Class Relax

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Paying Attention

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Paying Attention
Especially fitting on a day when the entire country was undergoing a rocket-alert drill.

Here, in the Western Negev, we have no shortage of real rocket alerts. Some of them result in explosions very close to our homes, our fields. Some of them results in direct hits.

The idea of hearing the alarm alert even in role-play was enough to set one of my students way beyond the edge.
“Let me know five minutes before so I can plug my ears”, she begged me.

young woman closing her ears with her fingers
I will, I assured her

Then, we began the journey into our lesson.
Who did the homework?

I did, said 3 of the girls
How was it?

Relaxing. Good.

We checked in and offered in one word how we felt as we started this lesson.

I explained that the day’s theme was paying attention: to what’s going on inside of us and around us.
I reminded them of the task of noticing our thoughts, emotions, sensations, without judging them. We were all there to simply lend a watchful awareness. That is how we build our skill.
Reminder that we are not our thoughts. Thoughts are fleeting things that come and go, if we notice them, acknowledge them and allow them to pass by.

We used TUZA to begin.
We conducted a 3-minute meditation. A few giggled. We continued. Afterwards I asked for comments and two girls smiled, said it was relaxing.

Attention. What is it?
We read a quote: “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” M. Scott Peck, M.D., American Author.

Some agreed, some didn’t. Using the quote as food for thought, they broke into pairs to discuss how it is to tell someone something and experience them not really listening.

Extenuating Circumstances

It was getting close to the moment of the Alarm Drill. I felt the nerves mounting. I suggested they take a bathroom break. While they were gone, the rest of us spoke about how it is to be tense, what happens in our own families. The girls enjoyed concentrating on their own situations and wanted to be heard.
I could see the girls willing to make an effort to listen to another, even if they wanted to talk.

One girl suddenly asked if I could teach them a song for New Year’s (Rosh Hashana). She asked me if I knew the song taken from Shakira’s song, and she put The Fountainheads’ version on her phone. To this fabulous tune and lyrics, we all started to dance, letting out steam, moving our bodies, shaking it out!

Dip Your Apple – Fountainheads Rosh Hashanah

One by one, the girls re-entered the space, and refreshed, all sat down again in our circle.

Some lay down waiting for the moment. Then it came: the alarm over the speaker. Luckily for us all, it was merely a woman’s voice repeating: This is a drill, this is a drill.
There was no use of the code words signalling real-time rocketfire. There was no horrendous siren. Simply her voice, for a few minutes until she signalled the end of the drill.

We survived, some with fingers plugging their ears, some with sweatshirts over their heads.
We survived.

Afterwards came relief, some chattering, some laughter, and then, it was time for relaxation. I brought them into a full body scan meditation.

corpse-pose

Each girl had her own space, was warm enough, cool enough. I led them through a meditative awareness of their body from heels to toes and up to their heads.
We used the breath to clean sweep from head to toe with an exhale, inhaling from toes to head and back out with a refreshing exhale.

When it was time to come back to real-time, real surroundings, I had them roll over on their side and then sit. We sat each with erect backs as I led them through the listening meditation offered by Mindfulness Without Borders. In this meditation, we began with noticing the body and the breath. Then we reached out to listen to the sounds farthest away as they appeared, lingered and disappeared. We brought attention to closer sounds and finally to the sound of our own breathing.

We touched down once more, into awareness of the room and our bodies. We stretched out.

This,then, was their homework. Link to the Listening Meditation and to use the link as often as possible.

I wished them well, and very quietly we left the room together with the bell.

Comments: So far, we haven’t really closed our meetings with a final together task. Today’s meeting, I felt, was better served by ending with a relaxed self-contemplative mood. Afterwards, the girls had a 15 minute break in which to re-enter school life.

Also: I never know how far the country’s security situation affects our students. I used to see daily bouts of behaviour, something upon which I could follow-up. Or sometimes, I’d receive reports from homeroom teachers or guidance counselors about students with specially pronounced anxiety.

The girl in today’s group normally shows very little signs of any of that. Today she was quite upfront about the idea that even a  drill was enough to set her off.

Paying attention is the key to dealing with such things. She did and she survived it.  I am convinced that paying attention is the first step to remediating anxiety.

May we each deal with ourselves with kindness!

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