and wisely advised me to come watch a funny show with her. While watching the show with her, my mind wandered over his painful eye and whether the impending surgery would work etc… She heard me express my doubts and said “I think we need to ignore it. Not that we don’t do what we need to do. We are doing that. Now we need to distract ourselves.” That’s wisdom.
I notice that with her… she’s clear about when she is willing to face certain information and when she’s not. When her friend’s father was in hospital, she asked for clarification and some information - “What is a seizure?”. After receiving my answer, she chose to change the topic. She cares deeply for her friend and feels the significance of the situation. But she seems to very deliberately choose to turn away from fear and distract and choose a better feeling. Sometimes it may look as if she is running away from what frightens her. But that is only what it looks like on the surface. She loves researching and sharing with me stories of people who live with significant differences… developmental differences, health conditions people were born with or developed… she listens to their stories of struggle and resilience and learning and adapting and forging…
Published on Medium
And now this...
Fears in my head
Some solidifying, some evaporating
Should I listen to others?
Is golden turmeric paste the answer?
Or just forget it all, he has such a happy healthy every day routine
Why is it happening?
What difference does it make? It is. And I will learn from it. We all will.
So why can't it be that the Energy work is reality?
Why can't it be that the Switchwords work?
Why not take for granted that the Energy work and the Numerology and the focusing of energy and thought on health is the most effective cure??
Why think that they are only alternatives?
Why can't allopathy be the alternative?
Is it the power of money? Is it that until we spend money on cures we don't feel like we’ve done anything valid?
We’re doing everything we can. No. We’re doing everything we feel makes sense. We’re choosing what to spend the money on so that he is least harmed and most benefited.
We’re focusing on health, enjoying healthy, happy play, giving love and receiving love, looking at the eye with love and talking to him about the power he has to heal. The power he has to relax and forgive and let the past be and just enjoy the now with us, and enjoy the gift of the present time.
Why not believe that he has chosen us to live his life the way he wants, with love and acceptance and tremendous capacity to charge ahead and enjoy life? He has chosen to leave behind his life in the wild. Perhaps he chose to be born a dog because he wants to give and receive unconditional love.
Our blue-eyed boy, literally! Our one-eyed pirate-puppy!
Thoughts swim to the surface again
Will the doctor think me nuts to ignore the problem now and spend more money on expensive procedures later? Do I think I'm nuts for that reason? Or do I just think that others will think me nuts?
What about me? What do I think? Where is my voice? It is speaking and I know it is always speaking loud and clear. The other voices in my head get in the way… the voices of the judged, the voices of the afraid, the voices of the shamed...even the voices of the logical...those facts and figures… Can anyone escape them? Those all-knowing facts and figures?
Even those who are least judgemental and most supportive and wonderful are still not my inner voice. There is no escaping the truth - I must find my own reality. No amount of advice or support takes away the need to do the work myself.
That’s all it is. Belief.
If I believe, then it is.
That’s what I can do. But I must do it honestly. Feel its power honestly. I cannot pretend to believe. Or rather I can, but it is not belief.
I can choose to believe, deliberately, with intention. Before that, I may need to ask why-nots to allow myself this new belief.
I imagine scenarios… like what if I believed but then something went wrong…. What is the difference? When we are ready to handle each moment on its own, without baggage of the past or future, then these scenarios are jokes. Just take each moment.
When I empty the mind...
One of my favorite things in the world is to have conversations with my DD. The prerequisite though is the emptying of my mind. Once that’s done, there is no limit. Today we started with blank pieces of paper and pencils with the intention to draw. Instead, words started coming out of the pencil. I thought of inventing a new adventure with the Famous Five (one where the chauvinistic idiot character gets what he deserves). But then DD started inventing her own characters for her story. I liked the idea and started on my characters. Then grumbling tummies led us to Chipotle, but the characters kept developing…one from Peru, one from Australia, one gender-nonconforming, one Tibetan Mastiff, etc. Some cookies, oranges and sparkling water later, we somehow got on to the subject of adding negative numbers. More algebra flowed, followed by a discussion about Harry Potter, which led DD to make an interesting observation. She said the one thing she found unrealistic about that series is that some people couldn’t do magic even if they wanted to. Many concepts in the magical world have corresponding concepts in the world we live in, like laws, governments, wars, cultures, etc. The one thing that doesn’t match is the fact that people can do whatever they put their mind to in our world. But in the Harry Potter world, if you’re a muggle or a squib, nothing you do or say can help you do magic…even if it’s something you really want.
I love the flow… it makes me feel alive. It feels natural and easy. The prerequisite is hard though… emptying the mind of judgements, fears, anxiety is hard. Staying in the present moment is hard. But, like many other things, it starts feeling easier and more natural with every empty-minded moment.
The Studio Partner