Our end-of-year meeting took place last Monday the sixth of June. I was in for a long, packed day of testing, but I had this gathering of Grade 8 students to brighten the schedule.
It all started the week before when we began planning our collective meal. The girls wanted to order pizza, but abandoned the idea because of the complexity of smuggling it past the school guard (he might eat it, he might say no),. Therefore, the girls decided to go the traditional route – they’d each bring something: drinks, a cake, burekas.
A few days before our meeting, I sent out a reminder message and then the conversation took off. The new favourite food item was an etrog. An etrog is an inedible citrus fruit which is part of the tradition of Sukkot. (A fall holiday). I’m not exactly a traditional observer, but even I knew that a person doesn’t eat those things.
However the discussion amongst the girls praised the taste of the fruit to the hilt.
I’m bringing etrogs.
30, I think.
Oh, no. That’s not enough. You need more, many more.
Oh, all this talk about etrogs and I feel like eating one.
Yes, they’re so deeee-liciousssss
I’m going to bring some too!
Somewhere in there I inserted the question: “Are you talking about the Sukkot etrogs?”
“Yes, Judih. They’re not just for Sukkot.” (I was shot down with eye-rolling precision)
And on they went.
The day of the gathering.
I saw E in the lesson before our meeting. She commented that they were about to feast on etrogs. I said that I had noted their enthusiasm.
Meeting time. I set the stage with a beautiful mandala tablecloth. My own contribution of melon was set to the side, so that the girls would be able to place their offerings on an uninterrupted canvas.
They arrived. With an ‘”Oooh’ How beautiful” (about the table cloth), they set down burekas, a cake, large bottles of soft drinks, plates, forks, cups. I added the melon, noting to self that there was no other fruit, edible or inedible, visibly present.
And I invited them to sit down.
“We have two exercises today”, I said. “The first is this: we will each ring the Tibetan Singing Bowl and say something positive about our time together: something you’ve learned, about the language of attentiveness, about the brain, something you’ve discovered about yourself. If you have nothing to say, simply smile and share your good feeling.
Each person in turn.”
(For those who didn’t understand, I repeated the instructions)
We began with O, chosen by the others to start us off.
She rang the bowl, and said that she liked the relaxation meditations. She passed the bowl. As we went around the circle, only one girl felt it necessary to grab the bowl from another. One other girl urged us to hurry so that we could eat.
As we went round the circle – many smiles. Some said they had learned that they like to relax, that they enjoyed coming to the sessions.
My turn: “I really enjoyed our sessions. You are beautiful girls and I learned so much from you all.” With that, I went to pass the bowl on to S, but someone asked: “What did you learn, Judih?”
I said: “I learned that I shouldn’t expect you all to act according to my plans. I should be open to what is. It was a wonderful lesson and I thank you.” Some looked at me thoughtfully and nodded.
And on we went till the last ring and smile.
E, the one who had commented earlier that day about the Etrog situation, called us all to action, to get up and eat!
I asked them if I could photograph them and they agreed.
Did I mention, not an etrog in sight?
We ate. As they began to finish, I went from girl to girl to ask them what they remembered from the week before. (We had worked on enriching our memory through V, (visual recollection), A, (aural recollection) and K (kinesthetic recollections). I asked each one. Some needed a hint: Remember we used scarves? (Ah….their memories woke up as they related the skits they had performed and some of other groups) One girl remembered we spoke of the brain. Another girl remembered we did relaxation and how nice it had been. Some girls remembered we’d been party planning, and so on. When they brought up a memory, I probed for more. What did you see. Hear. Feel, touch.
One girl displayed incredible memory and shared the fact that she uses places to anchor her memory.
One girl referenced the fact that we’d been learning about memory enrichment and was I checking them on that.
Slowly, girls began to finish eating, cushions were pushed back and dancing began.
As we cooled down to mellow level, I told them that there was one more task: to take the drawing of their hand from Lesson 1, pose with it to update the experience and have me photograph them.
We did. It was beautiful.
Then A pulled out her artistic streak and decided to make a poster from all of their hands.
She did. It’s now posted in the Relaxation Room, as she insisted that we decorate the room where I taught meditation.