“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
Hindu Prince Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.
Recently, I have been having trouble sleeping. I thought perhaps it was the fact that I haven’t been running my 3 miles three times a week, or that I am stressed about the beginning of school or the house buying process that I am going through at the same time. My brain never gets a break. It chatters to me all day and all night with the ‘pings’ of TweetDeck, the discussions I have with myself over the house as well as my thoughts on the book I’m reading–Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith–(a future blog post, for sure) and all my plans for the beginning of the school year.
Tonight I made the effort to walk eight blocks to the gym for my 8pm yoga class. I left my cell phone at home, bringing only my yoga mat and my keys. As I walked, I found that I kept wanting to reach for my phone (it wasn’t even there), and that my brain was spinning. At one point, I became completely disoriented and had to check the street signs–I have been doing this walk for 2 years. At the time I lost my way I was deep in thought about the basement in the house I’m trying to buy. My brain was so stressed out that I almost got lost 5 blocks from my house!
Whatever happened to enjoying a peaceful walk on a beautiful summer night? I used to walk everywhere, appreciating the houses, people and scenes that I passed by. Tonight, it was obvious that I was barely even paying attention to where I was going. I think it means that since I have developed this need to be constantly connected by being on the computer all day, tweeting away with TweetDeck updating every few minutes behind whatever I’m doing, I have overstimulated myself to the point of distraction.
As I entered the gym and walked up to my class, I tried very hard to calm my thoughts. Yoga requires a quiet mind.…
I rolled out my mat and sat in half-Lotus, closed my eyes and began slowly breathing. As I drew my breath up my nose and felt my chest rise and my lungs filled with air, I immediately felt calmer. When was the last time I paid attention to my breath? To my lungs? To my fingers, toes, arms and legs? While my mind still had remnants of chatter running through it, I began channeling my breath and focusing on how each part of my body reacted to it. Yeah, I know it sounds all New-Agey, but I used to do this 2-3 times a week!
How had I forgotten to take care of myself and focus on me, not all of the distractions around me?
That’s when I realized the importance of silence.
Not just the silence in the room, but inner silence. For the next hour, I breathed in and out, stretched out my limbs, calmed my mind and listened to the lone cricket at the window chirping along with the peaceful song of an oboe soloist being played on the CD player.
On the walk home, I was able to appreciate my surroundings, and I made the effort to focus on the NOW, not the chatter in my head. Of course, when I got home, I immediately opened my computer because I felt the need to express what I had just experienced. I haven’t totally learned my lesson, I guess.
Earlier in the summer I wrote a post about going “OTG” or “Off The Grid.” I have been doing a better job at balancing my online life with my f2f life, but I tonight I had a realization that I have been neglecting myself and not listening to what my body and brain really need: inner silence.
As any educator would do, I extended this experience outside of my own realm to my students. Should we be teaching kids, who are constantly connected and whose brains may not get the rest they need for proper development and learning, how to find inner silence? How will our kids balance their own lives?
Here are some studies I found on children, television and sleep. I’m sure there are more and that there will be more and children spend more and more time ‘plugged in.’
quotes from http://en.thinkexist.com
child yoga photo from: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/l7jg-3dQF16r6eAPX9hjAw
first yoga photo from Wikimedia Commons
trees photo from Flickr-Powerhouse Museum